These last 12-18 months have been some of the most chaotic & disruptive our lifetimes.
The slow transition back to normality isn't easy either. I know that I initially felt a little anxious about going from having complete freedom to structure my day how I want, to going back to working with clients face-to-face & having a more scheduled daily life.
If there's one thing I've learned throughout this whole process, it's that having an understanding of how to manage feelings of overwhelm & keep things moving during the stressful moments is essential.
So, I’m going to share with you what I believe to be 5 key aspects to staying physically, mentally, & spiritually healthy - helping you to manage overwhelm & keep stress at bay.
1. Invest in a Diary.
We can often feel like there's a million things we have to do, but with such little time to get them done. Being in this state is hugely mentally burdensome & affects not only the quality of work that you do, but you how you feel on a daily basis, your relationships, your health, and more.
You might have a heavy work-load, but the reality is the reason why you feel overwhelmed is because you haven't scheduled your time & outlined a to-do list. Having a diary where you can physically write these things down is a must.
I've learned that without clear direction - provided by planning in a diary - I'll generally go through the day without actually getting any meaningful work done. On the flip side, when I have a clearly outlined list of 3-5 tasks to work through each day, and am able to devote specific time to each one, I found that my time working is so much more productive.
So, invest in a diary. And don't limit it just to work-related tasks, include everything - exercise, how you’re going to spend your free-time, emptying the dishwasher, whatever.
As someone who becomes easily overwhelmed when I feel like I’ve got a lot on my plate, this element of organisation helps to de-clutter my mind & focus on what’s actually important.
2. Move Early.
Movement is fundamental to our existence. Yet when life seems to be going at 100mph, we can often completely neglect it.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, taking the time to do some sort of physically active will actually make you more time-efficient - you'll become more productive at whatever you do.
Think about it. If you’ve ever sat staring at a screen trying to overcome a problem for hours on end, you’ll know full well that the more you stare & incessantly think, the further you slide from that inspiration you were desperately hoping for. Movement is the answer. It de-stresses your body & breaks up stagnant thought patterns by facilitating more creative & diverse ways of thinking.
Movement at any point in the day is great, but movement first thing in the morning is fantastic. Doing so sets your whole day up for success - you experience the plethora of neurophysiological benefits, paired with the knowing that you've already accumulated one small win from the outset. The positive action often has a cascading effect, leading to further positive actions!
Now, obviously if you're interested in optimising your health & well-being you’ll recognise the importance of including regular strength training in your physical practice, but, even just breaking your day up with regular walking is a great way to incorporate more movement into your lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of positive value brought about from social media. It allows people to connect & for positive. ideas to spread. But, in my experience, the more time I spend browsing social media, the more anxious, overwhelmed & demotivated I feel.
The problem is two-fold. First, you've got the fact that LED screens - when stared at a lot - stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (a.k.a. the 'fight or flight' branch of your nervous system, that gets you ready to go!) - putting you in a state of chronic stress.
Secondly, you've got the problem of how the content makes you feel. Due to our innate tendency to compare our lives to the lives of others, social media can leave us feeling pretty damn inadequate. If you're anything like me, all it takes is a 5 minute scroll through instagram before you're left contemplating why your life isn't as exciting, successful, or glamorous as what you see portrayed by others.
Now look, I'm not going to sit here & tell you to delete all social media from your devices. But, I do think it’s important to be conscious of how using these tools makes you feel. If you find they aren't serving you in a meaningful way and are in-fact causing feelings of discomfort, maybe it's time to adjust your relationship with them (before then looking to address the problem at its roots).
What's more, stepping away from this modern-day habitual need for distraction & stimulation (fueled & perpetuated by excessive media use) can only be a positive.
If there's anything positive to be taken from this last year or so, it's the increased level of introspection that a lot of people have undertaken. With most of the normality of regular life taken away, an opportunity to reflect on values - to ask ourselves what we truly care about & how we want to live your lives - was presented to us.
Perhaps this wasn't you. No worries if it wasn't. Either way, here's what I recommend you do to re-connect.
First, reconnect with yourself. Begin journaling; get yourself a notebook & write in it daily. Even just for 5 minutes. I like to put down in written words everything that’s been going on; what happened in my day, the problems I've been experiencing, the thoughts & ideas I’ve had, my ambitions for the future. Doing so puts my issues into context, allows me to gain greater clarity on my emotions, to reflect on my actions, & to understand what my true motivations & ambitions are.
If I were to summarise what I believe the re-connection to-self process to look like it would be:
Secondly, and just as importantly, reconnect with others. These months of isolation & 'social-distancing' have no-doubt been a profound reminder to you of just how big a role our relationships with each play in our lives. I've personally felt a notable shift in my baseline mood since the easing of lockdown. Simply seeing other human beings on a daily basis is an absolute game-changer.
5. Be Kind to Yourself.
Here's a universal truth - we're all way too hard on ourselves. The beliefs we hold & language we use can create such a negative cycle that it's no wonder we feel overwhelmed, lacking in confidence, & anxious about the future.
Next time you find yourself self-criticising, or downplaying your ability, ask yourself - "Is this how i would talk to my 5 year old self?". If the answer's no, that needs adjusting.
I'm not suggesting hat you should aim to hold yourself to the standards of a 5 year old. But, I am suggesting you show yourself some more compassion! Understand that you're a flawed human being just like every other human on this planet, and that holding ridiculously high expectations, followed by hyper-critical self-judgement, is really doing you no favours.
Be cool with the fact that you make mistakes & don’t have everything figured out. Make the conscious choice to be kind to yourself & appreciate the many positive aspects of your being.
Christian Lawal Personal Training.
Personal training in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge & Sevenoaks.