Here we are at the end of the year. Instead of feeling like things are winding down, I’m feeling the pressure of having a lot of things suddenly on my plate. End of year meetings, gift shopping, travel planning, 2020 business planning, personal things (there are always personal things)… it makes me feel very closed in. Tight.
A few years ago I picked up a beautiful practice from Dr. Rick Hanson in a course I was taking. Use the following steps to help manage feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Let Be. Let Go. Let In.
Step 1: Let Be
When you find yourself starting to feel any kind overwhelming emotion (stress, anger, fear, etc.), rather than push against it or attempt to shove it to the background try to find a few moments to take it all in.
Notice how these feelings land in your body. Are they located somewhere specific? Do they have a color, a texture, or even a sound associated with them? What’s it like to let your feelings be as they are without being interfered with?
I know this is counterintuitive, but neuroscience research is showing that when we stop trying to hyper-manage our emotions, their intensity tends to diminish. They lose their bite and just become part of the endless stream of all kinds of feelings that are always coming and going within us.
Buddhists use a lot of ocean metaphors to illustrate this phenomenon.
Imagine that the totality of your experience is like a vast ocean and that these present moment feelings are just single raindrops. The sea is undisturbed by single raindrops.
We can host a wide bandwidth of feelings if we embody the qualities of the ocean.
Step 2: Let Go
Once you’ve diffused the intensity of the feelings by letting them be, see if you can let go of any physical tension in the body that may also be present.
Try to soften around the feelings. Or imagine that you’re giving them a bit more space. Take a few deep breaths, and on the exhalation imagine that any incorrect or unhelpful beliefs about the feelings are leaving your body and being absorbed into the ocean.