7 Things to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed is both a mental and physical experience. When we perceive an event or set of events as more than we can handle, our amygdala (the fear sensor in the brain) activates and sounds the alarm throughout our bodies.

When the amygdala is active, the body’s stress response switches on the sympathetic nervous system — which increases heart rate, raises blood pressure, constricts the bowels, and induces sweating.

But I’ve learned how to flip the switch from feeling overwhelmed and anxious to confident excitement instilled with an attitude of “you’ve got this, girl!”

The secret? Simply understanding the physical mechanism happening in my brain and body so I can short-circuit the wiring of worry and divert from the path to panic.

Here’s how:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice is so simple, even five-year-olds can master it. It is simply the act of bringing your awareness to the present moment. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, feel your pulse, and focus in turn on each of your five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.

Anchor yourself in your body as a way to get out of your head. Deep breaths send oxygen to the brain, which soothes the amygdala and calms the stress response.

2. Find Something to Appreciate

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, gratitude might be the last thing on your mind.But focusing on something you feel grateful for releases dopamine in your brain, and dopamine is a great motivating hormone that compels you to do more of whatever it is that gave you the hit.

For a few minutes, stop obsessing over how much you still have to do, and appreciate how much you’ve already done. Switch your perspective from pessimistic to optimistic and let the power of gratitude boost your confidence and productivity.

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