Mindfulness to Cope with Distress or Feeling Overwhelmed

Mindfulness to Cope with Distress or Feeling Overwhelmed

Any of us can feel very distressed or overwhelmed at times.  Maybe a relationship ends, or you lose a job or get diagnosed with a serious illness.  Sometimes the crisis starts from inside ourselves and we feel overwhelmed by memories, feelings, or thoughts that come into our minds from the past or from our imagination.

There are some mindfulness meditation techniques that can be very helpful when we feel overwhelmed or greatly distressed by a wave of emotions and thoughts. These techniques will probably not turn the storm off immediately but they can help you feel safer and help you to stabilize your feelings more quickly.  This blog post will tell you about 3 antidotes to emotional distress and give you a link to guided meditations for each of the antidotes.

In this blog post I mention several meditation exercises.  You can find all of these guided meditations at their website.

Here is the first antidote to feeling emotionally overwhelmed:

Redirect your attention to external sensations.  Meditate with your eyes open rather than closed.  Keep your attention focused on external sensations such as listening, looking, or tasting.  Observe the world around you.  While you do this, say to yourself “even though I have fear in me, I know that I am safe where I am right now.”  (You can modify the words to suit your particular situation.)  Saying words like this will remind your brain that it is okay to relax.  It can take up to 20 minutes to shift out of intense fear by practising these kinds of techniques but, if you continue to practice, you will be able to get yourself settled down and grounded.  Try the following meditation from book: Simply Listening or Walking Meditation, Anchoring in the Body.

Mountain Meditation is the second antidote:

With this meditation you visualize yourself as becoming a mountain that is grounded, settled, and stable no matter what winds, rains, or storms may pass over it.  I suggest that you first do Touch Points meditation and then listen to the guided instruction for Mountain Meditation.  Touch Points meditation helps you to connect with your body so you can feel stable and centred.  After getting settled a bit you can start Mountain Meditation.  It will help you to further develop a sense of stability and equanimity.  Start with Touch Points meditation and then listen to Mountain Meditation.

Here is the third antidote:

It is called Anchor at the Bottom of Stormy Sea Meditation.  This meditation guides you to be able to find a secure safe resting place for your awareness even in the midst of an emotional storm.  Many people find it to be very helpful.

All of the meditations that I have mentioned can be very helpful if you are faced with an emotional crisis.  If you are interested, I would suggest that you listen to the guided instructions for each meditation several times over the course of a couple weeks.  It might take a bit of time for you to develop your ability to focus and concentrate.  If your mind wanders away from the instructions, just refocus on the instructions when you notice that your mind is wandered.  If you practice in this way you will eventually strengthen your ability to concentrate and then you can better stay with meditation even if you are feeling distressed.

These mindfulness techniques do not stop or take away emotional distress.  Rather, the techniques help you change your relationship to the distress.  It is a bit like the difference between saying “I am afraid” or saying “I have fear in me and I am okay.”  The ability to witness your emotions and thoughts without getting caught up in them can save you from a lot of unnecessary suffering.  I wish you good luck with these techniques and I hope that they will be helpful for you.

These guided meditations are offered as free downloads from the authors of an excellent book about mindfulness skills and psychotherapy. The book is called Sitting Together.  I have given the book to many of the therapists who work with me at The Mindfulness Clinic.  Some of our patients have also read the book in order to develop a deep understanding of the benefits of mindfulness techniques. The book is available for purchase from all major online retailers.

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