On the Brink of Overwhelm?

4 Actions You Can Take Right Now.


“Our lives are somehow unfolding faster than the human nervous system and psyche are able to manage well.”


- is how Jon Kabat-Zinn describes overwhelm in Brené Brown’s newest book, Atlas of the Heart. I’d hedge a bet that many of us have felt this recently or are currently in it. If you’re not in either of those categories than you may be on the brink or in recovery from overwhelm-- or you’re simply a very enlightened being that should be the one writing this blog (please send tips).  


At this point, it’s about finding accessible ways to get your nervous system to a place of rest and digest (aka parasympathetic nervous system activation) because once overwhelm is achieved- the only cure is non-doing. When in overwhelm we aren’t able to accurately assess any incoming information, so if we decide to push through, that usually leads to a whole bunch of trouble and clean up later. Elaborate daily routines and rituals can feel like too much when trying to just get through the day so we have put together a list so you don’t have to. If you’re currently in overwhelm- this list is for you.     


      I.            Box Breath


This is something you can do right now- yes, stop what you’re doing and try it now.


1. Put your finger out in front of you, pointing away from you

2. Inhale as you move your finger to the right, count to 4

3. Hold your breath as you move your finger down, count to 4

4. Exhale as you move your finger to the left, count to 4

5. Hold your breath as you move your finger up, count to 4


Repeat this as many times as you’d like. You’ll notice that you’re drawing the shape of a box with your finger- the reason it is called box breath. This breathing technique is kid friendly. You don’t need to use your finger when doing this breathing exercise but it can be useful when you need somewhere to focus for the really tough times. This can also be done without anyone else knowing like mid difficult conversation (without the finger probably best) or before bed.

Box Breath can calm and regulate the nervous system and can regulate temperature, lower blood pressure and provide peace of mind. It can also be helpful for insomnia, anxiety, depression and pain management.  



          II.            Water  


Stop and get some water right now. We’ll be here when you get back. Yes, now! Go get it.


Drinking enough water supports our brain to fire and function optimally. Being dehydrated can throw off the balance of our brain chemicals (like dopamine and serotonin) and can lead to higher cortisol levels (stress hormone) making it more difficult to deal with our day to day challenges and lead us to overwhelm more quickly. One of the fastest and easiest ways we can improve our mental and physical health is to stay hydrated. Cold plunges, ritual baths, showers and most water activities will bring a sense of calm and relief to the nervous system whether it be during or after the activity. If it has water involved- we think it’s a good move to support mental health.


      III.            Sauna


Find a sauna. We like to make an event out of it and make an appointment with Tuff City Saunas. The location at Mackenzie Beach allows for easy access between the sauna and the ocean for some hot/cold therapy and the saunas are stocked with essential oils that bring peace to the busiest of minds. We think of this like a couple hours at the wilderness spa. We suggest bringing some friends that are looking for the same calming effects so this option can be affordable and provide a sense of community and some laughter (an often under utilized medicine).

The heat of the sauna helps the body produce white blood cells responsible for protecting against infections, relaxes the body’s muscles, improves circulation and stimulates the release of endorphins. You can be ready to float into a deep sleep after an evening at the sauna and will wake up with that sauna glow.  

Easy access to booking if you’re on the West Coast: https://tuffcitysaunas.com  


       IV.            Bodywork

Sometimes self-care is making an appointment so someone else can care for you. That’s right- outsource your self care when overwhelm is near. The brain can also begin to play tricks on you during overwhelm. Sometimes this looks like “I can’t afford it” or “I don’t know where to even start so I just won’t” or other flavors of resistance.  

If your brain is saying “I can’t afford it”- ask yourself honestly if this is true. It very well may be true and if this is the case: do you have benefits that you can use? Is there a trade that you can offer? If getting bodywork isn’t in the financial cards- you can kick it old school by starting a massage train with some friends. Never underestimate the community massage train.  

If your brain is saying “I don’t know where to start…” We suggest trying an RMT or an acupuncture treatment- both will bring the nervous system in to balance. When they ask where you want to focus, you can simply say “to balance my nervous system”- they’ll know what to do from there.

Here are some easy links to getting an appointment if you’re in the Ucluelet area:  

RMT:  https://harbourtherapy.janeapp.com/locations/harbour-health-integrated-therapies/book#/massage-therapy

Acupuncture: https://harbourtherapy.janeapp.com/locations/harbour-health-integrated-therapies/book#/acupuncture  


Taking on just one of these suggestions is going to bring you closer to stability so try one and acknowledge that as a huge step in the direction of greater mental and physical health. It is the everyday choices that make a difference in the span of our lives so don’t underestimate what a few breaths and a glass of water can do.

Lastly, we want you to remember that you aren’t alone- this is a tough time and sometimes just being reminded of that helps.