PAUSE is a powerful tool to take down emotional triggers and overwhelm, however big or small
We can’t avoid conflict, whether in our homes, offices or the bigger world picture. But we can shift how we show up for it no matter the size. We can turn down the dial on overwhelm.
Life has undoubtedly been brutal lately with the news of school shootings and the loss of children in the most unimaginable of ways. One night, my heart was overflowing with gratitude as I celebrated and basked in my son’s final varsity basketball game and ‘senior night’ — while the next morning I was heart-broken and gutted, witnessing the events of Parkland, Florida, trying to make sense of it all. Emotions bubbled up within me as I sat before the TV watching the news: anguish, rage, frustration, vulnerability. The parents of these children wouldn’t be having ‘senior night’ celebrations. They wouldn’t be planning graduation parties — they wouldn’t be having anything with their children ever again…and I didn’t know what to do with that emotional smorgasbord that began to bubble up and feel overwhelming.
This won’t be a political rant about where I stand with party lines, what I think about gun control or Big Pharma. My opinion on that doesn’t actually matter here. Though I’m not putting on my rose-colored glasses and bypassing these enormously important issues, I want to reel it all back in a bit and go at this from a different angle — to assuage our collective heartache. This is a human issue, and whether we agree or not about how we can respond to this, we can start with ourselves. I want to speak to that.
One of my readers reminded me of our greatest power for healing: the PAUSE. Most of us can’t help but slip into reactive mode when life unfolds around us — we are living, breathing, pulsating, feeling beings. We want to do something. This is how we are hardwired. I’m not insinuating that we feel less. I’m actually realizing that in pausing, collecting our thoughts, refraining from knee-jerk reactions — we can actually feel deeper into solutions for ourselves and others — in big ways and small, in our personal relationships and beyond. What does that mean?
You probably have a video reel of life memories that play out in your head too. Do you ever find yourself looking back over some life events and thinking, Oh God, if only I could have done that differently. If only I had turned right instead of left — said this, instead of that. ‘If onlys’ can pull us down a useless rabbit hole of regret.
And then, in sashays triggering forces and good ol’ overwhelm to knock you right off your core.
Overwhelm is like a parasite to a host.
And yep, you guessed it. When we don’t deal with emotional triggers, we continue to be triggered.
We often spend more time repackaging our emotions and experiences than we do experiencing and processing them. Life is not a Facebook post. Sometimes we just need to sit with it all.
When I look back upon the canvas of my life story, most of my regrets come from feeling like I was compelled to react to something immediately — not allowing myself the breath of space to FEEL into it to actually experience it, and never realizing that that was even an option to begin with. Let’s face it, many of us were never taught that tool. In fact, I don’t ever recall being asked how I was feeling about something throughout my entire childhood. For most of my life, I was motivated by doing, not feeling.
This pattern has led me to literally re-learning how to breathe. I know. The first time someone told me I needed to learn how to breathe, I rolled my eyes and thought it was some woo-woo mumbo jumbo. But here I am, practicing what I preach…and learning to breathe in a way I never have before (DEEP audible breathing, not the dainty little survival stuff I had been doing all of my life). It’s a part of my new PAUSE strategy. There are also lots of other benefits like decreased personal drama and a happier nervous system (just sayin’).
Look, sometimes there is literally no time to think and we simply need to take action. But for the most part, when life presents us moments that take our breath away, we can pause and take our breath back.
Pausing simply connects us to all that is true to us, to our senses and to our deepest resonant voice.
It is actually where perspective emerges, but it needs to be nurtured. It helps us figure out how we really feel, how we want to respond. Its voice, however, cannot be heard through the chaos of our inner and outer worlds that we often hide behind.
So how do we reconnect with it?
We pause. We ask God, the Universe, our deepest soul — What am I meant to see here? What am I being called to do? Is this my true self or the voice of another…or the voice of ‘shoulds’?
We create the space to settle down — and we give ourselves permission to claim our voices. We speak up for ourselves…but first we feel it.
Of late, I’ve recognized that I bypass my feelings quite often in the name of being a problem solver in business, a good parent or reliable friend. While I want to be all of those things to all of those people, I need to show up for me first. Something’s got to give because that’s a recipe for eventual disaster and you guessed it, overwhelm. As they say, if momma’s not happy, no one is. And let me tell you, when seemingly insignificant things get shoved to the side in the name of ‘I can handle it’, they bubble to the surface in not-so-pretty ways. Feelings work that way. They are our emergency alarms not to be ignored.
I had my feelings hurt recently and it took me finally blowing my lid to realize that I simply don’t create the space for myself to declare what’s really going on — to walk the walk and talk the talk. I want to present myself in one light, thinking I’m taking the ‘high road’, sucking it up, being the better person, etc. You get it.
But what’s the high road when you are not being authentic? You’re actually taking the low road for yourself.
While you don’t have to make public declarations about your emotions or wounds, you need to acknowledge them to yourself.
When we feel triggered, the best service we can provide to ourselves and those around us is to pause. Go for a walk, breathe, meditate, sit quietly, have a matcha latte — whatever feels right to you, right there in the heart of the moment. Not everything is in our control to fix. In fact, it can be an indicator to walk away — from the news, an unfulfilling job or a one-way-street relationship. Not all pain can be washed away, but it holds something valuable for us. It’s gift is a recalibration by our internal GPS. It’s a message to change course, seeing things differently, grabbing your attention to attend to what has been left unattended.
Nothing would make my people-pleasing-self more ecstatic than to be able to solve the problems of the world, but it has to start with my world. Identifying where we keep a lid on things is a great place to start. Hiding things is a fulltime job — and it’s time to resign from that one.
Overwhelm isn’t a dirty word. It’s a REAL word. It’s a real feeling when we see the world in chaos or an unhealed childhood wound reveals itself. It is our spiritual nudge to get real about our experiences and our truth. And when we trace that breadcrumb trail, we develop the tools to avoid destructive overwhelm, enabling us to show up for others in a more impactful way.
So take a breath, a deep, belly-extending, audible one — pause, repeat. Can you give yourself a few minutes a day to do that? I think so, and your best self is nodding in agreement.
As always, I love hearing from YOU, my wise tribe. Where does overwhelm find you and how do you handle it? Let me know in the comments below. Tips and strategies for taming this beast are always welcome.