Many of us find ourselves feeling overwhelmed more often than we would like, embroiled in fiery anger, prone to emotional outbursts or stuck in anxiety and emotional overload. It is often frustrating but can be quite debilitating and feel unmanageable. Here are some life tips that are good for us all:
1. Stop, count and breathe – it’s so simple we often don’t do this, or we think it is too simple to be fully effective. Don’t be fooled, there is great healing in the breath. Stop at the first sign of overwhelm/anger/anxiety and breathe deeply and slowly. Count each breath until you reach ten breaths. After that, continue deep, slow breaths. Feel the breath going through your nose and down into your lungs, hold it for the count of two, then breathe out and feel your body relaxing as you do so. Try breathing out for longer than you breathed in. Continue until you feel much calmer and you can think more clearly.
Doing this practice for five or ten minutes daily whether you are feeling overwhelmed/angry or not will help you on the path to experiencing extreme emotions less frequently and less violently.
2. Exercise – moving your body helps to move the energy of emotions. When you feel anger or anxiety rising, breathe and move your body. Walk around the room, or go outside to walk or run or jump, whichever you prefer. It will shift the intensity of your emotions. Feel your body as you move. Feel the breath going in and out, feel your feet as they touch the ground. Look around you and notice what is there. Notice how you feel when you are looking at different things.
Regular exercise will help to reduce the frequency and severity of emotional flare-ups and contribute to your overall wellbeing.
3. Get enough sleep – You are more likely to have uncontrolled emotional responses to life if you are sleep deprived. Find a calming routine leading up to bedtime. Avoid phones, TV and computers for an hour or so before bed. Read, drink a hot drink, meditate or spend some time breathing deeply and slowly, have family time. Find what feels good and helps you to wind down.
If you wake in the night, rather than focusing on not sleeping, which leads to stress, try focusing on areas of your body and feel them for a minute or two. Start with your feet. When you feel them buzzing, enjoy the feeling for a while, then move to your legs and keep going (hips, midriff, chest, shoulder area, neck, head) until you are either asleep or have done this with your whole body. You can start from the head and move down if you prefer. Try it and see. Don’t worry if you can’t feel much to begin with, once you’ve done this practice some times you will start to feel more. It gives you great rest and rejuvenation.
Doing this exercise daily will improve your general level of relaxation and your connection to your body and give you the ability to sense your feelings more easily.
4. Cut down or cut out drugs and alcohol – they can and often do make anger and anxiety problems much worse. Any reduction in drugs or alcohol will help your emotional wellbeing.
To cut down on drinking
a) try limiting your drinking to mealtimes only
b) change your routines – try going for a walk or start new activities that don’t involve alcohol
c) buy smaller wine glasses / buy a unit measuring cup
d) count your units and spread the recommended 14 units out each week
e) find a friend/partner who is willing to cut down with you – it’s easier with support!
f) instead of finishing up the wine bottle, leave some for cooking with
g) when out, try having a soft drink every other round
If you think you have a more serious alcohol or drug problem and it’s too difficult to cut down on your own, don’t leave it, get professional help as soon as possible.
5. Spend time in nature – whether going for a walk in the woods, through fields, a park or at the beach, spending time in nature has a hugely beneficial effect on your body and your mood. Try breathing deeply in the fresh air, feel the air moving in your body, notice how it calms you.
It’s tempting these days to spend any time we have outside on the phone or listening to music. Try taking at least some time without either of these, even if you begin with five or ten minutes. During that time, notice the greenery around you, the different shades and colours, the different shaped leaves and trees. Notice the sounds around you. Look for wildlife. Try feeling the ground beneath your feet as you walk, you can even try imagining that you are breathing through your feet and feel the clean, fresh energy coming from the earth into your body.
Going into nature several times a week, or daily if possible, will make a huge difference to your wellbeing, help to balance your emotions and assist you in thinking more clearly.
6. Be Creative – Creativity is natural for us all. We have different preferences and skill levels but EVERYONE is creative. Painting, writing, dancing, making music, any kind of creative practice helps reduce overwhelming feelings. There are countless ways to be creative, here are just a few ideas:
a) join a class or group (painting, pottery, sculpture, writing, improv, acting, reading etc.)
b) Paint your mood or feelings – get some paints, paper and a brush ready, take a moment to breathe and feel your body, feel any feelings you are having, then pick up the brush and, without thinking, go for the colour that matches how you feel. Paint. Add other colours if you want to or stick with one. Don’t try to make it look good, don’t stand back to look at it while you are painting, just allow onto the page whatever colours and shapes you’re drawn to.
c) Write a story or poem about something important in your life.
d) Try balancing some stones
e) Try learning a new instrument, getting singing lessons or joining a community choir.
f) Put some music on and move your body to the music. Try to follow the movements that feel good in your body rather than traditional dancing. They may be slow smooth movements or fast, energetic motions. Move your focus from your head and thoughts to your body and how it feels.
g) Write freeform – get pen and paper, write without thinking or planning, allow whatever words want to come out, even if they don’t make sense to you. Sometimes they make a story, sometimes they are unrelated words or sentences. Don’t read it back as you’re writing. You can do this as a daily practice for fun or to move difficult emotions when they are present. If you’re doing the latter, it’s best not to read what you have written afterwards – discard it.
Any creative practice you do releases tension and helps reduce intense feelings, overwhelm and/or anxiety.
7. Talk to someone you trust – community and friendship are vital in our lives
for our health and wellbeing. Talking about feelings and experiences in life are part of our nature. Talk to friends and relatives. Find community if you have none. Join a club, a group or a class.
If you’re having real difficulties, consider getting professional counselling. It may be that you need to re-adjust the unhelpful patterns of thoughts and behaviour you are experiencing. Blaming and shaming yourself or others will only make things worse. You can learn to approach your life and your emotions differently.
Call us on 01227 903 503 for professional counselling in the Kent area.