February overwhelm - are you feeling it too?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

It's only February and yet I'm feeling overwhelmed by life's responsibilities and demands.

The kids have only just gone back to school, but the work/life juggle is already draining my energy.

And I'm not alone. Everywhere I turn there are people talking about feeling under pressure.

What is it about February that makes people feel such a sense of overwhelm? Is it going back to work? Is it all the notes coming home from school? Or is it simply because holidays are officially over?

Life coach and qualified counsellor Teymara Wright said it was normal to feel overwhelmed at this time of year.

"With the new year, and after a well-earned holiday, we start the year feeling optimistic with new goals and resolutions," Ms Wright said.

"By about February, this often starts to unravel despite our best intentions.

"As the year starts to get into full swing, with parents back at work and kids back at school, things don't go as planned, we don't stick to our guns, old habits quickly raise their ugly heads, new routines take their toll and our energy wanes."

She explained that the feeling of overwhelm was your subconscious working against your best intentions, and was often something out of your control.

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"With your conscious mind you make plans, set goals and tell yourself to be positive and change your negative ways," she said.

"Your subconscious mind, unfortunately, can sabotage your best intentions. In your subconscious mind you hold negative beliefs and fears that are more powerful than your New Year's resolutions and self-promises. Your subconscious works against you whether you realise it or not.

"As all of your 2019 plans and expectations for your life feel like they are starting to drift away, in comes that feeling of being completely overwhelmed and a failure."

This can manifest itself in many ways.

"Energy levels can drop, you can be angry and snappy at loved ones, you may turn to things like food or alcohol, you might withdraw socially," Ms Wright said.

"You may find yourself getting sick, unable to make decisions, struggling to plan the week ahead and not sleeping well."

Clinical psychologist Jaimie Bloch from MindMovers Psychology said after a busy couple of months of 'burning the candle at both ends' you could be left feeling exhausted.

"The holiday period over Christmas and New Years can be both stressful and enjoyable, but it takes a lot of mental and physical energy from us, especially parents," Ms Bloch said.

"While we may not enjoy running around doing the Christmas shopping and the frantic organisation of dinners and attending social gatherings, we do enjoy the flexibility within our routine.

"Once this holiday period comes to a close we can often feel down and anxious about returning back to our normal work and life routine. This is often termed the post holiday blues."

As a result, it was normal to feel unmotivated, down, anxious and overwhelmed. You might even experience headaches, insomnia and feel disconnected from loved ones.

"You may find yourself feeling more fatigued and tired when you wake up or a lack of energy during the day or you may notice you have racing thoughts around your to-do list," she said.

"You also may feel more agitated and find small things can cause you to feel anxious, like having to make school lunches."

There are a number of things you can do to help feel better, including being kind to yourself, accepting it's normal to feel these things at this time of year, readjusting your routine to include some pleasurable activities, planning your next holiday, exercising, sleeping and making sure you drink lots of water (not lots of wine).

It's also important to remember that adults aren't the only people in the house feeling overwhelmed - kids could be struggling too.

"Kids and adults are no different. Getting back into the routine of school after an enjoyable and relaxing holiday break is hard," she said.

"It's also normal for children to feel flat or be more tired during the first few weeks of school," Ms Bloch said.

They might be tired, disorganised, agitated, teary, slower than normal or complaining about feeling sick.

 "Encourage your children to talk about how they're feeling, listen and validate any worries they may have about the new school year," she said.

"Listening and validating a child, without trying to problem solve, helps kids feel connected and heard. Sometimes this alone can help dissipate any worries or blues.

"Let your children know their feelings are normal. Sometimes sharing your own worries can help support children cope better with how they're feeling."