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  • Sara Johnson

A List for When Everything is Too Much

First, breathe.

When everything is too much, breathe.

I like to inhale through my nose for three seconds, hold, and then exhale - with a noisy out breath - through my mouth.

The more sound on the exhale the better.

Sometimes, I'll do this with one hand on my stomach and one hand on my heart. That feels good.



Repeat as many times as feels good.

When everything is still too much:

  1. Take a walk around the block. Check in with your senses. What do you smell on the breeze? How does the air feel on your skin? What colors do you see from sidewalk to sky? What do the textures around you feel like (bark on a tree, the tickle of tall grass as you run your fingers over it, that leaf on the branch just ahead)?

  2. Reduce negative self talk. Now is a time for self compassion. What is one nice and encouraging thing you can say to yourself, and really mean it?

  3. What's longing to be released? Tears? Laughter? Screams? Art? Poetry? Music? Dancing? Pressure? Release it.

  4. How can you care for yourself more tenderly? Do you need a hug, a hand, help, yummy take out, a visit from your friend and their dog, a love note? Listen for what you need and invite yourself to receive these things with openness.

  5. Roll out a yoga mat or blanket on the floor. Slowly bring your body down to the mat/blanket, rolling your body backwards from feet to head, until you are on your back. Stretch your limbs. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Then wrap your arms around yourself as if you are giving yourself a hug. Whisper to yourself, "I am safe." Whisper whatever else you need to say to yourself right now. Stay on the mat/blanket as long as you need.

  6. Invite in more of what energizes you and less of what depletes you. If you are unsure of what these things are, check in with your body after spending time with certain people or on certain activities. Scan from head to toes and look for clues from your body about if your metaphorical cup feels more full or more empty after this particular interaction or activity.

  7. How would you spend 24-hours if you had the freedom to spend it however you wanted? What would a day totally committed to yourself and feeling good look like? Give yourself permission and have that day in full or in parts. Try embracing imperfection and let this time flow. If it doesn't go perfectly: that is OK! Everything is practice.

  8. Start and end your day off your (little) screen. What are morning and evening rituals that can support you right now?

  9. Take out a piece of paper and write down ten things that help you when things are too much. Can you do one of these things today? Can you do one of these things tomorrow?

I offer this list with sincere love and care. I feel in my bones that things are too much right now. Humans were not meant to hold this much fear, grief, and stress. What we are living through is not "normal."

My list is a reminder to all of us - and myself - to be more honest, daily, about how we are. To lovingly encourage each of us to check-in about what is needed moment-to-moment in order to be okay in the present. Even as everything around us crackles with intensity and uncertainty grows, what's here now? What's needed now?

When we go through our days "as if" what we are living through is normal - clocking in and out "as if" this is another regular day - we do a great disservice to ourselves, our bodies, and our individual + collective well-being.

What if we had permission to to say: this is NOT normal? This is not okay? And, somedays, I am NOT okay? How would that feel? What if we could check in with ourselves and each other, and really meant it when we asked, "How are you?"

What if by tending to how we really are, we made space for what could be?

What if what could be was created through a single ritual, intention, pause, and moment of care at a time?

What if our lists of love and care matter?

What if our desires for things to be better for the collective, for everyone, matter?

What if?

What if?

What if?

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