Continuing the Overwhelmed series, today’s strategy for getting out of that overwhelmed state (and staying out of it) is to remember to rest! I know when I get all worked up and overwhelmed with stress, the last thing on my mind is “I should take a break,” even though this is a fantastic strategy for becoming more productive and knocking items off of my to-do list. It sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out:
Rest is incredibly important. Our brains use our rest periods to sort out the tidal wave of information we throw at it on a daily basis. It is like the brain’s opportunity to tidy up. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t tidy up my house before I turn in for the night, the mess multiplies and I just end up more stressed out. The brain needs an opportunity to tidy up, and resting is when you give your brain that time. Once the information is neatly stored, it becomes much more accessible and helpful for us, so we can move forward more efficiently, and more productively.
When I talk about rest, I mean genuine rest. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed that we shut down. This might look like sitting on the couch and staring at our phones (or the floor) for who knows how long. We are zoned out, and for all intents and purposes, we aren’t doing anything, including resting. You can tell when you are experiencing genuine rest because you start to feel more relaxed, rather than feeling a state of numbness.
Genuine rest means intentionally setting aside some time for yourself to do something that isn’t high-pressure or related to your to-do list. It can look like going for a bike ride (if that’s something that rejuvenates you), watching an episode of your favourite tv show, taking a warm bath/shower, spending time doing your favourite hobby, or just taking a nap. It doesn’t have to be a long activity – even just spending 30 minutes doing something other than work is enough time to let your brain reset. Of course we all need longer periods of rest as well (like having a good night’s sleep), but if you’re feeling stuck and unproductive in your overwhelmed state, taking a short rest can help restart the engines. The trick is to be fully engaged in the rest activity – be in the moment, rather than thinking about all the moments of work you are “missing out” on as you rest. When you return to your to-do list, you will likely find that you are more efficient in tackling your tasks.
Perhaps you’re too stressed to rest. You have tried to temporarily turn off the internal “to do” thoughts, but they are persistent. At this point, you may find it beneficial to seek outside support. A counsellor can help you decompress and work on deeper strategies for finding genuine rest and balance in your life. At the end of the day, being stressed and overwhelmed is far less productive than having healthy balance between work and play. You are a beautiful human, and you deserve rest and balance in your life. If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed, I recommend giving yourself the gift of support and finding a counsellor. But hey, I’m a counsellor, so I’m a bit biased.