3 simple workarounds for when you feel overwhelmed
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
Many people these days are feeling disillusioned, shocked, vulnerable, depressed and full of dread. Any one of those feelings can be difficult to handle, but when you’re feeling a mix of those feelings, it’s overwhelming.
Although some people are responding to personal circumstances, the majority of those feelings are triggered by the global events unfolding each day. None of us knows what we will face when we wake up in the morning. Nor do we see a clear resolution in front of us. Therefore, we must find a way to navigate the overwhelming feelings.
The first step is to reduce the intensity and power of what we’re experiencing by simplifying it. We can do that by recognizing that the common thread through all of those overwhelming feelings list above is fear. Once we’ve identified that fear is behind all difficult emotions, then we can remedy it with some simple workarounds.
Here are three workarounds (based on decades on working with clients and students) to help you cultivate more peace (and less fear) in your life:
1. Being Present
On a practical level, fear is about the past and the future. We fear that what has happened in the past will happen again in the future. We also worry about the future, sometimes sinking into feelings of dread about it. Fear is usually associated with the belief we may lose something — our health, our job, our money or our relationships. Or if we don’t have one or more of those things, we’re afraid we're not going to ever find them.
The pathway to peace is to become present. Being present means being fully being aware of what's happening right in front of you. One of the easiest ways to do this is to become aware of how you’re feeling in your body. You start by tuning into your five senses and also noticing your surroundings.
Ask yourself these questions: “Where am I?” “What am I feeling?” “Am I OK right now?” Then pay attention to everything that is happening within and around you in the present moment.
2. Taking a Time Out
About 10 years ago, I started spending time every morning praying, meditating, reading and writing. I now spend at least two hours doing this, which may seem like a lot, but it’s my favorite time of day.
For a brief period, when I worked full time and had to be at work by eight in the morning, I woke up at five so that I had at least two hours of quiet time before entering the chaos of the world. It is a break from texts, emails and interactions with others that allows me to establish a peaceful, grounded flow for my day.
Taking a time out can be a morning routine as I described above, or it can be a nightly bath, time spent in nature, working on a creative project, dancing to some uplifting music, doing something with your hands, etc. The key is to find something that takes you away from the news, from social media and from conversations about what’s happening in the world. To work well, it needs to be something you do regularly and consistently. If not daily, then at least several times per week.
3. Reach Out
The root of fear is the belief that we are all alone, that we must take matters into our own hands and take care of our problems all by ourselves. We live as if we have no help whatsoever. We tell ourselves, “I have to figure everything out. I have to solve all of my problems. I have to fight to survive.”
This is not true.
As someone I know recently said, you can be “pathologically independent,” meaning so self-sufficient that you cause yourself untold suffering. As h ard as it may be, the answer is to ask for help. This can mean reaching out to friends and family or a professional coach, counselor or healing practitioner. Joining a Meetup group or an online Facebook group can also help diffuse overwhelming feelings because you can connect with others who share your experience. In addition, many group members offer tips, tools and resources that have helped them.
John Lennon wrote, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
May we all find a way to embrace life again.
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