Tips for Getting through Overwhelm
This page has been created to provide support and strategies
for my counseling and coaching clients during times when I’m
not accessible. Drop-in visitors to this website who are not clients
are welcome to use this
So, Life is very
dark right now, or you’re going through a really
bad spell, or you’re about to just LOSE it? Here are some things
First, always: Belly Breathing
Take a big breath down into your STOMACH (not your chest). As you slowly
exhale, allow your shoulders to drop heavily. Repeat at a slow pace till
you feel calmer.
Melting Butter Technique
Put as much air-space
between your ears and your shoulders as you can (i.e., drop your shoulders).
Then picture a stick of cold, hard, refrigerated
butter...picture putting it in a microwave oven and hitting the START
button. Imagine watching the butter go all soft and mooshy and liquid-y
as it heats up. Now, imagine that your shoulders are made of that cold,
hard butter, then hit the imaginary START button...and imagine your shoulders
slowly melting like the butter till they’re all warm and squishy...and
Do the same with your neck. Then with your scalp!
Take as big a breath
into your stomach as you can; then huff in several more small breaths
using your chest/upper lungs, till you feel like you’ll
burst. Hold for a count of 3. Exhale slowly, until your stomach feels
pulled in against your spine. (Keep your shoulders down and relaxed while
you’re doing this.)
Repeat a couple more times.
The Wet Dog Shake
Stand up and shake
yourself vigorously all over like a wet dog, including your face and
especially your lips, which you allow to hang open. Make
a sound at the same time that indicates that you’re shaking yourself!
deep breath into your stomach, and as you begin to exhale slowly,
vocalize in a medium tone a prolonged strong Oooooooooo...etc till
you run out of air. The more the sound vibrates in your skull and
chest, the better. Repeat.
The Serenity Prayer
Say the Serenity
Prayer (with or without the word God according to your preference)
and, as you say it, think about what the words are advising
you to do.
grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,
Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference.
is when you recognize that you cannot change a situation or a person,
and you mentally embrace it/him/her AS IS, even though it’s
awful and not fair and you don’t like it one bit. If necessary,
you grieve that it can’t be otherwise than it is.
Identify if there is some aspect of the situation that you CAN change,
and make an action plan about it.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) model
Stop what you’re
doing; pull your attention to one of your 5 physical senses: sight,
hearing, touch or sensation, taste, smell. Look around
for, say, the color red; notice all the places and objects around you
that contain red. Or, close your eyes; listen carefully for all the sounds
around you, including the small sounds beneath the obvious sounds.
the weight of your body against the chair seat and back, if you’re
sitting, of your arm against the [whatever], your tongue against
the roof of
your mouth, your heart beating in your chest, your
stomach moving. Etc.
This can help with intrusive thoughts.
Affirmations are positive statements that you say to yourself about
yourself that feature what is strong or effective or positive about you,
or that you would LIKE to be strong, effective or positive about you.
When you notice that
you’re thinking negative or down-putting
thoughts about yourself (e.g., I always screw things up. I’m no
good at this. This probably won’t work. I’m fat.), create
a simple statement that says what you would RATHER be, or do. Use the
word "I" or "my", use the present tense, and avoid
the words "not" or "never". (E.g., I try
hard to do things well and often succeed. I am improving how well
I do this each
time that I do it. I am effective at finding solutions to problems.
I am loved and enjoyed by numerous people.)
Every time you say the positive statement, you deepen the associated
neural pathway in your brain; every time you say the negative statement,
you deepen THAT neural pathway. The choice is yours!
This technique can be helpful in decreasing depression.
Freedom Therapy (EFT), or Tapping
used one of the self-calming strategies described above, decide on
an activity to pursue immediately that will keep your
mind occupied in a healthy way, such as playing Solitaire, taking a Now
Moment walk, washing the dishes, shampooing your dog, etc.
Each morning upon
awakening, write 3 pages in a notebook about how you’re
feeling that morning, and what you intend to do about it.
* from Julia Cameron’s The
Letter to & from
feeling low or overwhelmed, write me a letter telling me the whole
story about what has you upset and distressed. Describe
your feelings about the situation. Ask me questions about the situation.
Set it aside.
Then start a new
letter as if I were replying to your original letter. You who are familiar
with me know intuitively what I’m likely to
say to you about your situation...so pretend that you are me writing
back to you about what you presented. What do you think I would suggest
these letters to show me when I’m available again, and we’ll
review them together.
Go to an Alcoholics
Anonymous (AA) , Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Adult Children of Alcoholics
(ACOA), or other 12-Step Program meeting or website.
Go to a scheduled support group that focuses on a theme relevant to your
experience. Seek others who are "recovering" from something
that you’ve struggled with. Above all, get out of isolation...and
stick with the WINNERS, not the losers.