When Everything Feels Like Too Much
By Audrey Jansen – Owner
This has been a year where over and over again, everything just feels like too much. We have all had days that felt like this before, and often, our own overwhelm feels separate from what those around us are experiencing. 2020 is different: we are all in this one together and it has been one heavy hit after another.
What can we do when everything feels like too much? Slow down. Say “no” to the part of you that wants to just push through, sacrificing your health, and instead set aside some time to process what you are feeling by following the steps below:
1: Give yourself permission to feel it
It’s important to begin by making a habit of checking in with your emotions. I start many yoga classes by asking students to notice how they feel and to name the emotions that are most present. It is easy for us to remain in a constant state of motion, moving from one task to the next until we lay down at night, never leaving time to notice that we are overwhelmed in the first place. If we have a routine of sitting still long enough to connect with ourselves each day, then we can then make healing decisions about what we need. An important step of this process is to let yourself feel everything. Ignoring negative emotions will not make them go away–the only way out is through. If you are having a hard time identifying your emotions, it can help to journal and put words to your experience. Start to describe how you are feeling (my mouth feels dry and I just want to run) and follow that stream of consciousness until you can name the emotion (anxiety).
Once you have sat with your feelings and let yourself truly experience them, you can move forward with the healing process. This is often referred to as self-soothing: our ability to comfort and calm ourselves when we are upset. Most of us have go-to ways of numbing pain: binging our favorite tv series, shopping online, pouring an extra glass of wine—you get the idea. This is not the same as healthy self-soothing, which asks what we deeply need and responds. This takes practice and is a great topic to work through with a therapist. One form of self-soothing that I have found incredibly powerful is writing myself a letter. Is there something that you wish someone else would say to you? Try saying it to yourself instead. Write to yourself as if you were your own dear friend.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you to breathe, your body does that without conscious effort. However, when we breathe unconsciously it is simply to stay alive. To calm the nervous system, we need to breathe with awareness. There are a very wide variety of breathwork techniques that you can practice at home, but even just breathing mindfully makes a big difference. You can try this by saying to yourself with each inhale, “breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in” and with each exhale, “breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out.” Feel your breath deepening and slowing down as you work through this.
You have felt what you needed to feel, soothed yourself, and connected with your breath. Self-compassion is the final step of this process for me. I ask, “how can I be kind to myself right now?” The answer could be any number of things. Maybe kindness to yourself would look like going to bed early or making a cup of your favorite tea. Maybe your body feels tight and sore from holding onto so much weight and movement (A walk, yoga class, or just some at-home stretches) would be an act of kindness. Follow your gut, remember that you are worthy of love and compassion.