How to Stop Being Overwhelmed: Think a New Thought.

Thoughts and feelings interact and affect each other…… Here’s a story about Lori to show this interaction:

Lori’s driving down the highway, on a sunny and warm day, taking a road trip to visit a friend. She’s in a particularly happy mood, as she’s thrilled it’s springtime, and the harsh winter is over. She knows the way, there is little traffic. All is going her way.

Then out of the blue, suddenly, a car going 100 mph, cuts in front of Lori. They almost collide.  She swerves, and she is lucky that she doesn’t hit the median or another car. The offending car is now far ahead. Lori’s bright sunny mood has disappeared. She is shaky and overwhelmed with many feelings all at once.

What are Lori’s feelings at this moment?

Lori does a “self check: and asks herself, what is she feeling right now? Surprise, shock, fear, & anger, all simultaneously.

How upset is Lori from 0-10?

Lori gives her upset a number from 1-10. She feels it’s a 7 or 8.  She could be more upset, but she is pretty shaken.

She writes it all down.
Now she parks at the next rest stop, and pulls out a spiral notebook to write on. Lori creates a “feelings” column on the far left side of the paper, and fills in, “surprise, shock, fear, and anger. She then writes her upset level, “7/8”.

What is Lori thinking?
“That was a terrible thing that just happened!
I could have been killed!
My car could have been pretty $*#@% up!
I was almost in a terrible accident!
That was a crazy driver!
That person was out to get me!”

In her journal, Lori now creates a “Thoughts” column next to the “Feelings” column, and writes in her thoughts.

Thoughts and feelings naturally rise up within us during experiences, automatically. 

And now Lori needs to honor her thoughts and feelings.  In writing them down, she realizes what she is feeling and thinking, and how upset she is.

Now Lori is ready to get back on her roadtrip.

But wait!

If.…….for the next 30 minutes to one hour, she said to herself, “That was terrible! I was almost killed!” how do you think I would be feeling?

What number would she rate her upset?

Most likely, she would stay up near an 8, and would maintain being angry.

Continuing to focus on negative thoughts keeps Lori upset.

If all the way to Lori’s destination, she kept saying to herself, “This is terrible! ” and the rest of her negative thoughts, she’s going to continue to stay upset and at a level 8.

At this point, Lori has a choice………Lori now says to herself,

“That was a bad experience, and I did not like it……BUT……..
“I am now safe.

My car is fine.
I am lucky that I didn’t have an accident.
The crazy driver is away from me now, and all is well.
The crazy driver did not even know me, so it wasn’t personal, and he probably was not out to get me.”

With these new thoughts, Lori is starting to calm down. She now rates her upset a 4. These new thoughts are  COPING THOUGHTS or BALANCING THOUGHTS, Lori uses them to help soothe herself, and help herself cope.

Once you understand that thoughts can affect our feelings, you can use this as a tool to our advantage.

How you can use this for yourself too:
This coming week and month, just start to notice when you’re off kilter, and maybe upset. Write it down on a piece of paper.

*What’s happening at the moment you’re upset?

Ask yourself,

*“What am I feeling?

*What level of upset am I at from 0-10?” (By the way, 10 is the highest level of upset.)

*“What am I thinking?”

Once you’ve done this, see if you can come up with some coping or balancing thoughts.

Start to focus on these coping thoughts.

Begin to notice how these new coping thoughts are affecting your feelings and level of upset.  Re-rate your upset 0-10.

Get a journal or spiral notebook, and start writing these thoughts and feelings down in it. No one has to see this but you. It’ll be interesting to see what is going on this coming month. Do any themes appear and reappear?

Here are some columns to write on the top of the journal page:

What             Rate Upset            Automatic            Coping                Re-Rate 0-10
Happened?         0-10                 Thoughts              Thoughts          New Feelings?

The start of figuring out what’s going on within you.

Start noticing what your regular feeling and thinking is on an ongoing basis. This will be the beginning of figuring out what’s going on within you. And by coming up with coping or balancing thoughts to focus your attention on, see if you can change things to become a bit lighter, brighter.

This is a method, and as such, we can use it to our advantage.

Play with it and see how it goes for you.