How to get centered when life is overwhelming

hands-heartLet’s face it – we’ve had a lot of bad news lately. We’re on mental and emotional overload between the current political landscape, devastating natural disasters, and recent acts of violence. And it doesn’t seem like things are going to let up anytime soon. While taking to our beds and binging on cupcakes seems like an appealing strategy, it isn’t going to help us build the emotional resilience we need during periods of ongoing uncertainty.

Every day I hear from people who tell me they’re overwhelmed. They describe feeling disoriented and helpless, like things are spinning out of control and there’s no way to slow it down. If you’re someone who has fairly well-established spiritual or self-care practices, this is the time to lean into them for support and nourishment. I know it can be hard to redirect your energy when you’re glued in horror at the latest catastrophe unfolding on social media, or when you wake up and you feel a heaviness weighing on your heart, but here are some things that can help:

Catch your breath

Stress creates shallow breathing high up in the lungs, instead of engaging the diaphragm to allow for a fuller, deeper breath. Shallow breathing depletes us of nourishing, energizing oxygen. Engaging the diaphragm also activates the vagus nerve, which helps regulates your respiration rate, heart rate, digestion, circulation and endocrine function.

When you begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed, stop and give yourself 10 – breaths, that is. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel your belly expand and hold the breath for a second or two, and then slowly exhale. Repeat 9 more times. Check in with yourself: are you feeling a bit calmer? If not, repeat. Practice makes perfect!

Get connected

I begin mornings with my hand nestled on the upper chest wall just beneath the suprasternal notch. Your thymus is located there, and it helps regulates your immune system. By tuning into your body, you can activate this energy center to support your health and well-being.

Your heart and lungs also have their home in the chest cavity. In traditional Chinese medicine, the heart houses Shen, or what we might think of as our “heart-mind” connection. Joy is the primary emotion associated with the heart. The lungs are connected with clear thinking, communication and openness. An imbalance of energy in the lungs can lead to sadness or grief. (You can see why focusing on the breath is so important!)

Placing your hand on your heart space is a practice of loving and accepting yourself in that moment. It reconnects you with your inner source of joy and spaciousness. You may also want to choose a special word to help you connect deeper to the divine source of energy ever-present within. That word might be “love”, “peace”, “joy” or “spirit.” Experiment until you find the one that feels right to you. With your hand on your heart space, spend 5 or so minutes as needed, reciting your special word to yourself at intervals to cultivate joy and openness. If you practice Reiki or other energy-based healing work, this is a lovely addition to a daily self-healing practice.

Go on a media diet

I admit to spending too much time on my phone or laptop scrolling through social media and news sites. The constant barrage of news, opinions, and memes leave me feeling heavy and exhausted, and I’m sure you feel it too. Emotions are a kind of energy, and we’re being bombarded by lots of vibrationally low energy when we remain glued to the latest controversy or disturbing news story.

Some people choose to take a social media break, where they log off their accounts for a week or so. Some take social media apps off their phone and only check their accounts on a computer once or twice a day. Others may put a timer on how long they’ll spend on Facebook or Twitter.

If you find yourself endlessly scrolling your feed for more news, or getting increasingly irate or overwhelmed by what you see online, it may be a good time to put the phone down. You soul needs a break. The world can wait. Go for a walk, pick up a book, or (if it’s late at night) go to bed. You’ll feel better if you do.

Shift your energy

What often happens when we’re in a state of overwhelm is we energetically freeze up. It can be hard to make a decision, or even get up off the couch. States of agitation can also feel paralyzing. That’s why it helps to have some “break glass in case of emergency” actions or practices you can do when you feel stuck and need to shift your energy.

What are some fun, healthy, nourishing ways you can shift your energy? Maybe it’s putting on your favorite song and singing out loud. Maybe it’s digging in the dirt in your backyard. Or watching funny animal videos on YouTube. You can also try the breathwork or heartwork practices mentioned I mentioned earlier. A shift in activity is the easiest way to help you get unstuck.

One practice I recommend to clients is a daily gratitude practice, where you list 3 things each day for which you are grateful and review it at night. You can even try a “gratitude in place” practice. From where you are, stop, look around and find one thing at that moment that inspires a feeling of gratitude. It could be the sun shining through the window, your kid’s stuffed animal on the floor, or the cup of coffee on your desk. Whatever it is, name it – nothing is too small. Let that feeling sit with you for a few moments, and then say “thank you.”

We’re living through some unprecedented times, but don’t lose heart. Change comes and goes like the wind. Sometimes the weather is stormy and it seems like the clouds will never part. But the sun always returns and the light shines again. And remember, you’re not alone. I’m here to help too, if you need it.

Categories Health & Wellness, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , | Posted on October 8, 2017

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