5 ways to deal with overwhelm

5 practices to help you slow down your overactive mind and train your senses so that you can create habits that ease sensory overload and support a balanced life.

In this world where we are overloaded with information every single day, we can start to feel a sense of overwhelm, particularly if the messages coming through are negative or they trigger our emotions and lead to persistent thoughts, such as “what if this happens,” “or what will I do if that happens to me,” or “what should I do about this?”

We are bombarded with media messages constantly, and now more than ever, as we move through life attached to a constant stream of information, news, social media and other people’s opinions on social media via our smart phones. Not to mention all the demands from family, friends, colleagues and the people we interact with in everyday life.

This relentless triggering of our senses can impact our long-term wellbeing, our physical, mental and emotional health. It may leave us feeling stressed, anxious and tired. This overwhelm is a sensory overload and there are some yoga practices we can do on and off the mat to help withdraw the senses and reduce the feelings of overwhelm.

In the 8 limbs of yoga, the fifth limb is the practice of Pratyahara which means a conscious withdrawal from the senses.  To draw the senses inward is to reduce energy that focusses on the external world and instead bring attention to your inner world.

Pratyahara practices can help us into deep relaxation as well as providing inner stability, self-awareness and harnessing the mind and the body.

Modern spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle has said that it can feel overwhelming when we have thoughts come in that are resisting what is happening. You may notice yourself feeling this in times of uncertainty or change. When we become more aware of the present moment and accept it as it is, it can help to slow down the overactive mind and from there we can develop stillness, awareness and consciousness.

This is to practice the art of not thinking.

Or more precisely, to disengage from thinking patterns long enough that we can find some profound relaxation which in turn provides rejuvenation.

It is not about cultivating a blank mind, but a mind that is intentionally focused and controlled. With a disciplined mind and conscious awareness we can remove distractions and control our sense perceptions by deciding what to pay attention to.

Here are 5 practices to help you slow down your overactive mind and train your senses so that you can create habits that ease sensory overload and support a balanced life.

1. Asana

Your physical yoga practice can help to balance energy flow. It helps to put you in touch with the sensations you are feeling in your body and mind. The physical movement also helps to ease tension and open up space for a meditation practice. When you are in class you may hear your teacher mention your drishti, this is a gaze point and encourages you have focus while practicing but at the same time, letting go of what you see.

meditation yoga practice
2. Breathing exercises or Pranayama

Focusing on breath is a powerful tool for quietening down the mind. Watching the inhale and exhale of the breath helps us to tune out of our thoughts and allows the mind to consciously disengage itself from everything that is going on around it.

3. Commit to a “media fast”

Choose a time or day that you regularly tune out from all social media, TV and news. This may be after 8pm every evening or it may be over the weekend or you may decide to do a week long detox in order to change up your daily habits. Removing the stimulus can help to reduce the amount of emotional triggers on your mind.

4. Move into stillness

Finding stillness could come from your physical yoga practice, such as a balancing pose, like tree pose that forces you to focus and requires stillness to stay balanced. At the same time you following the movement of your breath and you focus on a drishti (soft gaze point), and this all keeps the mind focused in the present moment.

5. A meditation

Close down the eyes and watch the breath, nothing else. When the mind wanders or catches on to a thought and starts to run away with, gently guide it back to the breath. You may have to do this over and over, but somewhere in there you will get a tiny gap where the mind is quiet and overtime, all these gaps add up to lots of quiet. Guided meditations or body scan meditations are also great for helping you with a meditation practice. A mediation practice is not the same as sleep. In sleep, we don’t have conscious awareness whereas a meditation practice trains the mind and can quite often be even more restorative.

Check out our online meditation offerings and yoga classes for grounding here.