How do we combat overwhelm?

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness month – a condition I know a lot about having been diagnosed with and suffering from this illness in 2006 following my tour of Iraq.  This and events that have occurred in my life this last month have been the catalyst for this newsletter.

For those of us living in the southern hemisphere we are approaching that time of the year when fatigue, lethargy, stress and low mood present as challenges to many of us.  As winter sets in, shorter days more hours of darkness, cold temperatures and wet weather make it more tempting to bunker down, hibernate, seek refuge and comfort indoors and shy away from outdoor and social activities.  This behaviour makes it easier for normal stressors to get the better of us and for stress and anxiety to gradually build to the point of overwhelm – or worse.

I can certainly relate to this.  Whilst I love the seasonal changes and the beauty that comes with the arrival of winter, not to mention the perfect excuse to get out the ugg boots and fluffy jumpers, winter for many of us inevitably triggers mood disorders, where we are essentially less able to harness our resilience, strength, wisdom and the clarity needed to address and solve everyday problems and overcome common obstacles.

I recently found myself in a position where growing stressors, anxiety and a couple of unexpected emotional setbacks took their toll and put me at risk of heading towards overwhelm. I was showing all the usual signs of heading down the road to emotional overload – poor sleep, feelings of lethargy, lack of clear thinking and problem solving, mental and emotional confusion and the inability to protect and preserve personal and professional boundaries.  I was fortunate to be able to call upon previous lived experience, lessons learned over my life and specifically the last 18 months, the support of dear friends and the unconditional love of family members to open my eyes and help me see what was going on. I was shown what I needed to do to break the circuit of building stress and anxiety.

If any of this resonates with you, if you are feeling low, stressed, sad, increasingly anxious or even overwhelmed I urge you to do something about it – especially at this time of year, when the elements are also working against many of us. Honour and don’t be afraid to rely on trusted family and friends, get out into nature to breath the fresh air and observe the beauty around you. Meditate, rest and use movement of any sort to get the blood pumping and blow out the cobwebs. Don’t afraid to speak out and be vulnerable.  You are not alone.  We must all look after ourselves and look after each other.  We owe it to ourselves and those who love and rely on us to look within and put the oxygen mask on our own face before we help another.

The problems or challenges may not magically go away. However, by practising resilience and allowing yourself to be vulnerable you are more likely to gain the clear mind and healthy attitude to better equip you to deal with them. 

We are encouraged to ask our friends, colleagues and family members RUOK? Before you do this I would encourage you to first ask yourself AMIOK?

If none of this helps and you or others are worried about your wellbeing, please seek professional help.

Anna Stanford