5 Tips for the Overwhelmed

It’s that time of the year again when everyone is desperately trying to catch up with their classes and trying to finish team and individual projects on time. It can get really overwhelming during these times, which is why it’s always good to have a reminder about an important aspect of our health.

On October 10th, the world celebrated Mental Health Day. While most people’s first thoughts that come to mental health may be extreme examples of anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders, mental health is a topic usually relates to everyone on various levels. In fact, according to Jack.org, while 1 in 5 people experience mental illness, 5 in 5 people have mental health. Given that everyone has mental health it is crucial that everyone be aware of how to take care of their mental wellbeing. For students, one way of taking care of your mental health is to be cautious about focusing solely schoolwork, and instead, trying to find a balance in other areas of your life. To do this successfully, BCIT has adopted the 8 Dimensions of Wellbeing framework to help students understand the various inter-related factors that, all together, contribute to an individuals overall wellbeing. Based on my personal experience in my 3 years studying here at BCIT, I will use the 8 Dimensions of Wellbeing framework as a foundation in sharing 5 tips to help those of us who are feeling overwhelmed at the moment to enhance your wellbeing:

  1. Breathe and breathe deeply

This may seem so simple but, in my experience, it’s so helpful. There are times when I lie awake at night worried and anxious. These feelings of worry and fear trigger the fight or flight response within our bodies. A simple way to calm the body down is through deep abdominal breathing.

  1. Understand the Anxiety Equation

What this equation means is that the more we feel we are able to cope or deal with what’s giving us worry or anxiety, the more we are able to face the things that cause us anxiety. For example, there may be times when we find it hard to start a big project. Sometimes, even the act of starting to study or even just getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult tasks. Often, the cause for these behaviors and thoughts is because in the back of our minds, we think we can’t do it.

When thinking about the overwhelming task in front of us, we wonder if we can even finish it (and for perfectionists like me, the task seems bigger and scarier). But the more you know within yourself that you’ll be able to deal with the task ahead, the less overwhelming the task becomes. In the mornings when you just don’t feel like getting up, focus on telling yourself that you can face the day ahead. Which leads me to my next tip.

  1. Give yourself a dose of self-compassion

To have self-compassion is to give yourself the same type of comfort and kind words you would give to a friend who is suffering. Self-compassion.org explains the concept really well:

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

When I first heard about this concept, I found it hard to grasp. Normally, I’d be the kind of friend who’d be an empathetic listener – someone who wouldn’t really give you advice, but who you can count on to listen to your problems. But I realized, in the past I had made a playlist of songs that I considered a present I wanted to give to friends who were struggling. The playlist ended up being my form of self-compassion to myself.

  1. Adopt the No More Zero Days Rule

So far, I’ve only given tips on how to deal with the feelings, thoughts and behaviours related to being overwhelmed. But how do we actually go from being overwhelmed to accomplishing tasks? What I have done is adopt the No More Zero Days strategy. Taken from this reddit comment, the No More Zero Days strategy basically means that you won’t let the day pass without doing at least 0.01% of the work you were supposed to do. This is in contrast to a zero day wherein you don’t do anything at all (and feel guilty about it).

There are times when we just feel like procrastinating. We tell ourselves ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, until tomorrow actually comes and we then tell ourselves, ‘I’ll do it the day after’. Next thing you know, it’s the day before the project submission and you’re cramming to get it done. With the zero-days technique, you are forced to do at least a little bit – even if it’s just one sentence or five minutes of readings. Not only does this help give you peace of mind (at least you did something to make progress on it), but the chain of productivity increases each day as you keep at it.

And last but not the least,

  1. Take advantage of BCIT’s Free Resources

As a student at BCIT, whether full-time or part-time, there are FREE services available for you. There’s counselling, health services, recreation services, accessibility services, mindfulness sessions and sun stations. The BCIT Student Association also hosts various events aimed at maintaining one’s mental health such as the Zen Lounge and Doggy De-Stress, etc. A part of our tuition fee goes towards this array of services and events so make sure to take advantage of them!

That’s it for my five tips that I myself practice when I’m overwhelmed.

Listen to my self-compassion playlist here. You can also watch a great TED talk about self-compassion here.

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