Feeling overwhelmed? A therapist shares her five tips for coping

Claudia Canavan
·3-min read
Photo credit: Richard Phibbs
Photo credit: Richard Phibbs

From Harper's BAZAAR

It's likely that when you wake up to the news nowadays, you may be feeling overwhelmed. While adjusting to this new normal has been our collective mission, staying calm-headed when thousands of people who should have been alerted that they've been in contact with someone carrying the virus days ago are only just getting that information now, is unsettling.

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

So how can you try and centre 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 crushing panic.

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/ Avoid catastrophising

It's important to practice alternative thoughts and behaviours to the ones that are not serving you, such as being able to keep things in perspective and 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 toilet roll and pasta 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. Such as...

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. Covid 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/ Know what's in your control

To alleviate panic, it's crucial to know what you do have control over. And, newsflash: 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.

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