“I can’t take it anymore.” That’s the silent scream I’ve heard from so many women lately; hard times keep stacking up. Natural disasters and manmade attacks that terrify. Politics that make you burn. Changes in your inner circle as relationships end and family members pass on. Sometimes you just feel overwhelmed. You wish you could go back to bed with the covers over you, but you support so many others. How can you stay sane through it all? Here’s an easy five-step formula that will help you get through the tough times.
Are you afraid that feeling a certain way will open the flood gates to drown in ALL your feelings It doesn’t have to be this way.
The first step comes from being aware of your internal states. In the dark moments, close your eyes and notice what sensations you have in your body. These are the physical signals of your emotion.
Focus your attention on the part of your body that feels the feeling. Really hone in and describe the feeling: Is it a pit in your stomach? Tightness in your chest? Grinding of your teeth? Or is it an overall feeling, like fatigue?
Don’t judge yourself. Simply give yourself permission to feel that feeling for a few minutes. Often, intense feelings only last 90 seconds. If you can ‘ride the wave’ of emotion for that short period without the need to ‘change it,’ you’ll notice a more peaceful feeling.
Your feelings are a natural response to the ‘story’ you tell about a situation. If you perceive the government’s action is unjust, you might feel angry. If your family member is ill, you might feel sad at the prospect of losing them.
Other times you are making the situation mean something that isn’t objectively true, which keeps you obsessing about the feeling (e.g., someone put you down and you took their insult to mean you are ‘not enough.’)
Feelings always come from the ‘story’ you are telling about the situation. Peel back the emotion by asking yourself, “What story am I telling about the situation that makes me feel this way?” You have the power to choose the story you tell. You can shift the feeling by changing the ‘story’ that led you to have it.
Observe the part of your body that activates this physical feeling with an open and compassionate energy. Keep observing the feeling as you breathe deeply and send this part of your body these ‘feelings of love.’
Or use practical strategies to ‘deal with’ your feelings. Reach out to a family member or friend you feel safe sharing your feelings with. Express your feelings through a journal, through art, through physical exertion or time in nature.
This is the step that we often bypass when we make an impulsive action to avoid our feelings such as soothe ourselves with food, pick up a drink, yell at someone else, etc.
Feelings we have in everyday situations usually stem from a ‘part’ of us that was developed earlier in life to deal with our circumstances. See that part as an adaptive strategy that helped you get through that time in your life in which it developed. Try to see how that ‘part’ tries to protect you so it’s easier to honor it. Then ‘negotiate’ with that part of you to allow the ‘adult’ part of you to now respond to situations and heal stuck feelings.
Now it’s time to ‘seal’ the wound. Take action to prevent or minimize yourself from continuing to feel overwhelmed by your feelings.
Action moves emotion.
Angry at the political scene? Get involved. Say, “This is not good for me!” and do a ‘media detox.’
Scared about fearful events? Get prepared or help others.
Do you keep taking the bait of people around you? Firm up your boundaries with people who suck away your energy and don’t help you experience love or joy in your life.