3 ways to reduce mental overwhelm in stressful times

3 ways to reduce mental overwhelm in stressful times

Here are 3 simple ways to reduce mental overwhelm at the moment

Feeling weighed down with worries?

When things crowd our minds, we can sometimes feel so overwhelmed that the four walls we’re already in can start to close in even further.

Several years ago shortly before I started travelling full time, I reached a point where I just wanted to offload all the stuff that kept me stuck in a specific physical and mental routine each day. As well as wanting to build into my life greater freedom to travel, I also wanted to free up headspace and reduce mental overwhelm, so I wasn’t always stuck in the same ‘thought loops’ each day.

Obviously right now in times of lockdown and travel restrictions, it’s difficult to just take off somewhere new. There are however things we can do to lighten the load on our minds. What’s more, these things might help us start something new – and also help us get set for a new focus when the current restrictions are lifted.

So here are 3 ways to reduce mental overwhelm right now:

1. Check your expenditure

If you currently have financial worries, here’s one way to start to deal with the problem. I’m not a financial adviser, and these suggestions are from my personal experience. Be sure to adapt them to suit your own situation and take professional advice where needed.

Take a good hard look at your last six bank statements and credit card statements. Go through each one and make a note of any specific expenditure that has made a noticeable, lasting and positive difference to your life in some way.

For example, if you have a monthly gym membership, how often do you actually go to the gym? And in what way has it actually enhanced your physical and/or mental fitness? Or not?

If you have a subscription to a magazine, has it increased your knowledge about something or helped you in some other way?

If you buy a lot online, how specifically are those things enriching your life right now?

If they are making a positive difference, and you can afford them, then you could choose to maintain your expenditure on them.

For everything else though, do you really need it? Do you use it? Add up what you could save.

I’m a book addict, and yet when I look at all the books in my Kindle library (I tend to read digital books), and I see how many I’ve never read – and might never actually get round to reading – I’m very conscious of all the money they have cost me.

Grocery shopping is another big one, especially if you tend to buy things on impulse or buy a lot of ready-made convenience things. What do you really need day to day to sustain you?

So be honest with yourself. Work out what you could save every month but cutting out expenditure on the things that are not enhancing your life. You might decide to buy them again at some point in the future, but right now cutting them out could help reduce mental overwhelm a little when it comes to finances.

2. Clear the distractions in your immediate line of sight

I work a lot at my laptop, and so I spend a lot of time at my desk. For me, physical clutter leads to mental clutter and distraction, and it weighs me down – so I make a point of keeping my desk as clear as possible.

I remember when I was working for a very traditional engineering company back in the 1990s. Many people’s desks were covered in so much stuff that you couldn’t even see the colour of the desks.

One of my colleagues commented one day on how clear my own desk was. I said that, for me, a clear desk is a clear mind. He countered that with “an empty desk is an empty mind”. We agreed to differ!

We’re all different, of course. Does your current workspace and its visual appearance distract you or make you more productive?

If the physical space you’re spending a lot of time in each day weighs you down or fills your head with distractions and worry, clear it. It will help reduce mental overwhelm.

If your desk is in a corner or you’re facing a wall when you’re siting at it, how inspiring is the wall? Could you put up an inspiring picture in your direct line of sight? Or a powerful quote perhaps?

I’ve looked at ways to create and clear more physical space in separate articles – including this one featuring the ‘skirting board test’.

3. Have a microadventure

In his book, Microadventures, author, adventurer and round-the-world cyclist, Alastair Humphreys, highlights all sorts of different ways to have an adventure close to home.

Doing something we wouldn’t normally do – or doing something outside our comfort zone – can help shift our mental focus. While we’re distracted by the adventure, our thinking can shift. It’s also a good way to, unconsciously, come up with solutions to problems and reduce mental overwhelm.

It’s also fun – and a way to escape the daily routine and monotony. Here are just a few of the suggestions in the Microadventures book :

  • stand outside on a clear night to watch the moon in all its glory
  • camp in the garden overnight, if you have one, and make coffee on a camping stove in the morning
  • plan a circular route around your home or street and let your mind meander as you physically follow that route, noticing things you’ve never noticed before
  • find a hill nearby (assuming you don’t live somewhere completely flat), sit at the top for a while; notice what you can see all around that you’ve never noticed before
  • if you have a (clean) river nearby (and you’re allowed to and it’s safe), jump in for a swim instead of your morning shower!

Read more ways to help you cope emotionally through this time

If you have feedback, ideas or insights to share, leave a comment below.

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