Mostly it's just the regular things...like day-to-day planning, remembering, and organizing... plus the extra work of focusing and redirecting myself, talking myself down from ledges and through tough things...things that just pile up. Know what I mean?
On occasion it reaches critical mass, and I just get so...overwhelmed. Ugh.
Sometimes it's just a single, difficult day...or a moment that comes on suddenly, like losing my patience with my kids, or stressing about some new information I just received.
Sometimes it's over a several days/weeks, and I can just tell that I'm going to have to do something now, or be down for the count for while; something's gotta give.
Usually a good night's sleep (what is that anyways?), solid workout, eating well, and doing something creative are just what I need; it's enough to soothe my frayed nerves. But sometimes I can't make the time at that moment. It's those times I just need to take action before I lose it, or shut down.
So! Though in no way a comprehensive list, here are a few things that I use when I can feel myself overloading: a few ways to decompress, calm the storm, give me a little peace, unload.
1. Write a Brain Dump.
This means just writing every single word that comes to your head whether it makes sense or even kind of looks like a sentence. Just let all of the words come out onto your paper/screen without any thought to what it means or who will see it (because no one will). No filter, no editing, no fear. My brain dumps usually start out with a bunch of unintelligible words, not even forming actual sentences...and then ends with me actually making sense, and even talking myself to some conclusions and resolutions. Sometimes I don't actually resolve anything, but it always helps me to just let off steam, even if there's not really anything to "figure out" or resolve...sometimes it's just about letting it out of my head.
2. Declutter Something
Sometimes in order to declutter my head, decluttering a SMALL physical area (like a drawer or single cupboard) helps immensely. I think it's because it helps me focus on something different and specific...instead of a general overwhelming-everything. It's therapeutic for me, a physical representation of a mental or emotional mess getting worked through: I'm getting rid of things I don't need, clearing them out...and organizing the rest. In order to not get lost in it, I set a timer for 10-15 minutes and power through it.
3. Take a Straight-Up Time Out
My kids think this is kind of funny. I tell my kids Mommy needs a time-out, get them set up with something to do, and I go in my room, shut the door and lock it for a few minutes. And then just SIT. This is not the time to numb or distract by doing something else like playing on my phone or reading, this is the time to just sit, feel the overwhelming feelings, face them and just let them run around inside my head for a few minutes until they slow down and stop running so fast, and calm the heck down. I breathe, bury my head in a pillow sometimes, and just sit with it. Not only does this allow me to let everything settle, it also validates me trying to convince my kids that time-outs are not bad things: sometimes we just need to take breaks when we are having a hard time cooperating or being kind or when we're feeling frustrated.
4. Listen to Music Without Words.
Music is powerful! When things are feeling like too-much, I just need to hear a melody, a soothing background to the busy-ness. Music with lyrics feel too "bossy" when I'm on edge; my brain tries too hard to pay attention to the words, and it just feels like more "noise" when my house (and head!) is already feeling crazy. My favourites are piano solos, but relaxing classical, jazz, or instrumental folk are some other ideas.
5. Have a Mantra
Sometimes you just can't do something out-of-the-ordinary; you're out at the grocery store, in the middle of a situation that has to be dealt with now, or whatever. Having a mantra helps to calm from the inside out when I have to stop myself from lashing out, or shutting down, or generally just freaking out. It depends on the situation as far as what I'm telling myself, but my favourites help me refocus, not just endure. I often ask myself questions (What is most important here? What is funny about this? What is beautiful about this? How can I show more love here?). Another favourite is repeating "Be here, be present," especially when I am with my kids, but worrying and stressing about something that is unrelated to the moment at hand. Whatever it is, I think it has to be significant and meaningful enough to you, so that it calms you or snaps you out of "it".
What about you? This does happen to you, too, right? Anything that you find especially helpful when you get too much "stuff" in your head, or are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? Do share!