Life can get stressful at times and during times of stress, we can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. However, there are simple things we can do to manage when we are feeling overwhelmed in the moment. Try some of these suggestions and experience what they can do for our overwhelming moments.
1. Go back to basics
When we are feeling overwhelmed, looking after our basic needs can go a long way. Often, in our hectic schedules, we neglect taking care of ourselves, not realizing how doing so can have huge impacts on our emotional and mental well-being. Have you been getting enough rest? Could you be hungry in the moment? Are you hydrated? Are you eating well? Have you been exercising? Are you getting enough down time? Are we on our devices too much and need to get unplugged for a while? Taking care of ourselves even in these simplest and most basic ways can make such a huge difference.
2. Let’s get oriented
During times of stress, it can be useful to get oriented to our surroundings using our basic senses. Here are some ways you can get oriented right now:
- Look around you. What are five things that you can see in your immediate surrounding. Instead of taking a quick glance at them, see if you can pay attention to an item a little longer before moving on to the next item. Notice the item’s texture, colour, shape, size, or any other characteristics that might stand out to you.
- Take a sniff. What scent is in the air? Is the smell pleasant or unpleasant? Or perhaps, it is neutral. Where is the smell originating from? Is it strong or faint?
- Notice the sounds around you. What sounds do you hear? Are they loud or soft? Are the sounds of a high or low pitch? Are the sounds made by living or non-living things? Are the sounds far away or near?
- Try touching anything that is in your surroundings. What are the textures that you can feel? Notice the sensations on your fingertips as you feel your surroundings.
- If you are eating or drinking, notice the tastes swirling on your tongue. What do you taste? What textures or sensations are on your tongue?
3. Try not to get distracted
Conventionally, it is not uncommon for people to suggest distraction as a method to manage stress or overwhelming moments. It may work sometimes but other times, distracting ourselves from our internal difficulties might only provide temporary relief and might even increase our sense of restlessness. Notice what you typically do to distract yourself from your emotional distress or difficulties. Do you turn to your devices? Do you go on social media and surf mindlessly? Do you eat? Do you watch TV? Do you try and get busy? Noticing your tendencies when you are feeling stressed is a good starting point to recognize how you typically distract yourself.
4. Turn towards and notice
Instead of distracting yourself, it can be helpful to simply notice the thoughts and feelings happening inside of you in the moment
You can try doing this:
- Scan your body to notice where you are holding these difficult feelings.
- Pay attention to the sensations in that part of the body.
- What sensations are there? Is it a tingling sensation? Or does it feel like a solid
- unmoving block? Are the sensations moving or are they still?
- If you had to use a pencil to draw around the sensation, what shape would it take on? Are there any colours or textures to the sensations?
- Notice the urge to get rid of the sensations arising and simply allow the urge while continuing to pay attention to the sensations.
In the beginning, turning towards and noticing might feel unnatural because we have the natural tendency to avoid or get rid of anything that is unpleasant or makes us feel uncomfortable. However, with practice, we may be able to start creating space in our lives for even the unpleasant and uncomfortable. And as you turn towards and notice instead of distracting yourself, you may start seeing changes in the relationship between yourself and overwhelming moments.
Overwhelming moments are bound to happen from time to time. We cannot make them disappear. However, there are things we can do to stay grounded and anchored even in the face of an overwhelming moment.