When our schedules are overloaded with back-to-back commitments, such as at the grueling yet inspiring experience that is fashion month, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out.
I can speak from experience: as a freelancer, I have to juggle several commitments and deadlines at once, and it’s a constant battle to figure out how to prioritize and manage it all. Whenever I get especially overwhelmed, my mind fills with panic and dread, which naturally makes me want to run and hide.
According to New York-based psychotherapist Vanessa Kensing, even the most extroverted person can feel drained by being “on” for extended periods of time. In these situations, if we become numb or fail to take proper care of ourselves, it can make our bodies more prone to illness or even cause a full-blown mental breakdown. But the good news is that there are things we can do to keep stress at bay and stay healthy and calm.
We spoke to Kensing and learned about five simple things we can do when navigating a slew of stressful events. They are as follows:
Find your balance
“Doing things that help your mind and body find some balance is important,” says Kensing. Take stock of what has helped you feel calm in the past and incorporate some of those things into your schedule.
While it’s easy to get caught up in your productivity and trying to get as much done as possible, when we’re bogged down with work or commitments, it’s important to remember simple things like packing a snack for long days and drinking enough water. According to Kensing, treating yourself well can be as simple as “texting a friend who makes you laugh or watching an episode of your favorite show at the end of the day.”
Self-care doesn’t have to be anything major
In a time when self-care is becoming more and more commercialized, it’s useful to know that practicing it doesn’t have to involve anything major or super-expensive.
“We often think about self-care in terms of activities, but self-care can also be validating self-talk or taking a few deep breaths,” says Kensing. Small self-care gestures help keep stress and anxiety at bay. “Reminding yourself that you are pretty kick-ass for all you did that day will likely put a smile on your face and release a bit of that pent-up emotion,” Kensing adds.
Notice how your body reacts when you feel overwhelmed
Our fight-or-flight responses can make us naturally inclined to panic when we realize we’ve taken on too much. However, Kensing says panicking makes problem-solving more difficult. It’s helpful to pay attention to how you hold tension in the body, which will help you to recognize problems early and de-escalate.
“For example, if panic feels like tightness in the chest, take a few deep breaths — you may even want to put your hand over your heart or on your stomach,” Kensing says. Noticing the warning signs and finding a way to calm down ultimately gives us more power and helps us find better ways to manage what’s on our plate.
Tell someone how you feel
Sounds simple, right? But culturally, we’re taught to numb ourselves and become emotionless superhumans who can work around the clock, making it harder to identify our emotional needs and tell others how we’re feeling. This is especially true when we’re among colleagues rather than friends and family.
But it’s worth considering sharing how you’re feeling with coworkers you can trust or a manager. If that doesn’t feel safe or appropriate, try calling a close friend or family member, says Kensing. In these instances, just voicing what you’re dealing with will help you release those emotions and move through them. And remember that having feelings or being overwhelmed is a universal experience — it doesn’t make you weak.
Treat yourself before and after
When dealing with stressful events, Kensing recommends the “sandwich technique.” This means doing grounding activities before and after the experience. For example, when dealing with a distressing event or tough series of commitments, Kensing suggests taking a yoga class, getting a massage, relaxing with friends, or even watching a funny movie before and after.
Doing these things beforehand can help us go into an experience with a more positive and calmer outlook. And if we plan to do the same after it’s all over, we know there’s something restorative to look forward to, which can help us get through whatever challenges we’re facing in the moment.