As I’ve been slightly overwhelmed these past few weeks, I find it appropriate to write about what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Two week ago, I shared that if you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company. This week, let’s talk about what to do in the heat of the moment.
It amazes me that some people don’t know what a panic attack feels like. For me, they are a regular struggle; I used to have multiple panic attacks a day, and then they stopped for a few months, and now I have about one every two weeks. Needless to say, panic attacks are a major inconvenience, no matter how often I get them or how long they last.
For those who don’t know, let me describe a typical panic attack (although panic attacks look different for everyone): throat feels tight, trouble breathing, racing heart, dizziness, blurry vision, hot flashes, nausea, muscle spasms, dry mouth, and stomach knots…all in a matter of five minutes.
Panic attacks tend to occur when I’m feeling overwhelmed. When I have a ton of things to do and I don’t even know where to start, my muscles tense and I literally become frozen. I pray and wait until the storm within passes. Eventually, it does pass, even when it feels like it will never end when it’s actually happening.
If you’re anxious or overwhelmed right now, you probably don’t want to read about it. You just want help. Look no further! Here are five things you can do to calm your nerves and get back on track:
- Close your eyes: Looking at the pile of work on your desk, the dirty laundry in your bedroom, or a person with whom you have a conflict, can be very overwhelming. It may help you to just push your chair away from your desk for a minute, turn your head away from the mess, or even go into another room to collect your thoughts. Don’t let this become an excuse to not get your work done, but taking a break for a few minutes can help you calm down and be ready to face whatever comes your way.
- Take a deep breath: When I’m anxious, I forget to breathe. I didn’t realize that I do that until I was in college, and my friend noticed I wasn’t breathing. Anxiety actually subsides when we let oxygen flow through our brain and allow the body to heal. I just did a quick search on how oxygen helps with anxiety, and I found that people actually use concentrated oxygen (under doctor or professional supervision, I’m sure) to heal from anxiety and other mental disorders. So, the air around you can help you if you just, well, use it!
- Make a list: Write a to-do list and study it. Seeing all your tasks causes you to look at them and make a plan of action. They can be counted; they are not innumerable. You will feel more in control, and you will remember your tasks, if you list what seems like impossible activities.
- Pray: You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. He will give you the wisdom to handle your tasks, and the peace to overcome your anxiety. Pray for clarity of mind as you use wisdom to sort through your to-do list.
- Move: Do not let the fear paralyze you. As I said before, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed may hinder you from getting anything done. Sometimes the best way to overcome the stress is to simply do the task. When you start moving, you’ll be able to accomplish what you thought was impossible.
The Bible says that when we meditate on the word of God day and night, we will be like a tree planted near streams of water (Psalm 1:1-3). Wouldn’t you rather be a tree that is rooted on the ground than a leaf that is blown around by the wind? Trust in God in the midst of anxiety. He is our foundation, our ever present help in trouble. Through Him, we can overcome when we feel overwhelmed.