Get Off the Sinking Ship of Overwhelm
Feeling stressed? Heart racing? Can’t sleep? Biting those nails again? Snapping at the people closest to you? Noticing that your mind flutters from one thing to the next, but can’t seem to land on something long enough to make progress? Yep, you’re overwhelmed. And you’re not alone.
About a quarter of Americans agree that their stress levels have increased in the past year, yet a significant 20% say they never engage in an activity to manage this stress.1 As an athlete, you’re no exception. You have constant demands to juggle the pressure of your sport and your life. Add to that the physical and emotional tax that travel levies, and it’s no wonder you’re feeling this way. We’re here to help.
The next few blog posts at thenextplay.org will be dedicated to addressing this sense of overwhelm in your life. We’ll talk about things like mindfulness, time and headspace management, and inviting peace into your life. Today, we’re going to start with self care.
5 Self Care Habits To Breathe Easier And Be More Productive
The concept of self care is simple: it’s taking intentional steps to improve your physical, mental, and/or emotional well-being. The hard part is, when we’re overwhelmed, we fall victim to believing that self care is a luxury we just don’t have time for.
I’m here to tell you that self care is essential. Want to be more effective? Self care. Want to play more consistently? Self care. Want to feel like you have a little control over your life again? Yep, you got it, self care.
By taking a few simple steps toward self care, you will not only get off the sinking ship of overwhelm, you’ll also find a life preserver, and you might just find a new ship waiting nearby. As you read through the following 5 steps to better self care, try drawing a chart that documents how you’re currently doing in each category, and next to that, set a goal to improve.
1. Hydrate. You’ve heard it innumerable times: you need to make sure you’re consuming enough water each day. A minimum of eight, 8 oz glasses of water are recommended under normal circumstances. And, because certain medical conditions, intense workouts, and other circumstances will significantly increase your body’s demand for water, you need to check with your doctor/trainer/physical therapist about how much is right for you. Interestingly, symptoms of dehydration often mimic feelings of panic: heart racing, sweating, headache, shakiness, numbness. Keep a checklist in your pocket or on your phone to make sure you’re getting at least 64 ounces a day.
2. Rest & move. How much sleep are you getting each night? What is the quality of that rest? If you’re not getting between 7 – 9 hours each night, you’re not getting enough. This is another category that often gets poo-poo’d because we feel like we just can’t sacrifice our to-do list for a few zzz’s. It’s well documented, however, that the better quality of your rest at night, the better your brain power during the day. On the flip side, even when you’re tired, your body needs to move. If you don’t have time for a full workout, go for a walk. Park at the back of the parking lot. Grab your bike for that errand you have to run instead of hopping in the car. Moving your body will help decrease stress levels and increase endorphins, which will in turn lead to better sleep. A virtuous cycle.
3. Eat well. Being busy often prompts us to do things like skip meals, or skimp on meals. We might even – guiltily – visit our favorite fast food drive-through, or try to soothe our stress with high calorie, low nutrition meals. Remember that food is fuel. Pick the strategy that works for you: visit the grocery store at least once per week to stock up (even when you’re traveling!); cook a large quantity of high-quality food on your day off; keep a few healthy, whole-food restaurants in mind for dine in or take out, etc.
4. Single-task. When you become overwhelmed, does your to-do list grow and grow? Does the time you spend trying to check things off increase, and yet you feel like you’re not making any progress? Chances are, you’re trying to be and do too many things at once. Instead, choose one thing. ONE. And tackle it start to finish. And while you’re doing it, don’t do anything else. No phone, no music, no nothing. I love the mantra: “One thing started, one thing finished.” Try this for one day and see what happens. Give your mind the possibility of peace, and in the process, achieve more productivity.
5. Limit social media and spark joy. You might tell yourself that you don’t have time for to be playful. We say: you can’t afford not to be playful. Play stimulates your brain in all kinds of ways that your smartphone can not. Next time you reach for your phone as a mindless method for unwinding, become conscious. Instead, make the choice to go watch the sunset; bring a blanket and a book out to a field; do a headstand for a few minutes to get the blood rushing to your brain; try a high-kick just for the heck of it. If it’s goofy and makes you laugh, bonus points! As you disconnect from your devices, and connect with your inner self, you’ll notice a near-immediate increase in your sense of satisfaction and joy, and a decrease in overwhelm.
We’d love to hear about your adventures in decreasing overwhelm. Did one of these work for you? Do you have another to add to the list? What has changed most for you since you moved toward the goal you set? Please share!