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Riding the Wave of Overwhelm

Riding the Wave of Overwhelm during COVID19


by Maddy Kear

We are, as a nation, experiencing a situation unfamiliar to us all. The COVID-19 lockdown means most of us are required to stay in our homes, separated from those we love, and for many having to wrestle with uncertainty and our own minds. It can be tough, but there is a way to manage.

As I continue to walk alongside people as a counsellor (although virtually), the themes are much the same…. The fear of being still or stopping a substance that has helped you get by until now because of what might surface in our it; anxiety, loss, grief, traumatic memories, cravings, uncertainty, the list goes on. Not only are people confronted by these difficult internal experiences, we also have fewer options for distraction at the moment.

I want to share with you five steps that have helped me and those I have worked with, and can help you; to ride the wave of emotion when it comes.
  1. Stop: Wherever you are, take a moment and stop, pause and take a deep breath in, pause for four seconds and breathe out slowly (preferably diaphragmatic breathing). Repeat five times.
  2. Identify: Now see if you can name what emotion it is that you’re feeling. If that is too hard, see if you can notice what your mind is telling you… and say “My mind is telling me _________e.g. “I am never going to get through this/over this”
  3. Notice: Shift your attention and notice firstly your feet on the floor, then see if you can name five things you can see around you, three things you can hear and anything else you can notice using your five senses. See, hear, feel, smell and taste.
  4. Reassure yourself: Repeat this phrase or phrases such as this “This is a wave of ………….(fill in the blank of the feeling you identified) and it will pass.. all waves peak and then they have to come down...I am riding the crest of the wave but it cannot last forever, this will pass”. You may also like to come up with another helpful phrase that will help bring reassurance such as “I have been through this feeling before and I survived, I can do it again”.
  5. Redirect your attention: Find an activity to distract yourself with, something to help shift your mind and what it is focussing on. Note; if it is intense and no activity or task is working as a distraction, try a cold shower or putting your hand or face in a bucket of ice water for 30 seconds, this will jolt your mind out of the hamster wheel it is stuck on.

Repeat as needed. This is about strengthening your mind, and gaining control. Keep at it, and each time you will feel and become stronger the more you practice riding the wave.

Whatever you are going through right now, whatever is threatening to overwhelm you, know that there is hope and you are not alone. If you are struggling right now, it’s ok to reach out to someone you feel safe with.

My hope for you is that these few ideas & techniques may help in supporting you to get through whatever it is you are facing right now.

Please feel free to share with whoever you know might need this right now. Maddy

Article posted 24 August 2021
Maddy Kear is a counsellor with a private practice in Auckland and Online.
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