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What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

July 28, 2019
What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to be able to cope with or navigate your way through difficulties and crisis.

It essentially means you’re able to either bounce after a crisis or adapt to new circumstances.

Resilient people are able to understand what their body and mental state need and put in processes or modify their behaviour accordingly.

Why is resilience so important?

It’s a fact of life that we’ll all experience setbacks and challenges in life.

Whilst it’s true, some people will have more difficulties due to their circumstances of birth; it’s impossible to go through life without some form of hardship.

The loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, ill health and financial issues are all common themes we’ll probably all experience at some point.

Being resilient doesn’t make us impervious to stress or hurt. It just means we’re more able to cope, in spite of challenges that may be thrown our way.

It’s a sign of emotional strength.

Can you become more resilient?

The good news is resilience is something you can build.

Ironically, the more difficulties you have, the more you can develop your abilities to be resilient. You start to understand your emotional needs and put coping strategies in place.

I come from baby boomer parents and one trait I sometimes see in that generation is their emotional intelligence isn’t hugely strong. They were born in post-war years to people who had lived through horrific events and as a result a lot went unsaid.

If I had an emotional problem, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. No one would have tried to help me or come to my rescue. They just didn’t understand.

I sometimes felt a bit envious of people whose parents would drop everything to give them emotional support and take care of them.

But now I look back, I realise that it made me very self-sufficient. On the flip side though, I struggle to ask for help when I need it and find it hard to show vulnerability.

I also feel my experience is quite common in people of my age and I see similar traits in my peers.

I think it’s only in recent years we’re starting to develop the language to talk about our emotions and understand our feelings.

Although the term ‘self-care’ is sometimes mocked, essentially it is the act of understanding our needs and putting that support in place. Even when it does mean opening up and asking for help.

7 ways to build resilience

So how can you build resilience to help you through difficult times?

  1. Remember that a crisis is not forever even though it may feel like it at the time. Life ebbs and flows and we have hard times as well as good.
  2. Change is part of life. There are 2 types of change: change that happens to us; and change we create for ourselves. Change that happens to us is harder to navigate because it can make us feel that we’re not in control of our own lives. Accept there are sometimes events and issues completely out of our control and consider what you are able to change yourself.
  3. Look for opportunities for self-development. Difficult times help us grow and can make us more empathetic. It’s worth reflecting on challenging situations once you have some distance and thinking about what we learnt or how the experience may have changed us.
  4. Understand that this is part of human experience – not just about you. I had my fair share of shitty times growing up and it knocked my self-esteem and made me feel powerless. I now realise I wasn’t singled out by the universe for some special negative attention; it’s just one part of my history and not my whole life.
  5. Try to keep things in perspective where you can and remember everything is relative. However, I do also think it’s important to feel your feelings and just because one person sailed through a similar situation doesn’t mean you should to. Our ability to cope with challenges is dependent on how we’re feeling at that moment and what else is going on in life. It is worth though trying to remind yourself that this won’t be forever.
  6. Be positive (where you can). Again, I’m not suggesting there’s always something to feel positive about – sometimes there really isn’t. Try to remember things will get better.
  7. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. Yes, I know it’s an inspirational quote cliche – however, hear me out… Let’s be honest, so many of our problems can generally be put down to the actions and behaviours of other people. Try not to let them grind you down and remember you, my friend deserve better than this.
self-care

Self-care practices and how to implement them

March 26, 2019
self-care practices and how to implement them

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of ensuring we are looking after ourselves physically and emotionally. This helps us navigate through life easier.

Whilst the self-care phrase has been mocked for just being about candles and baths (both of which I love); it is fundamentally important to make sure we are giving ourselves what we need.

Stresses about our families, finances, work all play on our minds. Eating badly, sleeping badly, becoming dehydrated and not exercising enough affect our physical health.

So how can we put self-care practices in place?

Our lives fluctuate and so it’s important to think about what we need to help with the situations we are experiencing at that moment in time. We are all individuals and our experiences are different so it’s important our self-care practices reflect what we need. In a previous post, I put together a self-care audit template so you can work through areas to focus on.

