No doubt these days I’m not the only one that feels overwhelmed and like my anxiety is creeping up on me. The three things that I find helpful lately in dealing with overwhelm and anxiety are using my senses, breaking things into smaller pieces and the concept of non-attachment. I’ll explain below how I’ve noticed […]Coping With Feelings of Overwhelm and Anxiety
No doubt these days I’m not the only one that feels overwhelmed and like my anxiety is creeping up on me. The three things that I find helpful lately in dealing with overwhelm and anxiety are using my senses, breaking things into smaller pieces and the concept of non-attachment. I’ll explain below how I’ve noticed each of these to be useful tools in coping with and helping me move through what I’ve been feeling. Notice I said, “move through,” rather than distracting myself from my feelings.
“You will always grow through – what you go through.”
— Tyrese Gibson
- Use your five senses: This is a very grounding thing to do to get back into your body and out of your head, especially if you are ruminating on something or just don’t feel like moving. So, on a cool, cloudy day recently, I took a walk in the woods. I immediately noticed the sights, smells, sounds and feels of the dense forest. I noticed the beautiful fall colors, the smell of decaying leaves and the sounds of the the leaves rustling in the wind and crunching beneath my feet. I almost walked by one of the biggest leaves I have ever seen, but instead chose to back track, pick it up and really look at it. It was so beautiful and so were the colors that surrounded me! So, if you find yourself lost in a negative thought pattern, try using your five senses: What do you see, taste, smell, feel and hear?
- Break things into smaller pieces: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, even with small tasks, but it may be helpful just to get started (sometimes that’s the hardest part) and have minimal expectations. By this I mean don’t try to do it all at once. Perhaps you can break up an overwhelming task into smaller parts over the course of several days or even longer, depending on the nature of the task. I like a clean home, but don’t find any joy in cleaning. I’d really rather be outside hiking, playing pickleball and digging in the garden! I have a small house and it doesn’t take that long to clean, but the thought of it still overwhelms me. This week, I decided to set the bar low and clean a room or two at a time and then move onto something else I really enjoy. It worked! I didn’t dread cleaning as much, or put it off, because I felt cleaning a little at a time was much more manageable. I’ve done this with other tasks, as well, and sometimes, once I get started, I actually get super focused and keep going until I complete the task!
- Non-attachment: I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism lately and a major tenet is the concept of non-attachment and that attachment is the source of suffering. In the podcast, SECULAR BUDDHISM With Noah Rasheta, during the episode, “Understanding Non-Attachment,” he says,
“This can apply to relationships, friends, experiences. Even our moment to moment experience of living, if we’re attached to it, can be the source of a lot of suffering for ourselves and others. By excepting the true nature of things as being impermanent we ease our fears and we open our hearts. Then this understanding of impermanence will not only benefit ourselves but will benefit others as well. So don’t think of non-attachment as a form of indifference or a form of self-denial. Think of non-attachment as a way of not allowing things in your life to own you. Giving up the attachment to the permanence of things is the key understanding here.
Because we understand that all things are constantly changing, that all things are impermanent, and because all things are constantly changing, when you hold onto something, and attach to it, it’s detrimental because that thing changes. It evolves and changes over time. Like that quote “Everything breaks.” Attachment is our unwillingness to face that reality and you can apply that thinking to almost anything.” (https://secularbuddhism.com/#copy_link)
I find that I get attached to plans and routines, and to relationships. I was certainly disappointed that our cross country travel plans got derailed this Spring, but I try not to hold on too tightly to what could have been (attachment) and remain open to traveling someday soon. To think about the great plans we had and what we are missing out on just leads to sadness (suffering) and isn’t very productive.
Navigating relationships can be challenging. They are not meant to be forced or one-sided. I’ve come to understand that I just have to move on from certain relationships or redefine them, rather than hold onto what I want them to be (attachment). This only leads to feelings of rejection (suffering). All relationships aren’t destined to be a good fit. I’d much rather channel my energy into relationships that are!
If you find yourself spinning out of control, try to take some deep breaths and really investigate what’s going on. What can you do in this moment to provide comfort to yourself? How would you treat a good friend? Perhaps you can try one of my suggestions to feel more grounded, less overwhelmed and more satisfied in your relationships!
Thanks for reading and be well!
Like an onion, we all have multiple layers, but, unlike an onion, as I peel off the old layers of myself, and uncover the new ones, I’m beginning to think that there is no end to what I will discover.
