Sometimes you are in a bad mood and it affects your work and home life.
Sometimes you have anxiety and it affects your work and home life.
And sometimes you feel overwhelmed and you literally don't know what to do next.
This article is a cheat sheet to help change your mindset and banish bad moods, anxiety and the feeling of overwhelm.
The article does not describe how to fix the root cause of the anxiety, but rather gives a check list of actions to take to help to shift that mood in the short term.
I have listed each activity in the order of ease of use and impact.
I am not a trained health practitioner. This is my own list which I have worked out after experience in stress anxiety and overwhelm from being in sustainability for 20 years (in particular the last 24 months!) and running my own business (which faces ups and downs daily!).
Lots of this stuff you may have heard before. Hopefully by reading it again it might being more awareness to the practice and you are more likely to do it.
These are practices that work for me. They don't always work. And they are not always convenient..but they all help lift my mood or anxiety .
These actions are my go to, if I want to fix things.. because we can't just sit and stare at our wounds forever.
This is not an exhaustive list and would love to hear from others as I am always looking for other methods tops and tools!!
Water and dehydration
We know what our bodies need but we ignore it. There are links between anxiety and not drinking enough water. I know simple right? There will be a theme in this article- lots of this stuff is simple and we know it already but common sense is not common practice.
Ok you have heard this all before and you are probably rolling your eyes right now.
I think breath work is the best ROI for treating stress anxiety or overwhelm. That is, it is super easy to do, takes very little time but returns the greatest benefit.
If my mind isn't in the right place, I can take it somewhere positive with breathwork. The conscious breath is really good for centering the mind and body.
There's different methods of breathwork with varying effects.
The simplest is just to close your eyes, focus your mind on your breath, and just breath in and out normally. When you lose focus on your breath and a thought about work (or whatever) comes in, park that thought for later and return to your breath. Repeat this for a few minutes.
To start you will have many thoughts per minute but this will get less and less. You will get better and better until you can focus on your breath only for a very long time.
Our friends at @lovetolearnto give free breathwork classes on Instagram at the time of writing. In these classes you can learn about different breath practices which bring various benefits. I cannot recommend this enough.
If you really enjoy playing with your breath and the benefits it brings, I find that the Wim Hoff practice is very effective for shifting my mood dramatically into the positive. Download the app here. I cannot recommend this breathing practice enough either! Since starting this I feel so grounded and my will power has increased.
If you want to go deep on breath then this Joe Rogan Podcast is worth a listen.
Go for a walk
If you can get access to nature, a great way to rebalance is to get out into the woods and just have a walk and immerse yourself in the abundance of nature. If you can't get out to the woods then a simple walk around the block will help.
Take your shoes off
Another soothing activity that you can do to help bring you back into your body and onto the earth is to walk barefoot. Just take your shoes off and walk on the earth. This helps to balance the body energetically. For me wet grass is the best first thing but anything where your feet are touching the earth will help. There's plenty of scientific papers about the health benefits of grounding or earthing. Some say that you should get an hour a day.
If I have a ball of anxiety the quickest and easiest way to shift it is to get out on the trail and run for a few miles. Physical activity releases serotonin the happy hormone and endorphins- the body's pain killers. Any physical activity is good. If you can mix it in with the commute then you are winning!
Solar Plexus Shot
This one from my good friend Ben. It sounds yucky and I admit every time is a bit of a challenge but it works. I have told my friends and colleagues and they were reluctant at first but now they know it works too.
Take a shot glass. Put two or three cap fulls of apple cider vinegar in. Followed by 1tsp of ginger, 1 tsp tumeric and a pinch of Cayenne or black pepper. Swill it around so that the powders are suspended in the solution and knock that back. (Add water if that helps)
You will grimace for a while, but after that you will have a renewed energy and motivation for the day.
Try it and tell me how it feels.
Help someone else
Taking the focus off what you need to do and helping someone else is a great way to transfer the need for action into something positive. You can get a great well being feeling from helping others. If you are feeling low then just ask people if they need any help ! Or set up a regular voluntary slot at your nearest charity.
I have started doing Forward Fridays for example which is a great buzz at the end of the week for me.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.
Water as you know has a cleansing quality. And I like to think of water cleansing away a bad mood or a negative mindset. A simple shower can make all the difference. A bath is better. A cold shower never fails to lift my mood. Short term pain but long term gain! If you can get in the sea or a river then I guarantee your mood will be lifted. There is even scientific evidence that going in the sea brings so many benefits.
Sleep is the most undervalued performance enhancing drug. Everything falls apart when we don't get enough sleep. You know that already. If you are in a mood grab a nap if you can. We have written so much about sleep already so please go here.
I have been introduced to smudging in the last few years and I feel like it can definitely lift my mood...or at least clear a negative headspace.
Smudging is an ancient practice associated with Native Americans but also practised in many other cultures around the world. This includes Roman Catholic culture which smudges the church in some ceremonies. Smudging is the act of drying out and bundling together aromatic herbs and then setting fire to the bundle to smoke the area, space, person or house.
Smudging lifts one's spirits by balancing negative energy as the smoke balances out negative ions in the air. Furthermore there is a 2014 study which documented some of the plants used in smudging as an important treatment for anxiety depression and mood disorders in some cultures.
Here are some more benefits of smudging with sage in particular.
I know this sounds too simple and we all know this already! But there is scientific evidence that laughing can lift your mood by tricking your brain into happiness!
Yoga (or just child's pose)
Yoga completely balances the mind and body (and can be a good work out). No need to go for a full on 60 min yoga class. Just pull something up on Youtube like "Gentle yoga for beginners anxiety 15 minutes" and you will find something suitable.
Or if yoga is not for you then a good thing to do is to get into child's pose. Kneel on the floor. Sit back on your ankles and then drape your body over your thighs. Put your arms down by your side, so they're parallel with your shins, and then just lie in that position and breathe. Just focus on your breathing. If you are outside try to get your forehead onto the earth. That's a good way of centering yourself.
You feel reborn after you have a good sauna.
The Mayans called them Temazcal. The indigenous tribes of North America call them Sweat Lodges. Even the ancient Celts had their own sweat house practices.
More recently as you know, the North Europeans have daily saunas.
Sauna has amazing mood lifting benefits (as well as loads of other health benefits) .
The sauna for me can be a great place to be alone in your own thoughts while being challenged by the heat. It can also be a great place to just talk to strangers.
Everyone is the same in a sauna. Nothing but bathing costumes (if in the UK!).
The heat and sweat gives me an massive increase in well being and it feels like you have been thoroughly cleansed. Especially if you can cycle between hot and cold.
My advice is to try it if you have not caught onto the sauna.
Long term management of stress and anxiety is one of the main benefits of meditation. It took me a couple of years to really find myself with meditation but now I cannot have a day without it. Just start with 3 mins a day using the headspace app (or there are plenty of others, test them out to see which one fits). Then you can move into solo meditation.
Sit with it (acceptance)
The anxiety or overwhelm is a signal from your body that something is not quite right. There is great value in accepting this emotion and exploring and acknowledging where it is coming from. There is great pressure in society to be happy and positive but we need to know what negative feels like to know what positive is. So sit with the emotion. Try to work out where it is coming from. What it might be caused by. This can help get to the root cause and understand what you might need to fix.
I hope this cheat sheet has helped you in some way. Let me know what techniques and tools you use to move things on.