By Natalie Kusturic, M.A., LMFT
The alarm goes off and you can hardly move or maybe don’t want to. In your mind you think about the day ahead: your meeting with the boss, getting the kids off to school, running errands, maybe a yoga class if you are lucky. The list of people who depend on you is longer than your to-do list. The day can begin to spin out of control before you even get out of bed. Before the first cup of coffee you are annoyed, depressed, anxious and exhausted.
This is emotional overwhelm. Your brain has started the day in fight or flight mode. When this happens the brain gets stuck in feeling mode and cannot access it’s ability to problem solve. So, how do you get out of this crazy place?
BREATHE. I know sounds simple. Yet the first thing which happens in a state of overwhelm is people hold their breath, shorten their breath or in some way stunt their breathing. When this occurs notice it and bring your attention to your breath. Breathe deep, slow and with intention. If you notice the mind wandering it can help to ground yourself by noticing where you are by engaging your senses. Take stock of what objects are the in the room, colors, textures, get up and touch something or touch your clothes. Practice this for 5-10 minutes and you will regain your ability to think clearly and can begin problem solving.
SILENCE. Yes, life is busy and so is your mind which means silence needs to become a friend you visit daily. Drive to work with no radio on. Go for a walk in the park. Find a space at the office where no one goes and sit there in silence without any technology for 10 minutes. While you’re there breathe. Taking moments of silence allows you to distinguish what is you and what is noise. Silence creates the space to begin to hear yourself again.
CHOICES. The ability to choose is the most powerful tool any human being has to transform their life in an instant. Many people make choices and aren’t even aware they are doing it. I am not referring to the big choices but the little ones you make all day. The clothes you wear, the food you eat, the way you groom yourself, the approach you take to your work, your fitness routine and the myriad of other relatively benign decisions you make all day have a cumulative impact on your life. If you CHOOSE to complain about your work and do nothing to improve it then it remains the same. It may seem inconsequential but being dissatisfied with work can lead to depression and anxiety as well as long term stress which creates disease within the body over time. Choosing to focus your attention on what you like about your job begins to create a more balanced view and unlocks new creative solutions to problems you have at work. Basically, choice is a super power you can cultivate.
If you’ve been overwhelmed taking steps like breathing, being in silence and focusing your attention on the small choices you make during the day will put you back in the driver seat of your life. It is a simple practice that guides you back to you and gives you the space to manage the demands of life. It puts you in charge of your life. Imagine, you the boss of your life. Now doesn’t that feel better?