For someone that thrives on connection with others, this has been an interesting time for me. The pandemic is real, I am respectfully and wisely taking all possible precautions so I don’t contract or spread COVID-19, and/or overwhelm our front line workers and health care system by getting sick.
Like so many I have found ways to connect safely, through Zoom, Facetime, etc., and now that the weather is nicer where I live, through physically distancing in small groups outdoors.
There have been so many phases to this period of time: fear, grief, denial, anger, and slowly-acceptance. For me, the acceptance has been that I am in this for the long haul, and there are few things to aid as a salve or a distraction from the situation or from looking inward. I’ve noticed that acceptance has led to the next phase: growth.
What I’ve come to realize is that my growth and personal discovery began a few years ago in fits and starts, but it has been during the last few months that I’ve peeled off a few more layers and gotten more comfortable with the solitude that I’ve been experiencing. Over the years, I’ve retired, altered my diet (plant-based and limited sugar), minimized my life, downsized my home, let my natural hair color grow in (it’s gray :)), meditated regularly, and most recently, I’ve become alcohol free, and have done away with my morning coffee since it was upsetting my stomach.
I’ve eliminated many things that were used as a distraction from finding out who I really am and gravitated towards what made me feel more present. The most recent distraction, the drive to constantly be around other people, nearly eliminated by the current circumstances, may yield the most growth. Not sure why that drive is so deep. It may be a need for external validation or just the simple fact that I’m the youngest of four children from a fairly large family. I went to a local college as a commuter. I was rarely alone as a child and married at a young age, moving out of my parent’s house and in with my husband. Being alone has always made me feel unsettled.
With the current health crisis, I’m more alone than I’ve ever been in my entire life! I’m getting used to it and discovering that it’s OK and that it’s in the solitude and stillness that the most personal growth can occur. After all, who I am is really about who I think I am, and has nothing to do with who others perceive me to be.
WHO AM I? I’m not too sure, but I intend to find out!
Who are you?
As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to share and comment.
Did you ever notice how certain emotions attract similar emotions and how quickly we can end up with a heavy heart? That when we feel sad or disappointed over one thing, we find ourselves scanning our range of experiences for other things that may make us or may have made us feel sad or disappointed? Before we know it, two days can go by and we find ourselves under the covers contemplating the ills of society and evaluating every interaction we’ve had in every one of our relationships!
I don’t necessarily consider emotions like anxiety and depression to be “negative” in the short term and I actually think they could be useful when we work through them, but when they open the gates to other thought patterns that don’t serve us well and we begin to feel defeated by them, we need to be mindful of what’s happening and how we can change our thoughts and feelings.
This time of year can be especially overwhelming and difficult to manage emotionally for so many reasons. I know it is for me. I’ve worked hard to develop a self care routine to keep me balanced but I get thrown off occasionally and find that I still need fresh insight into how I can make improvements.
I think the concept of minimalism can be useful to break the cycle of negative thought patterns and cumulative (unwanted) emotions. For example, I use the “one in, one out” rule with clothes and some home furnishing items to keep my home free of things I don’t need, find useful, or that don’t bring me joy. If I purchase a new pair of jeans, I get rid of an old pair.
What if we applied this practice to our emotions? If we find we are experiencing a feeling that we don’t need, find useful or that doesn’t bring us joy, we can notice it and then we can try to replace it with one that does.
It’s difficult not to feel the inhumanity in the world when watching even five minutes of the evening news. Rather than dwelling on this feeling, I’ve been focusing on connecting with people, being present when I do, and being as kind as possible.
I was in a very crowded store recently with long lines and as I was waiting to speak with someone from customer service, I noticed a woman pacing back and forth looking for an available cashier. At one point, she literally stomped her feet. Since the customer service rep was also ringing up people, I suggested to this woman that she could come over to my line because there was no one waiting behind me. She finally agreed and pushed her cart over to me.
Rather than feeling anger towards this woman at her impatience or intimidated by her behavior, I felt compassion for her. She looked frantic! I asked her if she was OK. She replied, “No, I don’t drive in the dark!” As I looked outside, I noticed the sun was setting and it was beginning to get dark.
This was so powerful since I immediately felt a connection to her instead of any type of judgement or fear. I don’t like to drive in the dark either. Unlike her, I wasn’t alone and my husband would be driving home.
I think positive emotions can be cumulative too and of course we would like to be open to a heart filled with kindness, compassion, gratitude and love!
