Tag Archives: overwhelm

12+ Ways to Calm Down (when upset, overwhelmed and stressed out)

Sometimes it all seems like too much. Whether this happens to you once in a while or almost every day at some point, it can be very helpful to have some tried and true ways to calm yourself down. Here are a few, including a very  secret (until now!) one that I use.


1.     Take 10 slow, deep breaths. Allow those breaths to reach all the way down into your gut (diaphragm) area. Put your hand right there –that place that if someone were to punch you they’d knock the wind out of you— and feel your hand rise with every inhale, and fall with every exhale. Do that for 10 breaths.

2.     Invite your thoughts to hitch a ride on your breathing, as if your breathing were a wave, or a train, or a car, or an [insert your favorite thing that moves that you can hitch a ride on]. Give your thoughts a place to rest, a place to put their feet up, and enjoy the ride.

3.     Notice your thoughts AS thoughts rather than hooking into or engaging their content and story and following them unconsciously down that same old same old rabbit hole again. That worry about ___? Hello, Thought. That urgent push to do something about ___ right this very second now? And hello to you, too, Thought. That regret about how you didn’t ____? Ah, there there, dear Thought. That looming and quickly approaching deadline for ___? I see you, Thought. If ___ really is something you need to address, it (and you!) will be much better off for you having calmed yourself down.

4.     Don’t take your thoughts personally. Did you make that thought cross your mind? No. Neither can you make that thought disappear. Thoughts come, thoughts go. Don’t take them personally. Notice them as thoughts. Let them come and let them go. If you have trouble not taking them personally, imagine your thoughts running around in a big field somewhere. My thoughts, when I do this, look like wild horses. They can run around but I don’t have to run around in the field with them. I like to sit on that bench there under the big tree while they do their thing, thankyouverymuch.

5.    When there is a thought or a family of thoughts that has got you by the throat and is not letting you sleep or breathe or enjoy your otherwise good life, dammit!, write the stressful thought down on paper and practice meeting it with inquiry and understanding. “My boss is a jerk.” “My child should get off her iPad.” “He doesn’t understand me.” “My children should call me.” “It’s too late.” “If I don’t have a child, my life has no purpose.” What’s your stressful thought? Write it down. (My favorite way to practice inquiry on stressful thoughts is called The Work of Byron Katie. Google it!)

6.     Close your eyes, breathe and take a moment to notice where in your body you sense or feel the upset. Is it heavy in your chest? Is it a lump in your gut? Is it thick in your throat? Is it fuzzy behind your eyes? Is it a pressure in your temples? Put your hand there and say, in your own way, I see you there, I see you. And breathe.

7.     Feel the support of the ground under you. During overwhelm and upset it can feel like our mind is a kite on a flimsy thread in a windstorm. Rather than being that precarious kite, turn your awareness toward the ground under the feet of the person holding the kite. Stand or sit tall and strong like a mountain and breathe into that ground. The ground never went away, you just forgot it was there. Let the ground support you.

8.     Notice the pull of gravity. As long as we live upon and call this dear planet Earth our home, we get to enjoy the force of gravity that keeps us from floating up up and away. The force of gravity is such a part of our reality, we GET to take it for granted. Take a moment to appreciate that there is always this force pulling you back to earth, back to home, back to ground, back to body. The pull of gravity toward ground is with you whether you notice it or not (whew!) — calm comes in noticing it.

9.     Practice being sensual. Turn your awareness toward your physical body. Take a moment to touch, to swallow, to yawn, to smell, to taste, to hear…and notice. Our senses are something else we get to take for granted. Take a moment to notice the world through your body’s senses and allow your thoughts to come and rest in your body.

10.     Let your body work up a sweat doing something physical. Allow the muscle of your heart to pump up its volume while you work it for 20 minutes. Maybe you’ll dork dance in the kitchen, maybe you’ll walk around the block several times, maybe you’ll run, maybe you’ll bike to the store instead of driving, maybe you’ll put on your favorite music and jump up and down… Work up a sweat, shake up the thoughts and let the ones that no longer serve (if ever they did) float away. Thought? What thought?!

