Warming the soul to combat overwhelm

I’ve been feeling the pull of the end of the year a lot these last few weeks. The somewhat panicky feeling that I’ve only got a certain number of weeks to pack in as much as possible to ensure I’ve ‘gotten the most out of the year’ feels rather counterproductive, and yet is a feeling I haven’t quite been able to shake.

The chatterbox inside of my head becomes quite insistent actually – across all areas of my life. Why haven’t you done this yet? What if you don’t achieve all your goals? How come you haven’t finished your to do list? You should fit in more catch ups before it’s too late. You should you should you should you should…..

You get the picture right. I know I’m not alone. And no matter how much I practice being kind to myself, there are days when the chatterbox takes the steering wheel for a few hours (*clears throat* ok, fine, days). It caught me by surprise really these last few weeks. By the time I realised it was driving I was buried in overwhelm.

So, how do you recover from an episode of overwhelm? Here’s three things I’ve tried that REALLY work for me:

1. Breathe.

If you’ve ever heard Brene Brown talk about breathing you’ll have a good chuckle to yourself right now. Who would have thought breathing could be so important? For me, when I’m stuck in overwhelm/anxiety/shame/fear I feel it in my chest. My breathing gets restricted and I find I’m doing these short sharp shallow breaths that just make me more anxious. So, when I feel this happening I now know it’s my signal to stop, pause, and take a few deep long breaths. There’s all sorts of breathing techniques I’ve picked up over the years now, so I have a play and do whatever feels right for me in the moment. Counting is the biggest help though – long and slow and for at least three to four breaths is usually enough to shift something for me.

2. Become curious.

Once I’ve realised I’m getting stuck, I now get really curious. I start asking questions. I wonder what is going on for me right now? I wonder what I have or haven’t done in the last few weeks to get me to this state? Am I being true to myself right now? Sometimes I can snap out of it immediately just by doing a quick reality check. Other times it takes a lot more questions and days (and I’m not saying it’s easy or fun) to work through it.

“The best way out is always through”. (Robert Frost)

I’m guessing this has a lot to do with what Brene Brown talks about in her latest book, Rising Strong – the ‘Rumble’ phase of getting back up from a fall. It’s all about sitting with some of the emotion, but not letting it take control.

3. Me time.

When I’m buried in overwhelm I often turn to those things that make me truly happy. The activities I can do that make me feel like me, without any explanation. This ranges from taking myself out for coffee, talking with a friend, baking, going to yoga, or just lying flat on the floor (if you’re a yogi, you might call this ‘savasana’, it’s my all time favourite pose!).

Reconnecting with the things in my life that make me feel my truly authentic self ignites the energy for me to keep at it, to pick myself up again and to just keep taking things step at a time. Sometimes this happens in a heartbeat. Other times I might have to work on it as my daily practice. However, I know it’s all part of filling my tank back up again. And that’s the ONLY way to drive on from overwhelm.

I was lucky this time. My commitment to say YES to me meant months ago I’d booked in for a ‘weekend of wellness’ with my favourite yoga teacher. Her weekends are such nourishment I come away feeling like I’ve filled my tank right up as well as plenty of reserves. I’ve come back with a renewed vow to myself to continue a daily practice of nourishment for my soul – being vulnerable, being kind to myself, coming back to authenticity, and always, always choosing growth.

As the daylight hours shorten and the weeks until the end of the year lessen, I encourage you to make a choice. Will you choose to be drawn into darkness, or will you choose to give yourself light? I know the choice I’ve made.