5 Keys to Beat Overwhelm, Stress, and Anxiety, Fears, and Trauma Flashbacks
Our mind and body are constantly on alert to self-protect, scanning the environment for potential hurts. This is the essence of worry: projecting, preparing, and rehearsing a future danger that’s rooted in past painful experience, witnessing, or perceived victimization. Overwhelm happens when we are confronted with one or more negative, real or imagined, experiences that supersede our ability to manage or control them. This is often labeled as a “crisis”. It could be ignited by something as powerful as a relationship breakup or death of a loved one, or, by the accumulated daily grind and indignities that trigger layers of stress, anxiety and fear beyond our ability to overcome. It is not surprising that those individuals with histories of past or current upheaval and trauma are more likely to self-medicate and fall into addiction: current events and thoughts trigger past wounds and future fears.
What this means is that rather than experiencing the present moment, most of us spend more time in the past, a time dimension that cannot be changed, or in the future, anticipating a time that we ultimately cannot control. This attention to the past or future causes an enormous amount of energy expenditure towards ruminating, analyzing, and judging the past and/or playing out scenarios of multiple potential negative futures. Staying present can therefore minimize a great deal of our fears, conflicts, anxieties, and unhappiness while giving us access to tools that can make direct and profound difference in our current situation. Staying present means that you can stop being a victim to your history or future portent. You become more connected to the truth of the present circumstance, able to make clear decisions and empowered choices, better able to trust yourself and others.
Here are five keys to staying present and overcoming overwhelm, stress, anxiety, fears, and trauma flashbacks:
1. Connecting to the body
The most important tool for attending to the present moment is to focus on the physical body. Look at your hands, feel your heartbeat or pulse, or look at your face in the mirror. Pay attention to your body through touch, pressure, self-massage, exercise, or movement.
2. Connecting to the breath
Almost nothing else comes as close to alerting us of our aliveness as our breathing. But, only deep, core breathing, known as abdominal or meditative breathing, has the capacity to inform our mind that it is safe and relaxed. Best way to be adept at this is to start with lying down, hands on abdomen, gently lifting your hands with every inhale. See if you can than transfer this ability to the sitting and standing positions.
3. Connecting to the present time
Ask yourself simple place and time oriented questions. What date and time is it now? Where am I in the universe? Record the address, location, body position, and directional orientation (north, south, east, or west) of your current global positioning.
4. Connecting to the emotions
Naming, honoring, and accepting the feelings you are experiencing as important sources of information for your function and survival in the present moment, and then communicate, write, or creatively express these feelings as a way to process them in a healthy manner.
5. Connecting to the thoughts
Meditate or analyze on the thoughts passing through your mind. Are they helpful or self-judging, are they true or distorted, can they be kept or let go?
Moshe Rozdzial, LPC. is a Psychotherapist and Sex Therapist in Denver, Colorado. www.glowcounseling.com