Overwhelm is SO overwhelming!! Maybe your heart speeds up or your legs start shaking. Maybe your thoughts race, or you have a panicky feeling that you can’t stay put. Feeling overwhelmed?
Here are three small steps that can help you re-engage yourself.
STOP. The minute you recognize that you’re overwhelmed, you’ve already engaged in step one.
Stop what you’re doing, notice the overwhelm, and take a moment to pause. If possible, step away for a moment and get a change of scenery. Start to notice how your body feels (palms sweaty? chest tight?). And take a moment to notice your external environment (is it noisy? does the air feel cold?).
Stopping everything, even if it’s only for ten seconds or so, gives you time to recognize that you’re overwhelmed, and to begin to shift your experience.
SENSE. Once you’ve noticed that you’re overwhelmed, take a few minutes to explore how you’re feeling right now. Being overwhelmed can be SUPER uncomfortable and really scary. It’s tempting to skip over this step and turn your attention away from what you’re feeling. But learning how to do a body scan, or to notice how you’re feeling, will give you some really powerful information about how to take care of yourself. It will also help you stay present as you begin to recognize your habits and patterns.
Gradually check each part of your body, from your head to your toes, and see where the overwhelm feels stuck. Maybe you notice that your stomach feels tight. When was the last time you ate? Do you need some water? Ask each part of your body if there’s something that it needs to feel soothed. A walk, stretching, light touch, or some deep breaths, are all examples of how you can begin to self-soothe.
Once you have a better handle on your internal experience, take a few minutes to turn your attention to the outside world. Is the space around you too hot? Too crowded? Too cold? If you’re able to change your external environment to be more comfortable, or to feel safe again, go ahead and take care of yourself.
BREATHE. This last step is a suggestion that will help you learn how to stay connected with yourself and your experience when times get tough. Once you’ve stopped, sensed, and gotten more information about the overwhelm and how you might respond, take 30 seconds-3 minutes to just breathe.
If it’s hard to stay focused on your breath, just bring your attention to the out-breath and let the in-breath happen on its own. Close your eyes if you’re in a safe place to do so. You don’t have to breathe any special way, just pay attention to how your breathing feels. Is it relaxed or tight? Allow your breath to be as it is and pay attention to your experience as you continue to nurture this relationship with yourself.
Still Struggling? Overwhelm is really hard and is not to be taken lightly. If you’re having trouble finding relief, seek out professional support. An acupuncturist can help you reconnect with yourself, and begin to smooth out the intense physiological symptoms that often happen with overwhelm.