So next time you find yourself experiencing feelings that you don’t need, find useful or that don’t bring you joy, invest in ones that do!
I hope you have found this post helpful. Please let me know what you think.
I’ve written many other posts about feelings and how I’m learning to manage mine. Here are a few:
I recently received a letter in the mail from myself, written about a year ago while I was taking a mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) class. I’d like to share it with you as a reminder that we are all imperfect works in progress, and that this is what connects us to a collective humanity.
Perhaps you need to read this today. Please pass it on if you can think of someone else that may need a friendly reminder that we are all perfectly imperfect.
Dear Future Self,
Mindfulness is a journey, not a destination. After my 8 week MBSR course I realize that life, relationships, my mood, etc. will never be perfect (or what I perceive to be perfection).
These things are part of who I am and humanity is not static, but a constant work in progress.
And so I’ve come to realize that, although I’m not perfect, I’m human, and that is enough.
~Your Present Self
Warning: This may be difficult for some of you to read, since in this post I recall a traumatic experience. I discuss loss, grief and witnessing a horrific accident in which someone lost his life.
I really didn’t want to talk or think about what happened and the low point where I found myself. I wanted to move on. The last thing I wanted to do was write about it. So I felt conflicted when someone I trusted asked,
“What if your experience can help someone else?”
I felt the push and pull of this question. On the one hand, I just wanted to run away rather than recount my experience, but on the other hand, I wanted to reach out and share in the hopes that it might be useful to someone else. Perhaps it would make someone else feel less alone.
Connection? When I’m at my lowest, I don’t want to connect. I want to retreat.
I’ve been in a really good place lately, focused, energetic, positive, grateful and consistent with my self care routine. But I recently had a series of emotional sucker punches that brought me down.
A coworker and then a friend passed away, both suddenly, within a short period of time.
I was riding the wave of grief and the uncertainty of life in the best way I could and felt connected to myself, my coworkers, my family and friends. Although I knew the next few days would be sad and difficult, I knew I needed to connect with others in this “collective pain.”
In an excerpt from “Braving The Wilderness,” Brené Brown writes,
“Funerals, in fact, are one of the most powerful examples of collective pain. They feature in a surprising finding from my research on trust. When I asked participants to identify three to five specific behaviors that their friends, family, and colleagues do that raise their level of trust with them, funerals always emerged in the top three responses. Funerals matter. Showing up to them matters. And funerals matter not just to the people grieving, but to everyone who is there. The collective pain (and sometimes joy) we experience when gathering in any way to celebrate the end of a life is perhaps one of the most powerful experiences of inextricable connection. Death, loss, and grief are the great equalizers.”
Connection. At times, so difficult yet incredibly healing. Showing up matters.
I felt grateful that I followed Brene’s advice.
I had no idea what would happen in just a few days.
What seemed like an ordinary Tuesday morning drive to work turned out to be an even bigger test of my humanity and willingness to connect regardless of what I was feeling.
I witnessed an extremely violent, one vehicle accident just two cars ahead of me on a steep, hilly road. My husband stopped our car and we both got out to assess the scene while I called for help. It was difficult to take in what we were seeing.
It was as if a bomb went off. There were parts of the vehicle and its contents, a dump truck with a full load of soil, strewn across front yards and down the hill. The sound of the accident must have been incredibly loud, but we didn’t hear a thing. I guess our brains can only take in so much trauma at once.
When I was able to process the scene once again, I heard the sound of rushing liquid. My eyes quickly focused on the diesel fuel pouring of the truck. A fire extinguisher quickly emerged with a homeowner from his house and the 911 operator instructed us to keep it nearby. Help was on the way.
When I focused on the driver, I noticed he was pinned in his truck surrounded by the crushed cab and another bystander was kneeling beside him applying pressure to his injuries.
My emotions changed from sheer panic and fear to compassion the instant I heard the driver’s voice.
He was alive and talking. The humanity of the situation overwhelmed me and I found myself struggling with how I was going to help, not whether or not I would. It felt like it was taking forever for help to arrive.
I stepped into the mud that surrounded the truck and to where the driver could hear me. I told him that help was on the way, that he was doing a great job of continuing to breathe, and that we were with him.
Connection. It’s what makes us human, gives us hope and makes us feel alive.
The emergency personnel finally arrived. They took our names and asked us to leave.
Although the driver didn’t make it, I hope he felt a sense of hope and connection in that moment. I hope it brought a sense of peace to his sister when I shared with her that her brother did not die alone.