It’s important to then think about what self-care practices we can put in place to help and how we can do this realistically. What self-care isn’t, is a stick to beat ourselves up with. For that reason, I would choose only a few practices to put in place at any one time.

What are good self-care practices?

Nutrition: I find the advice about nutrition overwhelming and busy lives can make it hard to eat well. I try to start the day with a smoothie (2/3rds green veg and/or beetroot and 1/3rd fruit) so I know I’m getting some vitamins. I buy frozen fruit to save time in the morning. I also find taking my lunch to work helps. It’s very hard to eat the perfect diet and our bodies all metabolise food differently. I would choose one thing to start with such as cutting down on takeaways and then take it from there.

Dealing with stress: stress is an inevitable part of life. However, it’s important to understand the physical and mental impact it has on us. Try to rest and yes, take a bath or light a candle. Think about a mindfulness practice and download an App such as Headspace or Andrew Johnson to help. Look at ways you can minimise what is causing you stress – although admittedly, sometimes it’s out of our control and we need to just be kind to ourselves.

Good sleep hygiene: sleep is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. Going to bed at a regular time; switching off phones at least an hour before bed; avoiding alcohol and making your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary should all help.

Give yourself permission to focus on you: there is a saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and it’s so true. Sometimes we are so busy focusing on other people, we forget to take care of ourselves but being depleted means we can’t give either. Do something for yourself even if it’s just taking a short walk or sitting down with a coffee.

mind

Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?

March 17, 2019
are you suffering from impostor syndrome?

A few years ago I got promoted at work. Despite being more than qualified, I spent the first year waiting to be pulled into a meeting room and told, ‘we’ve made a terrible mistake’. I lived in a state of panic and regardless of any positive feedback, I still couldn’t relax and enjoy my new role.

My experience is not uncommon. I’ve heard of chief executives googling how to run a company and high profile celebrities talking about feeling like a fraud. It’s so well known, it has its own terminology: imposter syndrome. This is where you believe you’re not good enough despite evidence to the contrary.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where feelings of self-doubt and low confidence levels are so intense they make you feel like a fraud. Researchers say it’s more common in high achieving women. However, statistics show 70% of millenials have experienced imposter syndrome at some point.

Whilst I think it’s a far nicer character trait to be under confident and overachieving, as opposed to overconfident and underachieving, the reality is that imposter syndrome can stop us from realising our true ambitions without us really realising it.

So what can you do to overcome it?

  • Awareness of an issue is generally the first step to overcoming it. Take notice of your feelings, thought processes and whether you feel a fraud for no real reason.
  • Try tracking your achievements so you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Some people keep a compliments folder or write lists.
  • Recognise lots of other people feel this way and you are not alone. It’s a sign that you care.
  • Open up to friends about how you’re feeling. Their perception is likely to be different to yours and it might be useful to get an impartial view.
  • Focus on adding value in the short term and remember you won’t feel this way forever.

mind

The pre-mortem technique (and how I use it on my overthinking brain)

February 17, 2019
The pre-mortem technique and how I use it on my overthinking brain

I recently went on a leadership training course with work. Admittedly, we did one exercise on how to evacuate a village, but the rest of the time was spent on management skills and decision-making abilities. This is where I learnt the pre-mortem technique and realised how I could use it on my overthinking brain.

What is the pre-mortem technique?

A pre-mortem is opposite of a post-mortem – where you look to see what went wrong after the event. With a post-mortem you do it before. You take a scenario, pull it to pieces, write down everything that can go wrong, then choose the top 2 or 3 and put solutions in place.

For someone with overthinking, worrying tendencies like myself, the pre-mortem technique has helped me work through some of my negative thought processes. We (as in me and my family) have been thinking about moving house and the mere thought sent me into a tailspin of anxious thoughts. What if my son gets bullied at his new nursery (my son is 2)? What if we don’t like the area (we’ll still be in London..)? And even, what if there isn’t a Turkish grocer nearby (erm.. I’m not Turkish)?

I get annoyed with myself because moving to a new house is a privilege and I shouldn’t look for the negatives. Equally, the last time we did it, I found the move to a different area so much better. I end up feeling really frustrated thinking why I am like this?

