Feeling Overwhelmed, Anxious or Stressed? - Lean in with up close and personal practices

Updated: Mar 21

Overwhelm, anxiety and stress are closely connected and increasingly common in our fast paced, demanding, and uncertain world.

Whilst we are all triggered and respond differently, all of us have a limit. The good news is there are some simple practices that you can use to help lean into those moments.

I’d like to share 12 practices that a client and I put together. Whilst there are many different approaches, as a google search will show, our aim was to find effective yet simple and easy practices that she could use. Some were chosen to help relax her mind and body, others were to use in the moment so that she could deal with the situation at hand.

The beauty of a ‘practice’ is that it is not about perfection. It is about engaging repeatedly to become a little more skilful each time.

Try one or two or more out for size, there is no one size fits all. See which ones may help you.

Disclaimer: This article Is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for treatment or therapy.

Pictures: Courtesy Canva

1. Pause

Hit Pause

A pause is a space maker, a gift of calm before we respond. It enables us to stop running away from or running into an experience. A pause is the suspension of an activity, which helps disrupt our entrenched patterns of response.

  • Disengage

  • Let go of control in order to reflect, consider and listen

  • Compose

2. Breathe

Just Breathe

Breathing is something we do automatically but can also control. It not only brings oxygen to our cells; it also has a positive and calming effect on our nervous system. Focused breathing is a somatic form of listening, and can impact the way we feel and think.

There are many different breathing techniques. Some examples: Deep breathing, Mindful breathing, Rhythmical breathing, diaphragmatic breathing ...

Find one that works for you.

4:4:4:0 Breathing

  • Breathe in slowly to the count of four

  • Hold for the count of four

  • Breathe out slowly to the count of four

  • Immediately Breathe in again to the count of four

  • Repeat the steps continually until you feel settled

3. Slow it down

One step at a time

By slowing it down, you become more present and mindful. This reduces the level of stress that you feel, allowing for more clarity.

Slowing it down doesn't have to mean just doing things slower, it can also be not packing too much or too many things into your day.

  • Slowdown in the moment

  • Slow your breathing

  • Slow your thoughts

  • Reduce your commitments

4. Ground yourself

Ground and Centre

Grounding allows us to bring ourselves into contact with the present moment – the here and now. This enables us to be more in touch with both our internal and external worlds.

There are a number of exercises to help you achieve this.

Find one that works for you.

Grounding yourself in the moment

  • Identify:

  • 5 things you can see

  • 4 things you can feel

  • 3 things you can hear

  • 2 things you can smell

  • 1 thing you can taste

5. Re-focus

Change the channel

Re-focusing is simply any activity that you use to redirect your mind off of and away from your current state. Changing your focus and bringing it elsewhere enables you to better manage your sense of overwhelm.

Reset your attention onto something else

Some examples:

  • Count Your Breaths

  • Engage in a Relaxation Technique

  • Do a mind dump - Write it out

  • Some Form of Physical Exercise

6. Re-frame

Through a different lens

Reframing is about looking at a thought, feeling or situation from another angle. it

starts with accepting that not all your thoughts are true and that they can be looked at differently by taking on a new perspective.

Go for curious rather than judgmental

Reframe your thoughts in ways that feel helpful and personal to you.

Some examples:

  • "How can I look at this a different way?"

  • “What proof do I have for this thought?”

  • “Is this thought helpful?”

  • “What can I learn here?”

  • "What are some other possible reasons this could have happened?"

7. Body Scan

Listen to your body

A Body Scan encourages present-moment awareness and involves mentally scanning yourself by paying attention to parts of the body. It allows you to connect to your physical self by bring awareness to bodily sensations in a gradual sequence.

Find a quiet place where you feel safe and won't be interrupted.
  • Begin the scan, choose any part of your body to begin.

  • Focus on that spot and notice sensations as you continue breathing slowly and deeply.

  • Continue around your body in a way that makes sense to you.

  • Notice and acknowledge any emotions or tension as you scan.

  • Continue breathing, imagining the tension decreasing with each breath. Sit with them and let them pass.

  • When you are ready, slowly release your focus and bring your attention back to your surroundings.

8. A mindful walk

A walk in the moment

Mindful walking is a fitness and mindfulness practice that connects you to your surrounds and reconnects you with your body. It involves consciously connecting with what is around you and is a way to restore a sense of focus and is a great form of movement.

You can mindfully walk anywhere – outdoors, indoors, anytime, anywhere.

Begin walking, keep breathing, grounding your feet and appreciating the moment.

Using your senses, notice with openness and curiosity:

  • See – look and notice e.g. the different colours and shapes.

  • Feel – the air against your skin, touch and experience texture e.g. a leaf, a handful of soil. The surface of a table.

  • Hear – listen for the different sounds e.g. birds, rustling of leaves, wind in the trees, the distant hum of traffic.

  • Smell – pick up on the different aromas e.g. the bouquet from flowers, the damp earth, coffee from your cup.

9. Visualise a happy place

Calming Imagery

Visualising allows you to draw on imagery to create a place of calm where you can time out. By developing a happy place in your imagination, you have a somewhere that you can step into, one that generates feelings of safety, peacefulness and calm.

Visualisations can be strengthened by ensuring you engage all your senses

Building the picture in your mind's eye

  • Recall a place where you felt calm, happy, relaxed and safe, such as a garden, a beach, a room ...

  • Close your eyes.

  • Using your five senses start building a detailed picture in your mind.

  • Move though this image using your senses, what you see, touch/feel, taste, hear and smell.

  • Spend some time in that space, name it and make it yours.

10. Meditate

Being in the moment

Meditation is a practice that involves relaxing the body and quietening the mind. You don’t have to strive to achieve - just stillness where no effort is required.

Mindfulness meditation is a form that involves focusing on the present moment, acknowledging thoughts and feelings, while accepting them without judgment.

There is no perfection, leaving room for continuing improvement.

  • Find a quiet place where you feel safe and won't be interrupted.

  • All you have to do is close your eyes, stay focused, (usually) on your breathing, and let your mind do its thing.

  • The moment you realize you’re lost in thought, that’s awareness.

  • Acknowledge your thoughts, and return to the object of your focus, breathing.

  • When you are ready, slowly release your focus and bring your attention back to your surroundings.

11. Journal

Out of the head and onto paper

A mind dump provides a way to get thoughts, worries, concerns, and ideas out of your head and down onto paper. It helps to organise your thoughts and allows you to reflect.

For a mind dump all you need to do is write down on a piece of paper whatever comes to mind. Choose your own style, just write without organizing or judging your thoughts or words.

Overwhelm journal

An overwhelm journal is used for relieving a sense of anxiety, overwhelm and stress.

  • Write - pour out your thoughts and emotions onto the page.

  • Keep writing until you feel like there is nothing left to express.

  • Reflect.

12. Ask for help

Support System

Asking for help increases your resilience as getting support can provide a sense of well-being from knowing that you are not alone. Support can provide a sounding board that can give you some perspective. It can also give rise to positive feelings from the support you receive.

While asking for help can be difficult, reaching out for support is a healthy thing to do.,

No man is an Island

Don’t underestimate the power of a support system.


This article Is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for treatment or therapy.

Pictures: From Canva

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