All too much? Perhaps these steps could help you.


When everything just gets too much...

If you've experienced being overwhelmed, you'll know it can be very frightening.

How can you recover? I offer these suggestions in case they might be useful to you.

  1. Give yourself permission to stop everything for a couple of minutes. Take yourself somewhere quiet - even if this means just hiding in the loo.

  2. Sit down and start allowing your breathing to slow down, and your muscles relax. If you are struggling to relax, that’s OK. Just by giving yourself this couple of minutes, you are already helping yourself; even the tiniest degree of 'letting go' is a real achievement and something you can use again and build on in future.

  3. Once you’ve slowed down a little, ask, “What happened to bring on this feeling of overwhelm?" It may be just one thing, or a number of things.

  4. Check in with your breathing again. Remind yourself that just in this minute, you're safe - safe to breathe more slowly again, and safe to look at your situation.

  5. Imagine you have with you a sympathetic and totally trustworthy person - a friend, relative, counsellor, therapist, late ancestor, Ancient Greek Oracle, whoever fits the bill (yes, right there with you in the loo, and if this seems funny, all the better).

  6. Explain your situation to them - out loud, in a whisper, or just mouthing if being heard talking to yourself is a worry - but actively speak out your whole explanation. When you speak it, you hear it. And hearing why you were distressed can really help. Just knowing there was concrete reason for your distress can dial down its intensity.

  7. Now for some further questions: a) “Was I responding to what just happened, OR, was I responding to something in the past?” b) If the answer is, "just to what happened," the follow-up question is, "What if anything do I need to do next?” c) If the answer is "something from the past," the next question is, "What can I do to help myself process this? Can I figure it out on my own, or do I need help - from online, a book, an organisation, an expert, or just a chat with a friend?”

  8. Initiate a plan that you can maybe write down and follow up on later.

  9. Finally, take a couple more deep breaths, thank yourself for looking after yourself, and return to your day or evening. Maybe make yourself a hot drink to enjoy slowly.

  10. If you have a couple of minutes, maybe pick one very small area of your house or workplace and tidy or clean it. The sense of achievement from this can be marvellously disproportionate!

  11. Remember: there is always enough time for every important thing. Saying this to yourself may help you prioritise and get some important things done, which helps with regaining a sense of control over things. Oh, and that person you told your story to? That's actually you. When you listen to yourself asking pertinent questions, you are acting as your own instantly accessible best friend, parent, counsellor, therapist or Ancient Greek Oracle.


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Email: mail@francesbutt.com

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