How to Find your Footing During Periods of Overwhelm
Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash
Spring can sometimes be hard for me, especially this year when there's a huge outward swell of connection and socialization after the inward year of isolation.
Because our modern culture is already excess in its addiction to Spring energy, it’s already easy to get out of balance with this season.
I’ve been hearing from you that this Spring has been overwhelming. It’s been overwhelming for me too.
So I’m going to share a few practices that help me, and that I lean in to during times of overwhelm.
The first practice is to set BOUNDARIES.
Boundaries are all the hype these days, and there’s a good reason for that. Without boundaries, you don’t know where you end and the rest of the world begins. You can’t feel what you need as easily, and you certainly can’t take care of what you need if you don't know what it is you need.
The first part of making boundaries is to take space to just feel what’s happening for you and to create some sort of container of what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. For example, it’s ok to say no to plans when you’re feeling close to capacity or already maxed out.
How do you know you’re close to capacity or maxed out? This is something you’ll learn to track time over time the more you check in with yourself regularly. When you check in, notice how you’re feeling, and spend time watching your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual state. For example, when I start getting more impatient and irritable with the people I love, it’s always a sign that I need to spend time alone filling myself up.
Setting boundaries is all about creating the life you do want. This involves saying no a lot, but also saying yes to what it is that you need. For you that could mean being inward and quiet, checking in with your body, a personal nature day, dancing to your favorite music, having fun or playing, or other self care. Actually schedule this time into your week, especially if your schedule tends to fill up quickly and easily.
If something comes up that’s going to take over this sacred self-time, be fierce and committed about protecting it (ie. say no to the other invitation or provide other time/day option) or if that’s not possible, immediately find and block out another time in your schedule for you.
When we say yes to too many engagements, we have to say no to other things, including tending to our bodies.
The second practice is cultivating PRESENCE.
Pulling your energy and awareness back into this present moment right here right now is one of the simplest and most profound shifts you can make in order to alleviate anxiety and overwhelm. So often our minds get ahead of ourselves, thinking of and already engaging with the energies of the future, the stories of what it will be like, the perceived busy-ness or lack of time or space. When we intentionally center ourselves, and breathe deeply into the present, we can find a spaciousness that’s always available. Even if things are moving quickly.
3 ways to practice this:
They all begin the same way - when you notice anxiety or overwhelm arise, pause.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine drawing all the strands of your thoughts and energy back inside the center of your body and head. Like you have a magnet for Self in the center of your body. You may feel or see all of the strands of yourself collecting back in your body. Feel your spine/center. Feel your feet on the Earth. Stretch the top of your head towards the sky.
Feel into your body and scan it with your inner senses. Locate somewhere inside your body that feels spacious. Hone in on that area and let it grow bigger. Or if you can’t find one, invite your breath to expand areas that feel constricted to create a sense of spaciousness.
Anchor yourself in the present moment with your senses: notice a few things you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Our senses bring us into alignment with what’s current.
Practice intentional movement and sound. Let your body lead, and invite your body to move in ways that feel good and pleasurable. Shake. Make noises, shout, groan, make sounds. Get back into your body.
The third practice is to connect to the overwhelmed part of yourself directly.
My work springs from the belief, and lived experience, that we have many different parts of our psyche stored in our body. When we’ve had difficult or traumatic experiences when we’re young, parts of our energy can remain frozen at these ages until we’re resourced enough to deal with the feelings that couldn’t be processed in our child-mind state. When we learn to connect with the various inner children, or other energies within us, we can directly speak to the part of us that’s under distress. We can then be much more effective at soothing ourselves.
When you feel overwhelmed, if possible stop what you’re doing and close your eyes.
Scan your body for the sensation of overwhelm in your body.
What does it feel like?
Try to name all the sensations you can.
For example: it feels like a swirling chaos in my chest, and it feels really tight and clenched.
Once you connect with the sensation, ask yourself if there’s a part of you that lives here.
See if your body brings you an image or feeling of yourself at a certain age that’s the root of these feelings.
Once you connect with them, talk to them directly.
Ask them what’s going on, what they’re afraid of, what they need.
Hold them, offer them soothing words, or whatever else that feels comforting.
Once they feel heard, seen, and know they’re not alone, things often shift pretty quickly.
Make sure to keep checking in with them along the way. Let your body lead you.
The final practice is to create a positive affirmation for your mind.
Often during periods of overwhelm it's because I feel way too busy. I feel like there's not enough time or space to either do what I need to do, or to spend enough quiet, connective time with myself.
When I get in this state, my thoughts are constantly saying "Ahh, when am I going to have time for myself? There's not enough time!" Or "I don't have space, when am I going to get my space?"
When I can notice my state and start to repeat affirmations or mantras that challenge these beliefs, I find a lot more room and spaciousness. For example, I often repeat to myself, "There's so much spaciousness right here," or "I have plenty of time."
This is a helpful practice to do after the prior practice of speaking directly to your overwhelmed part. If the overwhelm hasn't had a chance to be heard, covering it up with affirmations doesn't always help. After the overwhelmed parts have had a chance to say what they need to say and there's an opening available, you can then infuse that part with the mantra of spaciousness and time.
I’d love to hear from you how these practices go, or if you have others favorite ways to be with yourself during periods of overwhelm. Take good care of yourselves!