Writing down my thoughts has really helped me understand what’s whirling around in my overthinking brain. Even though those thoughts may be somewhat irrational (Turkish greengrocer, anyone?), it’s good to address them head on.

I have found the pre-mortem technique useful, particularly when feeling overwhelmed. I always knew my brain worked at double speed, I just didn’t know how to separate my thoughts out and work through them one by one. Challenging my thoughts, understanding what’s going on and writing it all down has alleviated most of my worries. And I now feel positive about our plans to move.

mind

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 8 ways to help

March 11, 2018

It feels ironic that this week has involved International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day given that I’ve felt like I’m failing in pretty much every area of my life. I’ve made silly mistakes at work through rushing to get things done and I’ve felt guilty for not being fully engaged with my child because my mind is elsewhere. I haven’t had time to do half the things I wanted to and have been feeling overwhelmed.

In my case, feeling overwhelmed triggers headaches and an inability to focus properly. I start to feel anxious and can’t concentrate. My mind then struggles to switch off, leading to a lack of sleep, which affects my ability to rationalise things the following day.

I then end up in a cycle of being overwhelmed and it usually takes a while to get out of this mindset. And let’s face it, no one enjoys being in a state of panic…

Impact of being overwhelmed on the body

It’s pretty much impossible to design a life which is fully stress-free.

However, it is important to understand the impact feeling overwhelmed has on the body. Stress affects our emotions and can make us feel angry, upset amongst others. It releases the stress hormone, cortisol which longer term can lead to health issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease, low immune systems and many, many others.

Whilst being overwhelmed is usually only in the short term, it does have a longer term effect. This is why it’s important to deal with it and put some self-care practices in place.

How can you stop the overwhelm?

There will always be moments where you feel more overwhelmed than others. Stress is a fact of life and difficult situations can help us grow.

However, it helps to have some self-care strategies to hand for when overwhelm hits.

Here are some ideas.

8 ways to help when you’re feeling overwhelmed

1. Respond rather than react

Your emotions cause you to react but try instead to respond. This is something I’m learning to put in place (admittedly I did shed a few tears in the work toilets last week). It doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence, just instead take the emotion out, assess the situation and consider the best response.

2. Look at what specifically triggered your feelings of overwhelm?

Where have these feelings come from? I know conflicting deadlines and projects going awry contribute to me becoming overwhelmed. I’m not very good at ‘failure’. I then overthink things, which affects my sleep and tiredness affects my ability to act objectively.

3. Prioritise

The Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman describes the sense of overwhelm as, “the mismatch between all the things you’d like to do, or feel you ought to do, and the far smaller capacity of things you’re actually capable of doing”.

Look at what needs to be done urgently, what can be done in a few days and what really can wait. The likelihood is not everything needs to be done straight away.

4. Be kind to yourself

Feeling like I’m not on top of things leads to a pattern of negative thinking. I find it hard not to start telling myself what a failure I am. Actually, caring about doing something well is a really positive thing. Remember, you are doing your best and practice self-compassion.

5. Done is better than perfect

Sometimes you just have to accept there aren’t enough hours in the day for perfection. You just need to get it done and move on.

6. Ask for support

Don’t suffer in silence. There is nothing wrong in asking for help or speaking out. My sister in law took my son for a walk yesterday. In that hour, I finished two pieces of work and feel like I’m going to start the week on a more positive note.

7. Practice self-care

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get busy, healthy eating (by which I mean good nutrition) goes out of the window. I’m eating packet food and craving anything high in salt and fat. That’s quite a normal response. Stress increases our appetite and so we immediately crave food which will give us a quick burst of energy. Longer term though, it’s not really doing us any favours.

Try to take time out just for you. Run a bath, read a book, watch TV – anything to give yourself a break. Better decisions are made with a clear head.

Here are some simple self-care ideas for when life gets busy.

8. And breathe

I can feel a bit teary when things get too much. If you do feel really overwhelmed, focus on your breath and take a few minutes just breathing in and out.

It helps, I promise.

Further reading

Unsure if you’re feeling anxious? Try this short test. Please note, your results won’t give you a medical diagnosis but might give you some insight.

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