The details of the accident were like a movie replaying in my mind over and over again, even one week later, when my husband and I were going away for a prearranged overnight stay at a local state park. I really didn’t want to go. I wasn’t in the mood, I just wanted to disconnect, from everyone and everything.
But I chose to connect.
I connected to my husband and shared how I was feeling with him (and warned him that he was in for a “treat” because I wasn’t in a very good mood). It took me by surprise when he later told me that he thought that that was actually considerate of me.
Connection is love.
I connected to the love that my son and his fiancé shared in giving us the overnight accommodations for a very thoughtful Christmas gift. They know we value experiences over things. Of course we weren’t going to stay home!
The weather was dreary and cold, but my husband and I made the best of our overnight visit to the park. We walked around the zoo when we arrived, ate dinner in bed while watching TV and hiked the next morning, since it was the better of the two days, weather wise.
I felt better. The fresh air and exercise were just what I needed! Connecting to nature really reestablishes our place in this world. The trip reminded me that we are all interconnected to something larger than ourselves.
We are all part of a common humanity.
I wonder if my son and his fiancé know just what a special gift that was!
Up until posting, I had reservations about sharing. My negative self talk voice was particularly dominant:
“There are many, many people who have gone through way worse losses than me, so why would what I have to say be meaningful?”
“Who do I think I am?”
“People may think I’m being overly dramatic, attention seeking, etc.”
“Reading my post might actually trigger someone into having a negative reaction (the opposite of my intention).”
“My loved ones may worry about me and feel burdened by my sharing.”
I decided to share because the louder voice in me, the one that drowns out fear, is one of love, connection and courage!
“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.”
Thanks for reading. I know it can be difficult to connect when we want to retreat. Take a break when you need one and connect when you can. There are many opportunities to connect in many different situations.
I think that leaning on each other can make us stronger!
Please feel free to share and comment.
Here are some links to things that I’ve found helpful in the last few weeks, a video, a podcast and all things Brené:
Meditation for Mental Balance and Grounding, Yoga with Adriene
Fighting Depression with Social Connection, Johann Hari
Johann talks about the importance of having a tribe and the positive mental health effects of the social connection.
All things Brené!
She has been my biggest cheerleader. Her research and personal anecdotes are encouraging and will give you the strength and the tools to be courageous. Check out her website below and her new Netflix special!
What do I want to be when I “grow up?” What’s my passion?
If I only knew, then I could get on with my life. Then I would be happy, my life would have more meaning, I would be more motivated, less depressed, a better wife, mother, sister, friend, I would find the perfect job, I would be ______________________.
The answers to these questions seem to be on most people’s minds across all age groups. The search for them seems to create a sense of lifelong yearning.
What if finding your passion was closer than you thought? Literally. Because I think it is!
I too want to live a meaningful life filled with purpose. I want what I do to be aligned with who I am.
After reading Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, I realized that if we live within our values we will always be living with passion. We will always be living our best life.
WHAT we do is really secondary to WHO we are. We can bring our values to anything we do and therefore we will always be in alignment.
According to Brene, “A value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk-we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs. Our values are our North Star.”
This sounds like passion to me!
Although finding our passion may be more tangible than we think, it still requires some introspection. Brene goes onto say that, “We can’t live into values that we can’t name.”
In her book she encourages her readers to make a list of their values or choose from her list. She suggests narrowing down the list to one or two values.
“Choose one or two values-the beliefs that are most important and dear to you, that help you find your way in the dark, that fill you with a feeling of purpose. If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities. ”
“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precise and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice-they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives. In those hard moments, we know that we are going to pick what’s right, right now, over what is easy. Because that is integrity-choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them. “
So, I made a list of my values-adventure, connection, authenticity, balance, family, ….. and came up with 18! How to decide? After much deliberation and further reading, I learned that some broader values encompass other specific values (for me, connection includes family), I was able to narrow it down to just two core values, connection and authenticity.
That was the easy part. The next step is aligning our behaviors with our values, or as Brene calls it, “Taking values from BS to behavior.”
I think this is a life long process. We can infuse our core values into everything we do. In doing so, we ARE living our passion. No more searching, just BE who we are.
So next time you’re searching for your passion or trying to figure out what you want to be when you “grow up” just remember:
“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
-Glinda the Good Witch
This post is dedicated to someone I know who is at the end of a difficult journey. She has inspired me with her strength and courage and has been questioning what she will do next, what she will do when she, “grows up.” I hope in some small way this creates some light along her journey to finding her passion.
