By Nataly Kogan

Science-backed techniques to help with overwhelm

The transition from summer to fall can be overwhelming and unsettling.

Every year I know this and expect it – but then September arrives and whoa, it can feel like a mini hurricane.

Kids going back to school. (Our daughter started high school yesterday. I am slightly holding it together, if you’re wondering).

Adults heading back to work after either a long Labor Day weekend (if you’re in the US) or hopefully, a bit of vacation.

Traffic switching from a lighter summer version to the crawling “everyone is going back to work and school” version. 

The pace of everything speeds up and you can’t help but feel this hectic energy in the air. And what makes it more difficult to deal with is the nostalgia many of us feel for the slower pace of summer. (Raising my hand!)

If you have trouble with transitions, I’m right there with you. I’ve had a few rough days that have left me feeling overwhelmed and frazzled.

So I wanted to share a few simple practices that have offered me a bit of comfort and ease. Even if you’re a transition black-belt, they may help you feel calmer and more resilient during times of change or challenge.

Acknowledge how you feel

Spend a few minutes journaling about how you’re feeling, talk to a friend, or simply sit with your feelings for a bit without distracting yourself or trying to drown them out. It may help to acknowledge them aloud to yourself.

Research shows that when we acknowledge a difficult feeling – anxiety, stress, overwhelm, sadness – we feel it for a shorter amount of time and with less intensity. 

Practice gratitude for the smallest things

Before you send your first email of the day or go to bed at night, write down three things you’re grateful for in your life as it is right now, as overwhelming and hectic as it may be.

Negativity begets negativity: When you’re stressed, your brain’s natural negativity bias is even more sensitive.  This means you’re more likely be negatively affected by things that are stressful or frustrating. 

Practicing gratitude helps to reverse your brain’s natural tendency to be sensitive to what’s wrong. And focusing on what’s good in your life reminds you that the stress you may be feeling isn’t all there is.

Be kind to yourself 

Once a day, ask yourself: “What would feel nourishing right now?” Then take 5-10 minutes and do it, whatever it is. 

Your 10 minutes of self-care can be as simple as a short walk outside, proven by research to give you an immediate mood boost, or just sitting quietly with your eyes closed for a few minutes. 

You can’t give what you don’t have. Especially at times when there’s a lot being asked of you and you’re running around taking care of a lot of people and responsibilities, you need to fuel yourself. 

Next up: How to turn routines into uplifting rituals

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