Stress Awareness Month: Ways To Manage Feelings Of Anxiety & Overwhelm

With so many things happening around us at the moment, it’s important to check in with ourselves and our well-being.  In April, we get to raise awareness around stress, including looking at feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, which many of us feel in our day-to-day lives, especially when dealing with uncertainty.  In this article, we are sharing some simple yet effective ways from three leading wellness experts who specialise in managing stress.  They’ll each share their top tips to help you manage feelings of overwhelm and anxiety in your every day.

How Stress Leads to Overwhelm

In today’s world, moving between stress, anxiety, and feelings of overwhelm can be a never-ending cycle. Reducing high levels of stress is of course the ideal but when the stress we face is out of our control, we should focus on building our resilience and maintaining healthy habits within our everyday routines to protect ourselves from feelings of overwhelm or panic.

So why is this so important and what exactly happens to our body and mind when we are in this cycle of stress?  Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Joanna Phillips of Bluebird Psychology explains ‘during times of ongoing stress and uncertainty our inbuilt fear system can run on overtime, working extra hard in the background to look out for threats and dangers making us ‘hypervigilant’ to what is around us. The primary job of our fear system is one of survival, to keep us safe by eliciting fight, flight, or freeze responses as needed. That makes much sense and is adaptive when the event is transient, we react and once safety is achieved the system can return to standby mode. However, in the case of ongoing stressors, prolonged activation can begin to take its toll on emotional and physical wellbeing, for example, impacting sleep, digestion, concentration, and contributing to overwhelm and anxiety.’

So it’s no wonder why feeling continuously stressed is exhausting – if we don’t check in with ourselves and regulate our stress it can slowly grind away at our bodies’ ability to function well or think rationally.  

3 Ways to ‘Turn Down the Volume’ To Prevent Overwhelm

No one is immune to stress, especially when it’s a reaction to events out of our control, therefore it’s vital we learn coping methods to prevent it from wearing us down.  Dr Joanna Phillips shares 3 simple yet effective ways to take charge of our feelings and help ‘turn down the volume’ when we notice feelings of stress and overwhelm are around:

1. Right Here, Right Now
Focus on the here and now. Take a good look around and notice five things you can see, four things you can touch (for example, it can be very grounding to notice your feet firmly on the floor), three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Top tip: No need to get caught up on the numbers with this sensory grounding exercise, the most important thing is that you are enabling your fear system to recognise you are OK in this moment, in the here and now. You might also want to introduce a favourite calming smell to this exercise.

2.The Attitude of Gratitude

Try each day to take a moment and consider three things you are grateful for. The more we engage this mindset the easier it becomes. You might choose to incorporate this into your morning or bedtime routine.

Top tip: Have a physical object which can act as a visual reminder to do this gratitude exercise. It might be a favourite pebble from a beach walk, a journal, or a meaningful image for example.

3.Flow With The Feelings
Make time each day for calming and regulating movement or exercise even if only 10 minutes is possible. Quick ideas to fit into your day may include dancing to your favourite song, going for a lunchtime walk, or taking a short break to stretch and breathe. 

Top tip: Doing this activity with someone else can further help regulate your emotions as our stress response is designed to seek out social connection with others when we are under stress.

How A Simple Breathing Exercise Can Help Us Reset

Breathwork is another amazing tool that can help you break free from these feelings and enable you to reset your body and mind. 

Melike Hussein, the founder of BreathZone, is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher and Conscious Breathwork Coach says ‘in managing your experiences of stress and overwhelm, your breathing is your ally.  Breath is free and always with you, allowing you to use breathwork techniques – scientifically shown to affect the autonomic nervous system, and help you change your emotional, mental and physical state – whenever and wherever you need it.’

For feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and panic, Melike shares this tried and tested breathwork technique called Coherent Breathing. Studies have shown that this particular pace of breathing creates a resonance effect between our mind, heart, and breath, bringing the nervous system to a balance. 

So, what is Coherent BreathingMelike explains ‘this technique gently slows down and brings our breathing to 6 breaths per minute, with inhales and exhales in equal lengths of 5 seconds each. We also inhale through the nose and exhale through pursed lips (Tip: to exhale through pursed lips, imagine blowing air to cool a hot drink)’

Follow Melike’s simple steps below to practice Coherent Breathing:

  • Find a comfortable position sitting upright or lying down, with your feet firmly on the ground and back straight.
  • Take a few moments to allow the body to settle down and relax into this position.
  • Close your eyes or drop your gaze as comfortable. 
  • Breathe in through the nose for the count of 5 (mentally counting as ‘Inhale, 2, 3, 4, 5’)
  • Breathe out through the pursed lips for the count of 5 (mentally counting as ‘Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5’)
  • This is one breath. Continue for 20 more breaths or more as needed

‘Where There’s Tea There’s Hope’...

In the wise words of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero.  Tea is more than an enjoyable drink, it is world-renowned for reducing stress and has been part of many a tradition for promoting inner balance and wellness.  It is a great British custom in fact to ease one’s woes with a warm cup of tea.  Not to mention – tea is a super easy and enjoyable part of your daily routine!  

Here at Tea & Tonic, our Medicinal Herbalist and Aromatherapist, Jane Wallwork Gush share’s her go-to comforting tea blends that she recommends when it comes to emotional and physical feelings triggered by world events, everyday occurrences, and of course any sense of fear that stems from the known or indeed unknown:

Equal parts of:

  • Rose
  • Lime flower
  • Oatstraw

According to Jane, ‘this blend works on the nervous system and also the heart, helping on a physical and emotional level to reduce stress, alleviate anxiety and overwhelm.  It also works with deep-seated and suppressed emotions in a gentle yet supportive way’

Jane also recommends trying out the Tea & Tonic Inviting Sleep Essential Oil for using in a diffuser and/or adding a few drops to your bath, along with Golden Milk Inviting Sleep Tea as both are perfectly balanced blends to help settle feelings of unrest whilst helping to quieten the mind before bed.

Hopefully, you now feel you have some useful techniques to better manage these feelings that can otherwise feel overwhelming.  We’d love to hear which works well for you – just let us know your tried and tested go-to’s using the feedback below (this can be anonymous if you prefer)….

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