CONNECT WITH THE LARGER WHOLE
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, it's likely that you also feel alone and disconnected from the larger whole that you belong to. Some people think of this larger whole as God, for others it's Buddha nature, Higher Power, Allah, Spirit, Soul, the Universe, Nature, life itself, or something else. However you understand or relate to the larger whole, reminding yourself of it and taking refuge in it can be deeply resourcing and calming.
How you do this is up to you. Perhaps you meditate, reflect, contemplate or pray. Or maybe you take a walk in the woods or the park, or go surfing or golfing. You may also feel more connected when you spend time with friends, family or like-minded others. Perhaps just looking up at the sky reminds you. Experiment and see how you can "plug in" to the larger whole and remember that you are not alone; that a bigger container is holding you and all that's happening.
DAILY PRACTICE FOR BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT
When the outside world feels chaotic, it's important to have some aspect of your life that's consistent and simple. Developing a daily practice for mind, body and spirit can give you the continuity and structure that help calm your nervous system. This is powerful because it demonstrates and communicates that you have compassionate authority within yourself and that you take your commitments to yourself seriously. No matter what's happening, you can commit to yourself and your practice each day. It's ok if your practice is just five or ten minutes ~ what's most important is that you have consistency; that you do it daily.
The practice itself can be whatever feels right to you. It might be a period of meditation, contemplation, prayer, yoga, or journaling/writing. It might be a walk or a run. Whatever practice you choose, as you begin, take three breaths ~ one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit. Remind yourself that through daily practice, you are bringing your awareness and commitment to these dimensions of yourself and your experience.
ONE TRUE THING
In challenging times, the truth can become slippery. When that happens, it's natural to feel anxious and disoriented. When you feel this way, experiment with reconnecting with what is true in that moment. If you're in a place where you feel comfortable closing your eyes, that can be helpful. Take three deep breaths and name one true thing. Just see what comes to mind when you reflect on what is true in this moment. Try to stick with one thing; the truest thing. Whatever you identify, whatever comes to mind is right. Even if it feels minor or silly, it still counts. When you have identified your one true thing in this moment, try slowly repeating it to yourself several times, over and over. It might be something mundane, like: "My hands are cold." Or something joyful like, "I like raspberries." Or something more sobering, like: "I feel very afraid." By doing this, you are honoring the moment as it is, and you are reminding yourself that you always have access to the truth of your direct experience.
HOLD LIGHT IN ONE HAND, SHADOW IN THE OTHER
At times of overwhelm, it's easy to forget that there are elements of both light and shadow in every situation. Neuroscience has revealed that our brains have a survival-based negativity bias, which means that they are prone to being "velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive experiences," as Dr. Rick Hanson wrote in his book Buddha's Brain. This means that we need to consciously relate to ourselves in ways that correct for this negativity bias.
What does this look like? Fred Rogers once said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" In a way, Mr. Rogers' mother was encouraging him to hold the scary thing in one hand and the helpers in the other hand; the shadow and the light.
We can do this, too. It's not a way to block out the scary/negative thing and pretend that it isn't frightening or troubling, rather it is a way to come into right relationship with it; to correct for the negativity bias. I find that actually using your hands to visualize the light and shadow is helpful. If you are feeling afraid or troubled by a challenging situation, try extending both hands in front of you, palms up. You can rest them on your lap, if that's comfortable.
Take a few deep breaths. Look at one hand, and consider whatever is troubling or scary. You might have the sense of feeling the weight of it in some way. Now, look to the other hand, and let that hand hold whatever is not scary or challenging in this moment; whatever feels nourishing or encouraging. This might be something that you observe in your immediate environment, such as sunlight filtering through a treetop. Or, it might be more like what Mr. Rogers' mother spoke about: the helpers, folks who are offering their energy and attention to being of service to others. Notice how you feel as you hold both aspects of this experience at the same time, letting it register that both are true.