As business owners, creatives, and ordinary humans just trying to juggle work and home life, some days it feels like anxiety is the new norm. Unsurprisingly, surveys have found that anxiety and burnout are on the rise.
Even without a clinical diagnosis, you’ve probably experienced some overwhelm and uncertainty about the future from time to time. But instead of just telling yourself “things are going to slow down soon” until you die, start prioritizing opportunities to recharge your own batteries so you can take back your time and find a little more joy in every day.
Here are 8 simple strategies that can help:
Take it one step at a time. In grad school when I felt overwhelmed by my doctoral project my advisor would ask, “Do you know how to eat an elephant?” …One bite at a time. It’s so easy to get caught up worrying about the future but all you can do is the next right thing. One bite, one step, one tiny action can create more clarity and keep you out of stress and overwhelm.
Don’t neglect self care. Self-care is one of those things that we all know we “should” be doing, but more often than not it ends up on the bottom of our to-do lists. Particularly as we move into busy seasons of life, our daily self-care rituals are often the first thing to go. But this is exactly when you need it MOST! Quiet moments spent in meditation or movement or connection are necessary to remember that we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS.
Set better boundaries. If you find yourself feeling drained, overcommitted or resentful it’s probably a sign you need to set a boundary. Heathy boundaries are a really important part of self-care. Dr. Brené Brown agrees. She said, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Give yourself permission to speak up about your needs and set some limits.
Practice belly breathing. The fastest way to shift out of stress and overwhelm and into a more calm state of being is to
find your breath. Breathing into your belly activates your parasympathetic nervous system, shifting you out of “fight-or flight” mode and into “rest and digest” fast! All you need is 30 seconds. Start with just 5 slow inhales and exhales through your nose and repeat as often as needed throughout the day.
Take care of your body.
Don’t neglect the basics, prioritize quality sleep, feed your body nourishing foods, move your body daily, and try to stay away from CATS. Not the cute fluffy ones but caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and sugar, as they all tend to exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
Try the 5-4-3-2-1 meditation. Anxiety is often rooted in worrying about the future. What things MIGHT happen. The “five senses” is a practice that helps bring some mindfulness to any situation and is a quick way to get you back into your body and into the present moment.
Notice five things that you can see.
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
Notice four things that you can feel.
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling.
like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
Notice three things you can hear.
Take a moment to listen.
Take note of three things that you hear in the background. Birds chirping, chirp of a bird, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
Notice two things you can smell.
Bring your awareness to any smells around you. Pleasant or unpleasant. Maybe you catch a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of someone cooking.
Notice one thing you can taste.
Focus on one thing that you can taste. Take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat a piece of chocolate, pay attention to the taste in your mouth.
Then slowly move back into your day.
Challenge your thoughts. Also known as cognitive reframing. This technique is all about persistence! You can’t just dismiss a thought 20-30 times and expect it to be gone for good, it really takes more like 1000 times! These thought pathways have been well tread in your brain for a long time so reframing doesn’t always come easy. But if you stick with it, the results are so worth it.
Have more fun! Invite more fun into your every day. Harvard’s 75 year study on human happiness found that more than your BMI, cholesterol or genetics, strong social connections are the secret to living happier and healthier. When you’re feeling anxious your world view can shift to seeing everything as a potential problem and you miss out on those tiny joyful moments. So spend more time connecting with your friends and family and don’t forget that laughter is still the best medicine.