Survive and thrive when you feel like things are getting on top of you

Things can feel like they are getting on top of you for many reasons. From the news of  death of a loved one or loss of a job – from the collapse of a relationship to financial problems. When you are feeling like things are running away from you, it can feel like an emotional hurricane is ripping through your  mind and body, hurling painful thoughts and feelings in all directions.

Here are some things you might like to try when you feel like this:

Slow your breathing
• Take a few deep breaths, and mindfully observe the breath flowing in and flowing out. This will help to anchor you in the present.

Take note
• Take note of your experience in this moment. Notice what you are thinking. Notice what you are feeling.  Notice what you are doing. Notice how your thoughts and feelings are swirling around, and can easily  carry you away if you allow them.

Open up
• Open up around your feelings. Breathe into them and make room for them. Open up to your thoughts too:  take a step back and give them some room to move, without holding onto them or trying to push them away. See them for what they are and give them space, rather than joining and over-identifying with them.

Pursue your values
• Once you’ve done the above three steps, you will hopefully be in a state of mindfulness. The next step is to respond to the crisis by pursuing a valued course of action. Connect with your values: ask yourself,

‘What do I want to be about, in the face of this crisis?

What do I want to stand for?

How would I like to act, so that I can look back years from now and feel proud of my response?’

Feeling more centred and calm, and being able to see your emotions as something apart from you, that doesn’t define the totality of you – these skills will help to get you into a better frame of mind to accept your thoughts and feelings and start to be able to engage with your situation.

(Adapted from Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap, 2008)

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