Overwhelm: the place where you're not able to think clearly anymore. Reacting, snappy, frustrated etc. Holding on tightly and hoping nothing will fall (possibly always exhausted).
~ Melanie Charles
We all know the studies around stress and how bad it is for you. It increases the risk of heart disease, etc etc. Yet, we just plow along in stressful states, waiting for the weekend when we can have a moment to breathe. The weekend comes around and we realise how exhausted we are and hold on even tighter for that next holiday, where we can (cross fingers) lie on a beach somewhere and pass out like a starfish (or drink like one). We get to the point where a week off isn't enough and our capacity to relax becomes more distant.
You may have even started meditating, or doing yoga, but you find it just isn't having the impact that others proclaim it has had for them. Or you just can't even find the mental space to think about doing anything other than what you are.
If you are constantly in a state of overwhelm, then occasional meditation or yoga etc, will only take the tip off that state. It definitely helps, but you won't have feelings of zen and balance. You need to start by listening to your body and learning your stress signs, so you don't get into that state. By being aware of what they are, you can use tools to move yourself into a more balanced state (or at least not to overwhelm).
The first steps to understand your stress signs are to tune into and listen to your body. Tuning in, is about checking what is happening in your body and understanding what your body is telling you. Start by checking in with your body throughout the day to understand any tightness, clenching of muscles, anxiety, shallow breathing etc. Then check with your mind (to understand what you are thinking) and do a quick check - what level is my stress. It doesn't take long to learn what your signs are (it may be in hindsight to start with).
I have three stages. Stage one and two, I can calm myself and come back into balance, but by stage three, I'm just holding on and thinking is optional. Clamped jaw and shallow breathing is stage one. By stage two I have started to grind my teeth and my shoulders are tight (which is making my neck sore) and stage three - you don't want to know! The signs are different for everyone. Learning to spot them is easy, if you're willing to tune in. Once you understand your stress signs, you can start to apply first aids to get yourself back into balance.
If you're interested in listening to my meditation to help you to tune in, go to free meditations. Next time I'll be discussing more first aids to help manage the stressful state. But starting to breathe is my first go to.