How to help someone who is overwhelmed with Samantha Flook

18 Aug 2021

What would you say to someone that is feeling overwhelmed or unsure of changing circumstances that come their way?

When clients come into clinic feeling uncertain about their future and that which they can’t control, I will always say this. “Give yourself the evidence before you decide a judgemental thought to be true”. Most of our worries come down to how much time, focus and attention we give to certain thoughts and feelings that aren’t by definition happening now, we must remember that we may have had hard experiences or may be navigating something with solid evidence to back what we are thinking and feeling, but there are still supportive choices to help support ourselves during these times. All that we know now was once in the uncertain space in our lives, inclusive of the good, the hard and the lessons, so it’s important to remember that all of the experiences we are yet to have, skills we are yet to learn and versions of ourselves we are yet to meet all also lay within that uncertain space in front of us. So a question for you; How do you decide a thought to be true or not?

The patterns we run determine how we cope and what thoughts and feelings we accommodate to. We have 10’s of thousands of thoughts each and everyday, some helpful and some not so helpful, so how do we distinct between the two? If you have the tendency to worry or fixate on the unknowns, we begin to bring that into our awareness and go searching for the problems over the solutions in certain areas of our lives. Creating the outcome of an experience before it occurs;

assuming that the past equals the future, feeling you’re not good at something when you haven’t even given it a go? What makes this true?

Making what we believe, think and feel to be instantly true, is an intrinsic response to making the unknown and feelings of fear a little more comfortable, but in the long run this creates great stress into our lives by fixating on and controlling that which we can’t. Over analysing our thoughts loops us back to the problem and usually inhibits us from taking action as we aren’t changing our response to the pattern in the moment. Learning to continually observe thoughts and feelings as they arise and back them with truthful evidence, helps us usefully analyse what is real in the present moment and what is an imagined fabrication of our past.

Most of what we validate to be true, we just haven’t challenged with a new choice or perspective, which takes time and lots of practice. So what I will always say in response to this is, “When in doubt focus on that one, simple next step in front of you.

In times of overwhelm, uncertainty and self doubt we can feel stuck for resources in “what to do” and “how to move forward”. The greatest way to feel stuck is to focus on that which is out of our control, what we can’t do over what we can and especially that which can’t be changed, specifically the past! Any change takes consistency, it takes time, it takes patience and a continual focus within you and on that which you can control, what you can do and what you truly do want even when times feel tough.

Remind yourself you’re not meant to have it all figured out, each day you are growing, you are learning and figuring it out as you go, so go a little easier on yourself, you only know what you know, until you know better and you CAN choose better for you!

Here is a practical task to support you navigate and create more supportive choices and responses when unhelpful thoughts and feelings pop up.

RATO is a great mindful foundations practice to use:

  • Step 1: Breathe
  • Step 2: Recognise “I choose to accept that this thought is here without attachment or judgement”
  • Step 3: Ask: is this thought relevant to me now or a fabrication of my past or future? Give yourself the evidence.... “I can see it playing out in front of me right now Y/N, I’m aware that it’s a memory from my past or an assumption of my future”
  • Step 4: Tune in; breathe and ground a little more
  • Step 5: Observe and choose differently; choose to see this thought as external too you, observe it as you would observe watching tv, create separation and give the thought a different response. “I am here, I am present and have the ability to choose my next step”