Feeling Overwhelmed: 5 Tips to Cope From a Therapist

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Feeling Overwhelmed: 'I’m a Therapist and These Are My 5 Tips to Cope'

While the news cycle is terrifying, try these techniques

dealing with overwhelm
Maksym Panchuk / EyeEmGetty Images

If you spent this morning looking at images of broken glass and blood being cleared up, in the wake of a lethal rampage conducted by pro-Trump thugs inside the US Capitol Building, you might be feeling overwhelmed – to say the least.

Adjusting to a weird new reality has basically been our collective mission over the past nine months. But the atrocities we've witnessed through our transparent glass screens over the past 24 hours have been... something different.

If you are struggling with your mental health, call your GP, or try the Mind infoline: 0300 123 3393

So. How to try and calm yourself, today? Sharnade George (@therapywithshar) is a therapist, presenter and writer. Working with clients on their personal psychological journeys, she helps people to understand their emotions and to devise coping strategies that provide a tonic to the persisting chaos of the moment.

She is also the founder of Culture Minds Therapy, a service that matches Black and Asian people with therapists. Here, she shares her expert knowledge on coping with sensations of panic that you might be dealing with, in this moment and those that come next.


1. Acknowledge the feeling

When I get patients who tell me they are panicking, I often say ‘thank you’ for acknowledging that. The fact that you can name how you’re feeling is a form of self-awareness and self-acceptance. It's important to know how an emotion feels in your body and how it makes you behave. Helpful or unhelpful, emotions tell you something. From here, you need to be able to understand it, and then use strategies to manage it.

2. Know what's in your control

To alleviate panic, it's crucial to know what you do have control over. [And, when it comes to violent riots in a foreign country, that's only ever yourself.] How you respond to situations; what you do in a day. If listening to the news makes you feel overwhelmed, then just tune in once a week. Or, order a newspaper subscription and read that, rather than watching the TV or scrolling news sites on your phone.

On this theme, make time for the things you know make you feel better, whether that's exercise, a meditation practice, journaling, hot baths or eating nourishing food.

3. Stop and breathe

One of the most impactful of these strategies is breathing techniques. People underestimate how powerful this can be. Panic causes breathlessness and re-graining control of this function can quickly help to calm you down. In a moment of overwhelm, inhale for four seconds, hold, then exhale for four seconds. Repeat three times.

4. Use affirmations

Positive affirmations are so important. It's key to try to understand the subconscious mind and work with your blueprint, to see what helps you to manage situations. This time shows us we’re not in control, but if you keep saying that to yourself, you'll keep panicking. Try repeating: 'I am doing my best,' and 'I can manage this,' in the morning, before you start your day. See which of these work best to help ground and relax you.

5. Avoid catastrophising

It's important to practice alternative thoughts and behaviours to the ones that are not serving you, such as trying to not keep catastrophising (when your mind automatically assumes that the worst possible outcome of a given situation is likely to pass.)

It's this way of thinking that led some people to stockpile loo roll and eggs when the virus first came to the UK. Instead, as above, acknowledge that you feel panic, but think about how you can manage it in a helpful way, using the techniques above.

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