Using Mindfulness to Cope with Overwhelm and Panic

It’s the first week of August and between the warmth of the late summer days and the stress of the back to school season, many of us are feeling HOT AND BOTHERED… less able to enjoy the last few drops of Summer by staying present… more so pulled towards preparing for the future…. and perhaps worrying, or panicking over that future.

For many, overwhelm starts with thoughts- endless lists of “to do”s motivated by “should”s, emphasized by guilt, shame, feelings of stressful memories from years before, -that are refreshed and re-energized with the new unknowns of the new year. These thoughts and feelings are important for helping us navigate the return to our highest standards, but can also create a swarm- a storm- a real sense of overwhelm that causes irritability, negativity, conflict, – and simply takes us away from being present, enjoying situations, and making the best decisions for ourselves in the moment.

Mindfulness is a way to slow down some of the intensity of that thought-feeling-swarm-storm. It can be a way to engage with ourselves and environment that temporarily “puts away” the concerns of the future by demanding our attention to THE NOW, encouraging deep breaths to soothe the nervous system and create a sense of calm. Using mindfulness in this way can also be referred to as a GROUNDING TECHNIQUE.

Well ones appreciate the 5-4-3-2-1 method for bringing outside awareness inward, to decrease overwhelm and de-escalate moments of panic -no matter where one is or what one is doing. Here’s how to use it:

  • Recognize the state of overwhelm. If you have a hard time acknowledging when you’re in this state, pay closer attention to your physiology. Do you feel “off”? Are you thinking clearly? What’s your temperature like? Are you breathing? Heart rate high? Chances are you’re warm and short of breath, distract-able or foggy-thoughts. Place a hand on your chest and give yourself permission to take a step back from the situation. Take a seat if able. Or stand with feet shoulder width apart, balanced and grounded.
  • Begin to breathe in slowly through your nose and tune-in to the environment around you, exhale slowly through your mouth. Become mindful by “going inward” and engaging with your senses. Count backwards.

Start by asking yourself:

  • “What are 5 things that I can see?” & list them to yourself. (*A clock on the wall, a dog walking by, a wad of paper on the floor by the trash, my shoelace untied, a fire extinguisher in the corner)
  • “What are 4 things I can hear?” List them. (*Someone talking on their phone, a bird singing, kids playing on the playground, two people having a conversation about the weather)
  • “What are 3 things I can touch?” List and touch them. (*The bench I’m sitting on, a leaf off a bush next to me, the cold metal of my hydroflask water bottle).
  • “What are 2 things I can smell?” Smell and list. (*Fresh cut grass outside, coffee)
  • “What is 1 thing I can taste?” (*Remnants of lunch?)
  • Remind yourself how deeply rooted you are in your ability to get through uncomfortable moments. Or maybe there is another affirmation that brings you a sense of peace?
  • Keep breathing.
  • Redirect your attention to return to your task when you feel able.

Even if you’re a little highly sensitive plant like Lenny, remember that you are emotionally and mentally strong like the Great Oak tree! -Capable of weathering any storm, -even the intense moments of panic and overwhelm.

What else helps you find calm, get grounded, feel rooted?

How else can you use mindfulness in your life, and in this new upcoming season?

Published by Well1MentalHealth

I'm a licensed mental health therapist that specializes in emotional regulation and healthy coping of children, parents, small families, individuals, and groups, and I've got great experience in supporting client growth and stabilization in the face of crisis. My clients are human, and so am I. We will work together through the tough emotions and bodily responses, get to the root of the problems and implement small changes, to reach our goals.

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