Four Simple Steps Back to Neutral When Overwhelm Strikes
Have you ever noticed that overwhelm can arrive suddenly after a seemingly insignificant experience (say, coffee spills in the car)? In a moment, life feels completely chaotic and out of control!
Sometimes more stressful experiences are happening in your life, but it may not take much to push you over your edge. Small or large, you know you have hit overwhelm when emotions are released and they feel uncontrollable. This "flooding" of emotion may come with anger, tears or even deep sadness. Maybe you yell, sob or even feel stunned and frozen.
It's important to realize that those of us who are sensitive have special traits that require awareness. In fact sensitivity can be used as a self development resource if we use it wisely.
One of the unique attributes of being sensitive is that we get overstimulated and over-aroused more easily than our non-sensitive family members, friends and co-workers. This over-arousal puts our nervous system into "high alert" swiftly, resulting in a series of responses. Over-arousal and over-stimulation may be felt on any of the four levels of our being- mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. It's important to remember that the response systems in the body are a normal function. We need them to alert us to our needs, but balance is vital.
Overwhelm actually builds upon past experiences. It may seem as though it hits suddenly, but in fact our sudden response is not an isolated experience at all. Overwhelming experiences layer upon each other until suddenly we are at our maximum capacity! Taking these many layers into consideration is very important for unraveling our personal mythology, our many "stories". Layers of over-stimulation in the nervous system can trigger a sudden response in a sensitive person very quickly. Becoming conscious of our stories and their layers is an important part of transformation and change, healing and growth. I personally love using EFT (the Emotional Freedom Technique) for this purpose. I also find it highly effective for calming chaos and overwhelm since it effectively in reduces fight, flight and freeze responses in the body.
As a sensitive person you must arm your self with a large tool kit and multiple resources. Having a personal practice that helps you self-track is one of those essential tools. This resource is especially important because our ability to become over-aroused and over-stimulated easily means that chaos and overwhelm can also occur more easily for us as well. If we can track ourselves and note the physical, mental and emotional responses happening within us, we will have a better chance of getting the right resources for ourselves. The three level check-in is a very basic tracking resource in order to build inner awareness.
Helping ourselves come back into balance, or a neutral place, is an important part of caring four ourselves properly, and is in fact an essential for health and well being. Balance requires a certain resiliency, an ability to bounce back from any extreme. There are many ways to help your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies build resiliency and balance, but often when we are in a state of chaos or overwhelm, our tools and resources get lost or forgotten. Remember, when chaos and overwhelm set in, we will need extra reminders, support and assistance with the process of coming back to neutral.
The physical body is our primary home, therefor resourcing from the body directly is very important for creating a stronger relationship with it and with its needs. Using the wisdom of the physical body is the fastest way to get back to a place of neutral when overwhelm hits us. Tracking sensations builds awareness, resiliency, and provides ample resources.
Here are four simple steps to help you come back to a neutral place within. Use these steps as a daily practice for building more inner awareness, for self tracking, and for cultivating more resiliency even before chaos and overwhelm strike. Listen to my podcast below for a guided practice.
1) Ground. The breath is a powerful way to come back to the present moment. All your power resides in the present- not in the past and not in the future, but in the now. Become aware of your breath and its quality. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, notice your connection to the ground beneath you. Notice the sensation of your body connecting to the surface underneath you whether it be your feet connecting to the floor or your sitz bones and spine connected to your chair. Keep returning to breath awareness and the connection your physical body has with the surface under you- even when the story of overwhelm is strong. It will keep pulling you out of the ability to sense your physical body's connection to the ground, but keep coming back to breath and grounding points anyway.
2) Tracking. Self tracking is an essential resource for building inner awareness (interoception) but when overwhelm and chaos hit, we can easily lose our ability to track what is happening in the body. (This is where having a coach or therapist can be helpful in order to help you strengthen your self tracking abilities). In fact, self tracking is a skill that can be strengthened with practice.
I invite you to notice where the chaos and overwhelm lands in the body. Where do you feel this sensation of overwhelm in the physical body? Is there a certain body part or point of tension where you notice this landing within you? Notice how it feels. What are the sensations? Is it tense, tight or hard? Does it have a color or a shape? Maybe a sound? Be curious and open to what arrives.
3) Resource. Resources bring us stability, support and connection. We need these for balance in our lives. Resources can arrive within us and outside of ourselves, but in order for lasting resiliency, building a strong ability to resource from within is imperative.
Find a place in the body that feels opposite or most unlike the challenging sensation in your physical body. Notice it and be curious about it. Does it have a sense of softness, lightness, ease or gentleness? What sensations are you aware of? Do any feelings, images, shapes or colors arrive? Maybe a sound? What does it tell you? Get curious.
4) Shift. Shifting our focus can be a very helpful way of finding our way back to neutral. This doesn't mean we are by-passing or avoiding our chaos experience, but in fact using it to inform our choices, actions and responses. Shifting focus, or de-centering, can come from a variety of options.
Allow yourself to make a shift. Whether it be a change in your environment, your activities, or even who you are with. Maybe you take a break and go to the bathroom, walk outside, make a cup of tea. Do something that shifts your attention somehow. You may need to return to steps one, two and three.
Notice if your body part resource has a sound. Let this sound emerge and let it express itself. Use this sound as a means of shifting your focus. How can this sound become a resource for you when overwhelm and chaos return?
My favorite resources for shifting focus (or de-centering) are the arts. This body part resource you discovered can be taken into a drawing or even a movement exploration. It could inform a song or a movement gesture. Creativity is an important part of our transformation and release process. I highly encourage you to use the creative arts as a way to build inner awareness and growth in conjunction with self tracking. I specifically use the Expressive Arts in my work for this reason. Read why I use art as a healing resource.
Did you catch my *free* class Ultimate Self Care for Sensitive Types? You can still listen to it until April 4th. I've also just re-launched my Be Your Gift class series for those seeking deeper support for their sensitivity. Sign up to hear the replay.
Need some extra guidance and clarity? Schedule a session with me.
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Four steps to get you back to neutral when chaos and overwhelm strike.
A simple guided practice to help you self track and find an inner resource.