Sunday, March 15, 2009

Being ok with being overwhelmed.

The free online dictionary defines overwhelm as :

1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.
a. To defeat completely and decisively: Our team overwhelmed the visitors by 40 points.
b. To affect deeply in mind or emotion: Despair overwhelmed me.
3. To present with an excessive amount: They overwhelmed us with expensive gifts.
4. To turn over; upset: The small craft was overwhelmed by the enormous waves.

As I read this I can definitely relate. With a large amount of work, relationship, family, and other pressures of responsiblities I often have felt like I am burried, drowning, or upset or turned over. The big part of this definition that jumps out as me is:

2b. - To affect deeply in mind or emotion.

Being overwhelmed tends to be viewed with negative connotation but let's view it from this definition. If I am affected deeply in mine or emotion is this neccesarily bad? Bad news could affect me deeply but I could view this as a gift. If I have a lot coming at me and feel that I am getting too much too fast this is the time to step back and if I am affected deeply I will definitely notice that nudge.

Here is an activity I find helps when feeling overwhelmed:

1. I stop - I stop what I am doing, I give myself permission to completely stop, I let go of trying to think, do, or act on anything. Just for a moment, if I do this for 1-5 minutes it will be worth it and I have won.
2. I focus on my breath - I do this gently and simply notice how my breath feels, if my attention is taken from my breath I bring it back to it by simply noticing what my attention to and noticing if i am breathing in or out in the cycle.
3. After 5 or so breaths I start to simply notice the physical feelings of my body. I notice my tensions, my pains, and anything else inside. I treat it like a mental body scan from the top of my head to my toes. I don't try to do anything about these ailments. I just notice them.
4. I slow my breath and focus on long deep breaths, I imagine all the energy that all my ailments in my body are taking up letting go with each breath. I don't try to let go of the ailments, just the energy.
5. I say a prayer and ask for God's will in my life in this matter.

Does this always work completely? yes in that it gives me a cornerstone on perspective. I wouldn't say it is a miracle cure for all anxiety in my life but it is a good tool for dealing with the things that overwhelm me.


Turiya said...

Thank you for sharing this. It's really helpful, and I'm sure it will help others too. Yogananda said, "as the breath flows, so flows the mind". We can't control the world but we can work with the breath, to change our way of experiencing it.

sounds like you are a yogi.
peace and aum

Tara Rodden Robinson said...

Hi Brian,

thanks for sharing this! To add one thought: sometimes when I'm struggling with a difficult emotion, I pause and offer the emotion itself to God as prayer.

You are a gift!!!

Lotsa big hugs,