“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
This is a difficult time of year for many, including myself. Although each year seems to get a little bit easier, I still need some reminders to take it one day at a time, and to have self compassion. I thought you might need a gentle reminder too.
Below are some links to a few posts from past years that might be helpful. I wrote them when I was feeling low during the winter months. I hope that by reading them you feel me reaching out and giving you a nice big hug.
I attended a class today on how to keep mindfulness in our everyday lives. I was so excited when I signed up months ago, but as this day fast approached, I felt that the timing wasn’t right. In fact, it couldn’t have been worse, since it’s the most hectic time of year with my work schedule. So much to do, how can I afford the time away from my work responsibilities?
It turned out that the class came at exactly the right time and it was just what I needed! The community and connections filled me up. It was in this class that my instructor read this quote:
“The future is an infinite succession of presents.”
Keep it moving in even the smallest of ways and we’ll get “there,” whatever and wherever that is for you. We got this!
Here are those links:
If you just have time to read one, the last one is one of my favorites!
I heard a statement recently that made me reframe my thinking. As I attempted to balance on one knee and one hand during a gentle yoga sequence (audio), the speaker said,
Balance is not static, but consists of tiny, constant movements and adjustments.
My whole body shook from side to side. I tried to shore myself up from my center so I wouldn’t fall over.
This experience made me think about how I view my life when different aspects aren’t, what I consider to be, “optimal.” When I’m feeling defeated at work, one of my relationships is strained, I’m not as kind or positive as I’d like to be or I’m choosing too much screen time over self-care, I feel as if I’m sucking at life.
What I’ve come to realize is that life, by definition, is never balanced, nor is it static.
It consists of tiny, constant movements and adjustments.
We just have to center ourselves as much as possible (and try not to fall over).
I know this can be a difficult time of year for some. The holidays are approaching and the days are getting shorter and colder.
I know I have less energy, my mood is lower and I’m really missing my parents. If you read some of my previous posts, you might even notice that my writing is more introspective this time of year. I’m definitely feeling the feelings.
Although my life isn’t ever static, it’s become much more balanced. If you’re interested, I wrote an essay on what I know works for me. You can read about it here: https://beallthere.net/2015/06/20/be-all-there/
Wishing you balance (and peace) now and always.
Over the last few years I’ve learned to loosen my grip and let go of preconceived expectations. This was more out of self-preservation than desire to give up trying to control everything and everyone.
I’ve always felt that if I didn’t orchestrate my life then things would surely begin to unravel. But when I finally realized that I was unraveling, I let go. I was so tired of trying to keep all the balls in the air that I just gave up trying. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but I was tired and I needed a rest, so I just let go.
And I waited for everything to come crashing down around me.
But it didn’t.
To my surprise, things at work, at home and in my relationships didn’t deteriorate and, over time (and with practice), I became much more relaxed and less stressed. Life became more manageable and enjoyable!
I’ve learned a few things about myself in this process, but perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned about my relationships. Not feeling the need to always control things and taking a step back has made space for me to hear and really listen to those around me. I feel as if my relationships are more balanced and authentic and have even been told that I’m more fun to be around! I sure hope so!
Letting go of preconceived expectations has eliminated the trap of paralyzing disappointment when things don’t go as planned. But what’s really exciting for me is that I’m now more open and curious to what I can learn from alternate plans. I feel like I have more of a variety of experiences with people, places and things. My world has expanded.
I recently made reservations at what appeared (online) to be a great restaurant. When I arrived I realized it wasn’t where we wanted to spend the evening with our friends. Not only wasn’t it low-key enough, but I had actually mistakenly made reservations at one of the other locations…..in another state! We had a good laugh about my online reservation blunder, decided on another restaurant, had a delicious meal, a great time and, since we were so close to our place, were able to extend the evening back there. Plan B worked out better!
Sometimes I can’t find the products I usually use and end up trying other products that I like better, or my preferred hotel is booked and we end up staying at a really great place and make wonderful memories. One time my husband and I even planned an entire trip around a visit to a National Park only to find out once we got there that it was closed due to a government shutdown! This experience turned out to be the subject of one of my first blog posts.
Rather than wallow in disappointment, sadness, fear, and even anger that your plans don’t work out, be curious, adventurous and spontaneous and embrace Plan B!
It could be the Best thing you ever did!
Do you have an example of when Plan B worked out better? I’d love to hear about it!