How to Get Grounded + Clear Rather Than Caught Up in Anxiety + Overwhelm
Have you ever felt like you just don’t have enough time to get it all done? I know I have. And I’ve most definitely talked about this topic with more than just a handful of clients.
In a recent conversation with a private client, “not enough time” was a major theme.
I want to share this with you here because this is something that I personally work through, and I have a sense this will resonate with you and could be helpful for you to hear.
My client was experiencing an unusually high level of stress, which she attributed to an impending deadline at work, and deepening into her experience, we identified that the main source of her anxiety was not the deadline, but rather her stress about getting things done and her thoughts about that stress.
Her anxiety was quickly becoming a powerful distraction.
She felt tense in her body and was so caught up in the thought loop about the task (and fears of being inadequate to complete it), that she became unable to effectively focus her energy.
In this sense, her anxiety and the subsequent thoughts about that anxiety were literally preventing her from doing the tasks she needed to do, and this inability to focus on the task at hand was further compounding the anxiety she was feeling. As she chastised herself for being unable to focus on top of everything else, she began to feel completely overwhelmed - incapable of bringing her usual confidence, creativity, and positivity into her work.
She’s not alone in this. I know from personal experience how easy it can be to get into an anxiety loop in one’s mind.
What’s more, I know that in our society where productivity and deliverables are often valued above all else, it’s really easy to fall into an anxious relationship with time, wherein we begin to invest the bulk of our energy in thinking about how we will get things done rather than in simply doing what needs doing.
As we got clear on how all this was affecting her, my client began understanding that this vicious cycle of negative thoughts related to her time anxiety was creating an incredible feeling of separation: she felt disconnected from her body and from her power.
She described feeling as though she was standing in a rushing river... unsure if she could keep her head above water much longer. She expressed a wish that she could step out of the flow of the river for a moment, getting up onto the riverbank where she would have a more objective view and be able to better manage the flow.
I love this visual. Imagine: you’re standing in the middle of a cool river... and this river is the river of time. There are two major elements at play here - the riverbank and the water itself - which I relate to as the masculine and the feminine elements of time.
The riverbank represents the masculine or the construct of time - the hours, minutes, seconds of a day, the months of the year, the years passing by. These are the structure through which our experience of time flows.
On the other hand, the water flowing through this channel is the feminine aspect of time. Unlike the riverbank, which is essentially constant (though its appearance may change, shift, and evolve slightly over a prolonged period), the flow of the river is both constant and constantly changing. We don’t always know what’s coming to us down the river, and we can’t always see everything that is flowing through beneath the surface.
Practically speaking, this flow of water represents all the things we experience and manage within the flow of time, and it’s all contained by the boundaries of our riverbank. All the requests, questions, tasks, and demands placed on us are part of this flow, as are all of our thoughts, visions, conversations, and actions.
In moments of normalcy, the middle of our river is a totally pleasant place to stand. The water flows by, and we’re able to appreciate the flow of it. However, it’s inevitable that we’ll experience moments of stronger and more powerful flow, because all water is affected by the ebb and flow of tides.
Standing in the cool waters of the river of time, we’re connected to all the larger bodies of water that flow to this river, and each of these bodies has its own high and low tide. These tides are completely out of our control, and yet, each of them affects the flow of the river we’re standing in.
So what happens in moments when the rush of our river becomes stronger and we begin feeling fearful that we’re unable to withstand the current?
What happens when all the bodies of water we’re connected to - all those around us who require our time, attention, and energy - all seem to be at high tide in the same moment, needing our urgent attention?
How can we - as my client so beautifully suggested - clamber up onto the riverbank to regroup, reground, and resource ourselves when the rush of our experience becomes too overwhelming to manage?
Ultimately, this idea of coming up onto the riverbank is about finding the stillness that allows us to see clearly.
From a vantage point of relative stillness, we’re able to remember that time is a tool and that it is ours to wield.
From this vantage point of empowerment, we’re able to more strategically plan how to manage the constant flow of requests, questions, tasks, and demands that are coming at us, whether from colleagues, clients, partners, children, or somewhere else.
The strategy of finding stillness on the riverbank to identify the time frame you have to work within and what you’ll prioritize during that time frame can help you stay grounded in the flow.
Personally, I’ve found that one of my most powerful tools for climbing up on the riverbank, so to speak, is my breath. While it’s deceivingly simple, using one’s breath to intentionally come to presence is an incredibly powerful way to come back to stillness and to gain perspective. Another way of coming to presence is by becoming engaged in the body through some sort of movement practice. Whether using breath or movement, the goal is to unify, even if only for a few moments, the experience of body and mind.
Regardless of the tactic you choose to use to come back to presence, when you can gain perspective and see clearly what you want to flow through in a certain amount of time - rather than getting caught up in anxiety - you are able to make more grounded decisions about how to wield your focus, meaning you can use your time with more power and more clarity.
Intentionally coming to a place of stillness and perspective can also support you in deepening your understanding about what circumstances lead you to feel like you’re drowning in the waters of your experience and what behavioral patterns may be contributing to that feeling.
For instance, in having a supportive place to talk through & get grounded in her experience, my client was able to identify that the timing of a work trip had taken her away from her physical work space, which had caused her to miss days working in and on tasks she had planned on doing for a predetermined deadline. She could then see how this had decreased the amount of time she had to complete things, and rather than feeling overwhelmed, she got clear on the the highest priority tasks she needed to do, planned what she could delegate, and when she would do what she needed in the chunk of time she had. She shifted out of anxiety and felt more calm, clear, and focused.
If you’re an experienced practitioner, you probably have tricks and tools you already use to bring you to a place of presence, and if you’re new to all this, don’t worry! Initially, you may desire support learning how to gain perspective from your riverbank, and there are so many ways you can source that for yourself.
You can step back from what is overwhelming you and take 5 deep breaths
Do a brain dump writing out everything that you have "to-do" in your mind
Dance to a song
Step outside to connect with nature or walk around the block
Do a couple of Pilates or yoga movements
Create space to be heard and seen in a conversation with a friend or loved one.
Wherever you are with this, what are you seeing for yourself? What is one tool that you use to manage anxiety and overwhelm?
If you’d like to take this work even deeper with me, I'm happy to connect to see how I can be of support to you. I'd love to have a powerful conversation with you in a no strings attached Core Activation Call to speak with me about what you're currently experiencing and how working together can help you feel more calm, clear, and focused in your body, energy, and mind. As a gift to you, I’ve opened up times for calls this week and next to talk, and get you started. Click here to schedule a time to chat, and I look forward to connecting with you!