Overcoming Overwhelm Part 2: Reprogramming your responses to Overcome Overwhelm

Are You Ready to Overcome Overwhelm?

We are all human, and from time to time, every human being I know, comes face to face with overwhelm.  In part 1 of this 3-part series on overcoming overwhelm, I wrote about recognizing overwhelm for what it is and taking your power back.  Here in part 2, we’ll look at reprogramming the way you react to overwhelm.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and are using: avoidance, anger/crankiness, deflection, and becoming either immobilized or robotic as your reaction to overwhelm you are likely rejecting the part of yourself that needs the most help.  It’s also likely that you are holding other parts of yourself hostage or at bay.

In the past, when I experienced overwhelm, I felt ungrounded, swamped, like I was drowning in a sea of things to do without the support and wherewithal to handle it. I felt it in my body as a quickening of my heartbeat, shallow breath, and an inability to focus. The most difficult experience I’ve ever had with overwhelm came when I felt completely out of control during my daughter’s experience with anorexia.

During that time, the feeling of overwhelm was all too familiar and occurring too often. Regardless of the magnitude of the circumstance or mundaneness of the task, the constant presence of overwhelm made it feel like I was being sideswiped, blindsided or disturbingly interrupted. It usually showed up when I was up to trying to figure it all out, at one time.

Let me share with you a little bit what happens in your body when you feel overwhelmed.

According to David Rock, neuroscientist and author of Your Brain at Work “When you feel threated in any way your brain is no longer functioning from the place where it can make its best decisions.” Threats are qualified as any fear about Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and/or Fairness

Your body’s natural response is…fight or flight, and the corresponding chemicals that are coursing through your veins are the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. That’s ok for a short period, but overtime, high levels of stress hormones wreak havoc with your adrenal glands’ ability to function properly and your overall ability to respond to your environment appropriately and peacefully.

That doesn’t feel good!  This reaction is not a sustainable one!  To resolve your reaction to overwhelm, the first thing you need to do to overcome overwhelm is to “Rewire Your Panic Button”.  You want to rewire your panic button so that you can handle any set of circumstances in a way that uses the best decision-making part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex.

“Rewiring your panic button reprograms your response to overwhelm which enables you to overcome it. ”

“Rewiring must happen on all levels of your “operating system”, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. ”

  1. Rewiring your panic button on the physical level – Breathing: elixir for your life.

Rewiring your panic button on the physical level begins at the very fundamental aspect of breathing.  Completely underrated in our culture, breathing is the number one way to let the sympathetic nervous system know it is not being attacked and that it can calm down.  Then, your breathing signals the parasympathetic that you are safe and the “feel good” hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin begin to course thru your veins to calm you.

Never underestimate the power of your breath!  It will save your life. Here is a simple technique that you can practice, anywhere at anytime. https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/the-4-7-8-breath-health-benefits-demonstration/

  1. Rewiring the panic button on the emotional levelFeel and Deal

The theory here is if you don’t feel and then deal you won’t heal.  Allowing yourself to feel your feelings is likely the last thing you want to actively do. Overwhelm, panic, chaos are the last feelings we crave. But, the reality is the only way out is thru and so, many times, looking straight at what you’re feeling, and breathing is the way to move the energy.

Dealing is accepting that this how you feel right now without any judgment. Realize this is not how you’ll feel forever, and it will move thru a lot quicker if you are compassionate with yourself vs. intolerant or dismissive.

Here is a  WORKSHEET you can use for your experience of what it would be like to feel and deal.

  1. Rewiring your panic button on a mental level – Use a Reality Check: Think about the situation that is creating overwhelm for you.

Changing the lens you use for seeing this event/circumstance will change how you experience it.

-What meaning have I given this event that would cause me to feel overwhelmed and

-What’s another perspective I could take on this?

Get the Reality Check Worksheet.

  1. Rewiring the panic button on the spiritual level –Prayer/Mantra

For rewiring your response to overwhelm on this level, you want to begin with the end in mind.  Identify how you ultimately want to feel?  Act as if it has already been accomplished. For this, it is most effective to use a prayer or mantra. For example: Thank you or I feel grateful for…i.e.Thank you or I feel grateful for the ease and grace with which I’ve completed this project. Thank you for helping me handle the conflict with my colleague. I feel Grateful for the completed paper work for the refinancing of my home. 

Life is too short and too precious to give your personal power away to overwhelm. We all know in those moments of stress that we need to develop healthy ways of relating to it.  I have come to befriend the part of me that feels overwhelmed. When I experience the feeling of overwhelm, I take it as a signal that I need to stop put down what I’m doing and regroup, rewire, re-program and restart.

Please share the mantras or prayers that serve you in overcoming overwhelm in the comments!  I’d love to hear your ideas and what works for you.

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