I received a call from a close friend this week that probably reflects how many people are feeling at the moment. He shared with me that he had recently attempted suicide and realised with certainty (after his experience) that he didn’t want to die. He felt that he just couldn’t cope and broke down in tears, asking if I could help. Of course I did, and a few minutes later, he was feeling much better, not because I did anything particularly special, it’s just that dealing with the emotion of overwhelm is a lot simpler than what it might seem.
While I completely understand that the phenomenon of suicide has got many facets to it, it is, in most cases, utterly avoidable in my opinion. There is one emotion that trumps all others at the root of suicide. That emotion is “overwhelm.” We have discussed in a previous mailer that our feelings are created by the quality of our thinking. Every emotion that a functioning human being experiences is directly a reflection of their thinking. Overwhelm, in itself, is an emotion that we create with our thinking. It would, therefore, be reasonable to suggest that if we were able to manage the quality of our thinking, then this, like all other negative emotions, could be processed more effectively.
Overwhelm. It’s that feeling that things are not as you’d like for them to be and that life is out of control.
In my own life, and in the lives of my clients, overwhelm seems to be a symptom that often comes up when there are changes or new things in play in someone’s life. You start a new job, or lose one, have a baby, move to a new house or some other life changing event and what once felt somewhat balanced, is now on the precipice being entirely out of control. Often overwhelm can manifest of a sense of anxiety and uncertainty about what to do next.
There is also another aspect to feeling overwhelmed, something that a lot of us are experiencing right now, during the COVID 19 pandemic. It’s when our usual options of response are removed. Many of us have been restricted from doing what we usually do to make our lives work. When our conventional options are removed, and we have to stay at home, we can also experience the feeling of overwhelm. In our world, things certainly have changed. Many people are finding themselves in very challenging positions; however, nothing is impossible.
Firstly let’s get an understanding of what emotions are: Emotions are physical reflections of pictures and the meanings of the images made by our brain in the present moment. Our feelings give us the physical experience of our thoughts. Emotions are there to help us and to tell us something about our perception of the world.
The message of overwhelm is that you are trying to do too much. Your brain is telling you, “Hey, that is much more than what you can manage- slow down!” The mistake that we often make is to compensate by doing even more. This, in turn, exacerbates the problem and intensifies the experience of overwhelm. When overwhelm continues over time, we become frazzled and feel like what we are trying to do is entirely impossible, and we go into a continuous state of flight and fright. That means we tend to override the thinking part of our brain and respond completely from the reptilian part of our brain, and this is when we start to develop some strange behaviours that are contrary to our potential.
I would like to share some ways in which you can more effectively deal with the emotion of overwhelm, and some of them are quite counterintuitive.
1. Slow down
Overwhelm is a (not so gentle) reminder from your mind and body to slow down. This will enable you to pay more attention and focus where it’s really needed. When people are overwhelmed they are attempting to reach a solution with a heightened sense of urgency. They tend to speed up their thinking with an objective of creating additional options. Unfortunately there is a limit to the information we can manage in the front of mind at one time. We instead start circulating the same redundant thoughts quicker and quicker resulting in the misunderstanding that there is no solution to our problem.
A good example would be when people are late for an important event. What usually happens is that they are firstly disrupted in a routine by something unforeseen. They start thinking “I am going to be late” while dealing with the unexpected event. Inevitably, all that goes wrong starts going wrong because they are not focusing on what they are doing rather on the fact that they are late. Next, they are triggered by seeing the time on a clock. The thoughts just start to speed up even more, and soon the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm start to appear. At this point the thinking part of their brain, the neocortex is disengaged, their mind is hijacked, they start to hyperventilate, panic and a sense of desperation begin to set in. All of a sudden, they become consumed in the moment and act in ways that are usually irrational and destructive.
At this moment, the most useful action to take is a deep breath and slow down by being present the moment and responding to what is in front of you. You will be a lot more effective and save a lot of time. Also, slowing down allows you to access the wisdom of your heart and gut or intuition. An interesting fact? Your brain is not the only “ thinking” organ in your body. You actually listen with your heart and your gut or intuition. Slowing down lets you assimilate all of that information before acting
2. Look inside, instead of outside, for what you need.
Maybe you’re a list maker. I certainly am, and I can let my lists rule my day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and having one of those “wake up call moments,” treat it as an invitation to stop, breathe, and ask yourself, “What do I really need at this moment? What is the next thing that absolutely needs to be done to get my outcome” – remind yourself what your outcome really is?
Remember the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of your outcomes are caused by 20% of your actions, which could imply that if you removed 80% of your activities, you could still achieve 80% of your result!
3. Focus on you and what you can control
Often times, when overwhelm emerges, it’s accompanied by things we can’t control. There is much that we can’t control or change. Someone once said that “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
Focus on the step that you can take, then take that step followed by another and another, and soon you will start feeling like you are in control.
4. Care for yourself
When we’re busy, it’s easy to push ourselves to sleep less, to forget to eat meals, to neglect the things that would actually make us feel good. So an exercise that I encourage clients to try, after slowing down, is to write out the five to ten things that they really, truly need each day.
- Vitamin C: Consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges and other citrus fruits, can reduce stress and boost the immune system. Intake of this vitamin can help lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and blood pressure during high-anxiety situations.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can induce the brain to increase serotonin production and stabilising blood pressure as a way to reduce stress.
- Magnesium: Obtaining an adequate amount of magnesium is essential for avoiding headaches and fatigue. Oral magnesium can also successfully relieve premenstrual mood changes. Additionally, increased magnesium intake has been found to improve sleep quality in older adults. Healthy sources of magnesium include spinach or other leafy greens, salmon, and soybeans.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna) and nuts and seeds (such as flaxseeds, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce surges of stress hormones and also confer protection against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome.
The ability to be fully present in the moment — can have numerous benefits, everything from decreased stress and sadness to increased levels of focus and happiness, according to general mindfulness research.
6. Breath work
Causes you to be present and has many benefits a few of which include
- Alkalises your blood PH.
- Increases muscle tone
- Has an anti-inflammatory effect
- Elevates your mood
- And much more
I invite you to spend just five minutes per day to focus on becoming more mindful and taking slow deep breaths at the beginning of the day and notice what such a practice will do for you. As always, if you have any questions or would like more information about this topic, don’t hesitate to reach out and make contact.
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• The highest quality supplements,
• Personal recommendations,
• Live Blood Analysis,
• Organic- non-GMO-, vegan-friendly, gluten-free foods
• Life Coaching to guide you through these tough times for and even more health and wellness.
Looking forward to meeting with you and serving your purpose!