How you can relax when you feel stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed
Sometimes people can go through phases where they feel like life is very hard. Like they can't control what's happening in their lives. Like they can't even control their own thoughts and emotions. They might feel this like an underlying stress and anxiety, a feeling deep in their gut, a throbbing pain in their head, a sense of exhaustion, or tightness all around their body. They might be in disbelief about the way something has unfolded - a relationship, a career choice, a health issue, or a money situation. They might feel overwhelmed by the stress of life.
Inevitably, you or someone you know has felt like this before. During these times, there are things that you can do to relax, lessen the pain, feel better and get back to a positive experience of life. This short list comes from years of working with spiritual teachers and implementing what we learned into our lives. We've also helped many clients learn and use these understandings and techniques. They've all reported benefits. We'd like to specifically mention spiritual teacher John Jones whose contribution to our development as spiritual counselors and life coaches has been extraordinary.
You can remember that, "this too shall pass".
When these unhappy or negative feelings come up, they can cloud our eyes and take up all of our vision. It can feel like life has always been that way and will forever be that way. Like nothing will EVER change. Even though we may feel this viscerally, it isn't true. This takes us to our second thing that you can remember...
You can remember that, "just because I feel it doesn't mean it's true".
Just because we feel something, doesn't mean it's true. How many times have you felt a certain way about something (or someone) one moment, and then hours later felt totally differently?
When life feels hopeless, that doesn't mean it is. During a storm, we can't always see the silver lining. Sometimes, we must trust that it's there. The fight or flight strategies of our brain, however, will tend to project that the bad times will last FOREVER. That they are somehow PERMANENT. That ALL is lost. That our relationship will NEVER work. That our career or our health will ALWAYS be this way and NEVER get better...
These are oversimplified, black and white, dualistic, and absolute ways of looking at the world. This tendency to look at the world this way actually comes from conditioned, subconscious, fight or flight strategies in our brains. You can identify when you're doing this whenever you emotionally use a word such as: everything/nothing, always/never, good/bad, and right/wrong. For example, "this will never work out", or "everything is just wrong". When we operate in these triggered modes, we may interpret our life, relationship, career, future, or our past as being terrible, bleak, or hopeless, even though it's really not (and never is). When this is happening in our mind, body, and emotions, it's helpful to be mindful of it so that we don't take these feelings seriously and so that we don't react as if those biased feelings are true. If we assume these biased feelings to be true, then we might react to them as if they are true and make unwise decisions that tend not to bring the best results.
Usually, when we feel this stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed, we also feel uncertain about the future. It's common, in situations like this, to assume the worst.
You can identify and let go of your negative assumptions.
People have a tendency to assume the worst in the presence of uncertainty - especially when they feel very attached to the outcome. Instead of just patiently and calmly waiting to see how it unfolds, they sometimes jump to conclusions that it's not going to turn out in their favor. When they do this, they unnecessarily suffer. You can be mindful of this. Just try to notice the next time you do this. If you find yourself doing this, you can use this technique:
Focus on the negative assumption and how it makes you feel. Once you're fully focused on the feeling say, "I consciously choose to completely release this negative assumption/belief/fear now." Then, let it go and get back to your day. Use it again as many times as necessary. This will help you practice and eventually learn how to let go. Letting go is an essential skill when it comes to relaxation, mindfulness, and joyful living.
Forgive yourself as much as possible.
During times when we're stressed, anxious, or feeling overwhelmed, we're also often criticizing and judging ourselves for things that we feel responsible for.
As human beings in this day and age, we've been conditioned to carry the weight of responsibility for so many things on our shoulders and to simultaneously judge and punish ourselves if we feel like we're not meeting those expectations. We've become so conditioned to this process that we don't realize that we're actually whipping ourselves on the back! There's much cleaner fuel that you can use to achieve your goals. Self judgment is not necessary for success. Self judgment can be replaced with self love. That process begins with self forgiveness.
Forgiving yourself for whatever relationship issue you're experiencing, whatever decision you made, whatever career situation you perceive you're in, whatever health issue you're experiencing, or whatever goal you feel you haven't met can really help you feel and perform better.
To forgive yourself, identify something you're judging or punishing yourself for. This could be something that you're stressing yourself out over. Focus on that stress, wherever you feel it in your body. While focusing on it, you can say (and feel) to yourself, "I forgive myself completely for _______". Repeat this while focusing on the feeling of self-judgment.
This practice can clear a lot of stress and help you feel much better.
Remember the 3 foot rule.
When we get very stressed and overwhelmed, we're often trying to juggle so many different things. Our mind might be moving from one thing to another, trying to remember everything, trying to make sure we don't forget anything, or trying to solve problems in our heads. During these times, it can be so helpful to remember the 3 foot rule.
The 3 foot rule was taught to me by a spiritual teacher in the form of a story. The story is of 2 marines, a novice and a veteran, climbing an icy mountain while under gun fire. The novice marine became frozen in fear, unable to continue climbing as the bullets ricocheted around him. The veteran marine noticed and told him, "just focus on three feet around you, and nothing else". So the novice marine began focusing on just finding the next piece of rock to reach up and grab. And taking one grab at a time, the marine made it to the top without falling or getting hit.
The 3 foot rule helps us let go of all of the worries that we carry. From the most transcendental viewpoints, all worry is really only a process of imagination. This process of imagining, worrying, stressing, and fearing about things that haven't happened takes away from our capacity to be wise, conscious, present, fulfilled and at peace in the present moment.
Have faith in yourself and a higher power.
When we are stressed, we're often not putting much faith in ourselves or a higher power. Putting faith in one or both can really help take the stress off.
Here are few affirmations that can help with this:
- I can be present, relaxed, and joyful, and everything will work out just fine.
- God/Divine Source is always with me, loving me, guiding me, and supporting me.
When you repeat these affirmations, it will help if you really connect to them emotionally and allow yourself to feel the positive feelings that they carry and bring.
We hope you've found this helpful.