Dealing with overwhelm

I don’t know about you, but as 2013 winds down and the holidays very quickly approach, I have been noticing a trend in the people around me, including my family and my clients. There seems to be a tendency for the build-up of the year to get on top of people, creating a powerful sense of overwhelm. While it is natural to feel stress around the holidays, with all the planning and rushing around, this year feels different somehow, more difficult. It’s as if we are letting all the small stuff that has accumulated over the year gather together to form one gigantic weight. In fact, one of my clients described it well. She said, “it’s as if I have been carrying a steel bowling ball around in my chest since January.”

If you can relate to that, I’d advise you to take a moment to close your eyes, bringing your awareness into your body and notice if you have any ‘heavy weights’ anywhere. You might, of course, use a very different analogy and that’s fine. Maybe you will feel like a person is pushing down on your shoulders or have a sinking feeling in your stomach or lower abdomen. Just be curious. Look for any areas of discomfort. Reflect briefly if they have been caused by letting things get on top of you over the year and then simply and gently breathe into those areas. Do this without an intention of changing anything. Just be open-minded and view this exercise with a sense of humour.

You might then want to imagine a blackboard in your mind and write on it one or two words that have led to that sense of overwhelm. Perhaps ‘work stress,’ ‘issues with mum,’ ‘problem with the kids.’ Be as specific as possible, not only noting your own stresses, but those of significant others that have affected you in one way or another as well. Then, with each word and phrase you write, imagine a large eraser and clear them off the blackboard. You can do them one by one or all in one go. Take a breath in when you write the word or phrase and breathe out when you erase it. Take as much time as you need to do this, noting what has contributed towards your stress and then let it go.

Once you have completed the blackboard exercise, check in with your body again. Notice whether or not those areas of previous discomfort have lessened. Be curious as well if they have changed to other images in your mind – for example if the bowling ball is now a golf ball. Or if there is nothing left there at all.

Using this time at the end of year to clear away any issues will not only help you to feel easier in the present moment, but will allow you to take a clean blackboard with you into the New Year.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a healthy, happy and productive 2014.


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