How To Turn Inward When You're Feeling Overwhelmed
It's so easy to fall into overwhelm with the current fear that is sweeping the planet. And when uncertainty overwhelms us, our psyche attempts to create certainty in order to minimize internal discomfort. Usually this is done through mentally creating and playing out an inner story. Unfortunately, most of the time, we mentally play out negative (or worst-case scenario) stories, in order to create certainty.
So right now, ask yourself: What story am I telling myself in response to this uncertainty?
Playing out a fearful story is of no benefit to you. Remember that what is unknown is yet to be discovered. Simply step back, mentally count to five, and actively choose to focus on an inner narrative that leaves you feeling good instead.
Be gentle with yourself and others.
You're doing the best you can with overwhelming information. So simply pay attention to what you were doing and thinking when you start to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. When you begin to gain awareness around what triggers you (like when you focus on the fear of this pandemic), you give yourself the opportunity to respond more mindfully. Focus your attention on something that leaves you, and other people, feeling good instead.
Limit how much media you consume.
It's important to stay up to date with current news, but this process of staying informed does not need to engulf you! Spending an hour on your phone reading a social media thread is really not going to serve your well-being and will likely just spike overwhelm and anxiety. So, become a conscious and mindful consumer of media. Plan to check reliable news sources and spend a limited amount of time (I spend a maximum of about five/10 minutes max!) on becoming updated with current news.
Love your body.
It's so easy to numb out anxious feelings with low-energy foods and booze. This avoidance strategy will likely just leave you feeling more overwhelmed and crappy later on. Really prioritize practicing self-care by respecting and loving your body as best you can. Support your immunity with the right foods and other medically sound actions to keep your body in good health.
Nurture your inner world.
An easy way to feel good is simply by focusing on what feels good. Here's a quick list of some things you can try: Watch shows that feel good and that don't spike your anxiety. Call up your friends and have a good chat. Dance in your living room to music that lifts your spirit. Take a new online course. Read more books. Create art or journal. Go on a virtual museum tour. Practice meditation. Spend time in nature. Use this time of active social distancing to nurture your inner world.
Practice a meditation, like this one to ease overwhelm:
- Switch off your cellphone and find a quiet place to sit where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit upright with your legs uncrossed and feet planted firmly on the ground. Place your palms facing up.
- Bring awareness to your breath.
- Breathe in and out on a count of five.
- As you inhale, focus only on your breath; count for 5 and then exhale.
- Focus fully on your exhale for the count of five.
- Then on each inhale, mentally repeat the following words: I welcome inner peace and well-being.
- On each exhale, repeat the following words: I release all overwhelm and fear held in my being. I am safe.
- Breathe in and out, restating these mantras for as long as necessary.
- As thoughts come up in your mind (they always do), simply witness them and refocus your awareness back to your breath.
- Try to do this for a minimum of five minutes.
- As it becomes more comfortable for you, increase the length of your meditation and practice this as often as necessary.
Yes, there's no doubt these are troubling times. It's completely normal to feel afraid and overwhelmed right now. But if that's you (or someone you know), these five tips can help make everything a bit easier to bear.
Athena Laz is a leading voice on modern spirituality, specializing in the intersection of psychology and mysticism. She is the author of The Alchemy of Your Dreams: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Lucid Dreaming and The Deliberate Dreamer’s Journal.
Originally hailing from South Africa, Laz has degrees through the University of Witwatersrand and is a licensed psychologist through HPCSA. Her work has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine and the South African Journal of Psychology.