Typically my go-to practice when I feel overwhelmed is to make lists and that usually does the job.  It helps me get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper, then organize and prioritize them.  Sometimes, however, when the overwhelm is so big, I end up making lists and lists of lists and lists in different places and lists with different categories and none of it works to shift my overwhelmed space.

I recently learned about the major parts of self in Internal Family Systems Therapy: the manager, the judge, the child, and the soul.  Typically when you are feeling overwhelmed, the judge or inner critic is in control and when you make lists, the manager is taking over to help you get organized.  This is helpful sometimes.  But when some of the items on your list need your soul to be driving the process, making lists isn’t going to be as helpful.  Here are some heart-centered practices for shifting back into a soul-space and moving forward from there.

1. Notice where your attention is in your body.  If you’re in overwhelm, your attention is probably somewhere in your head.  Visualize dropping your attention down into your heart area.  Perhaps even visualize climbing down a ladder into your heart.  Or try breathing into your heart.  Notice what it feels like when your attention is here.  This is where your soul resides–at the back of your heart.  Notice what is happening with the overwhelmed feeling.

2.  Label the overwhelm.  ‘Phew!  I feel so overwhelmed.’  Try actually acknowledging this aloud.  Second part: Accept and embrace it.  ‘It’s okay for me to be overwhelmed.’  Notice what happens to the overwhelm when you embrace it. ‘I am right where I need to be’.  Envision surrounding this overwhelm in love.

3. Shift gears.  Do something totally different that gets you out of your head into your body.  Ideally something that feeds and nurtures your soul, e.g., go for a run, dance to your favorite song, get out in nature, take a yoga class, meditate.  Then revisit the tasks afterward.

4. Get curious about the overwhelm.  Ask some questions ‘Overwhelm, why are you here?’ ‘What does it feel like in my body when I’m overwhelmed?’  ‘What does the overwhelm need from me?’ ‘What purpose is this overwhelm serving?’ What else can you get curious about?

5.  Ask your soul (your essence, inner mentor, inner wisdom, whatever you want to call this part!) what it would do in this situation.  Imagine how your soul would respond to this overwhelm.  See if you can put yourself in your inner mentor’s shoes and respond from this part of you.

Bonus tip: If none of this works, try praying (to whomever or whatever you believe in!) Let go of the efforting and trying to change your situation and just hand it over.  Ask for support.  Lean into your sense of trust that you are exactly where you need to be.

I’d love to hear about your practices that help you move through feeling overwhelmed!

Suggestion: Choose one of these tools that speaks to you, write it down somewhere you will see it and practice it this week when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Affirmation: “May you move through overwhelm with grace and kindness to yourself”