Regardless of the reason, we all feel overwhelmed at times. Be it due to work pressure, family stress or perhaps it just feels like everything is happening at once. All the pressure piles up and then it feels as though our mind isn’t working quite as well as it usually does. We’re forgetting things, struggling to concentrate or keep details in mind, getting snappy with those around us. Or perhaps you feel as though you can’t sit still, feel breathless or a little nauseous. Not much fun, I’m sure you’ll agree. This article teaches you a free cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) coaching tool to help you cope better during these periods.
Furthermore, when we’re feeling overwhelmed we can act in ways that we usually wouldn’t. This can lead to us feeling ashamed of ourselves or our behaviour – perhaps worried that we are going to do these things again. But it needn’t be like that! If we can understand what is happening to us when we feel overwhelmed and learn techniques to help manage the feelings. Then we can learn to take control when the feeling returns.
So what is actually happening when we feel overwhelmed?
There is a part of our brain called the Amygdala, which scans information to see if we are in danger. This information can be from the outside world, or from the thoughts and feelings we might be having. When it senses danger, it sends survival signals down into our body, causing our body to get ready for that perceived threat. This is known as the Fight, Flight, Freeze response. Some of the changes that happen include feeling tight and on edge, increased heart rate and feeling as though our vision changes, amongst many others. It makes it more difficult to think clearly because your brain is too focussed on getting out of the perceived dangerous situation alive.
Effectively, your brain and body is jumping in to save the day – even if – and this is often the case, there isn’t a real threat like a lion racing towards us. Instead it’s reacting to the stressors we are experiencing in our daily lives, but it doesn’t know how to respond any differently.
So how do we reduce the effects that can lead to feeling overwhelmed?
Well, we can use exercises and techniques that activate a different part of our brain which acts as our soothing or calming system. It has the power to tell the Amygdala that things are actually ok, that we are safe. And if we can activate it, we tend to be able to gain a little bit more control over a situation and begin to think a little bit clearer. There are so many techniques that we can use to activate the soothing system but one of my favourite techniques is simple, effective – and most importantly….FREE.
If you’re beginning to feel like a situation is running away from you a little, and the overwhelm is creeping in – and if it is safe to do so, I recommend trying counting from 5 to 1. But for each number – paying close attention to the things around you using your senses.
CBT Coaching Tool – Count back from 5 but with a twist!
- 5 – Five things I can see
- 4 – Four things I can hear
- 3 – Three things I can touch
- 2 – Two things I can smell
- 1 – One thing I can taste
If we spend a few minutes bringing our attention back to what is actually happening around us, and away from any anxious thoughts or feelings we might be having, it can help us to calm our mind down. Or just taking a moment away from any real stressors we may have in our lives, can help us feel more in control. And therefore we are perhaps better able to deal with any difficult situation. It is a technique known as ‘grounding’ – and it has been found to be extremely effective.
So next time you’re feeling the overwhelmed think 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
There are many examples of grounding exercises, and other techniques to manage feeling overwhelmed. If you would like to know more, check back on this blog for further techniques, or click here for our resources page. For more personalised, tailored help get in touch with us to arrange a free no obligation phone consultation to see if Be Brilliant Life Coaching could help you.
Written by Jenny Kerr, Coach and Psychological Therapist, Be Brilliant Life Coaching. With thanks to Luke Bennett Photography for the feature image.