Overcoming overwhelm: 4 ways to re-establish your equilibrium.

Have you ever heard the expression, “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back”? You can be sure that directly before that moment, the camel was already feeling overwhelmed!

When our capacity to cope and our available resources seem to be outweighed by demands, needs, pressures, relationships, commitments and time constraints, we can become overwhelmed. We lose our equilibrium and sometimes can’t think where to turn next…we become disoriented and lost, in the milieu; this can lead to inertia, panic, avoidance, fear and even collapse…and all the while, the work piles up, the demands continue, and the feeling of losing ourselves in it all continues.

When this occurs, a signal from our brain will be telling our body that we are in overwhelm and that our ability to cope with the stressors will not be enough. When our body receives that signal, it is like an overloaded electrical circuit blowing a fuse and shutting down. That’s when we lose our ability to think straight.  Very scary!

The following are four steps you can take when feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Breathe with the feeling, accepting rather than fighting it.
  2. Gently guide your focus into the ‘now’ moment and add kindness.
  3. Once you feel a greater sense of inner spaciousness, choose one thing you’d like to focus on and mentally remove anything that does not need your attention today. If other things clamour for your attention, simply notice them without grasping onto them and turn the focus of your attention back to the one thing, in a gentle way.
  4. Letting go of judgment and measurement.

The following are some other tips from the “Fast Aid” section of our mindfulness journal, which will be available in early 2020:

  1. Breathe “Box Breathing” is a simple way to lower your blood pressure and steady your heart rate.  Keep in mind 4 x 4 x 4 x 4, as in the 4 sides of a box.  This is a method that American Navy Seals use to prepare themselves for a mission. Take a little time to focus on your breath.  Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4. Hold to the count of 4. Breathe out through your mouth to the count of 4.  Hold to the count of 4.

Repeat this cycle no more than 4 or 5 times, then breathe normally.

  1. Soothe by placing your hand over your heart and sending kindness to yourself. Feel your hand with your chest. Feel the warmth of your hand, giving soothing kindness to your heart.  If this is difficult for you to do, visualise a person such as a teacher, a coach or relative who has been kind to you in the past.  Receive their kindness into yourself. What would they want to say to you right now?
  2. Calm by finding something in nature; observe and describe it to yourself in detail.  An experience of awe can expand your perspective. Watching the stars in the night sky is the perfect opportunity for this.  Notice what you’re becoming aware of.
  3. Cope by using positive and accepting self-talk: “This too will pass.” “Just for now, this is how it is for me.” “This makes perfect sense given where I have come from and the things that have happened.”
  4. Ground yourself a. Take a moment to be entirely in the present moment.  Focus on your hearing sense for two minutes.  Identify 6 different sounds you can hear.  Describe them. Move the focus of your attention from sound to sound and identify which direction each is coming from. b. Bounce a ball against a wall and catch it, again and again, varying the bounces, so you move to catch it. Continue this for 3 minutes
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