11.  Practice the art of not being impressed by your thoughts. Sometimes a very juicy thought comes along, a thought that is really hard not to lasso in and call your very own. Practice the art of noticing and not being impressed by your thoughts, no matter how juicy or enticing. That thought about that same old thing that always bothers you? Hello there. No biggie.

12.  Bring to mind the calmest and most loving person, place or thing you know. Allow yourself, in your mind’s eye, to sit in this person’s, place’s, or thing’s presence with your upset. What are the qualities of this calm person, place or thing? Go there, be there, rest there. How are they (how is it) with your upset? By imagining it, you are practicing it.

I’m about to tell you something very secret: there is an old-timey village in the mountains that I sometimes go to in my mind’s eye when I’m very upset and it all feels too much. In this village there is a group of wise old women — their laps are wide, they have chin hairs and don’t care, their eyes are fierce and ever so kind at once, and they have all the patience and wisdom (from eons of experience) in the world. They are never in a hurry. Sometimes they do a drumming and dancing ritual around me, sometimes they go off and concoct or cook me a magical brothy thing or potion for what ails me, sometimes they chant sounds in an ancient language to put me to sleep, and sometimes they hold me while I cry. They see me; they honor me; and they are never, ever upset by my upset.

13.    Practice the tenderest kindness imaginable toward yourself today and give that kindness a physical expression. Maybe you’ll put your hand on your heart or reach your arms around you and squeeze the remarkable being that is you. Notice you. Even and especially when you are at your most upset, anxious and stressed, take a moment to notice how you are showing up and doing the best you can. Hooray! I, for one, am so happy there are people like YOU in the world.

Essential Oils 1-Oh!-1

Coming to a telephone near you on Wednesday, February 15:

Essential Oils 1-OH!-1
a teleclass taught by moi, Heidi Fischbach, wearing my
scent artist & mood detective scarf

Click on ze bottle to sign yourself up!

Are you intrigued about essential oils? Do you need a little shot
of confidence in order to start playing & experimenting with them?

This class is for you!

See you in class, I hope! (And if you want to take the class but can’t make the time, fret not: there will be a recording! Also, pssst, the cost for the recording and class material will be going up after February 15).

Have a question about essential oils? Share it in the comments below!



P.S. Sign up here!

Mood detective, heal thyself!

I like to ask my clients how they’d love to feel when they leave their session. In addition to helping us set an intention wave a magic wand, their answer gives me a sense of how they are doing, what they are struggling with, even if we never ever discuss the specifics of their life, which mostly we don’t. (After all, I am not a psychotherapist).

Sometimes they say: “I want to feel calm like you.”

The first time I heard this I’m quite sure I laughed. I thought: “If you only knew!”

These days I don’t laugh. First off, they are serious. Second, it’s not about me. I know this because I too have people that are to me just what I am to my clients and it is a gift for me to recognize calm when I see it. Calm (or any quality) is in the eye of the beholder. For sure. Third, if I look honestly I see that I am calm and present for my clients. It is, after all, no mistake that I do what I do. Learning calm is probably my biggest life learning.

The last few days have been hard for me. I have not felt calm. At all.

If you read my blog, you probably know that I’m a big fan of “channeling” people.

“Channeling?” you might ask, thinking it’s some special or weird quirky thing I can do.

I can assure you, anyone can do this. (Although for sure, I’m quirky).

What I do is keep a mental list of people I admire for certain qualities. During hard times, or even just when I’ve exhausted options of how to deal with something, I bring them to mind. Some of these people, like, oh, Clint Eastwood to name just one, are on My Inner Council, and that simply means that when things get reeeeally hard, I call an inner meeting to which only the smartest, kindest, and yes, sometimes bad-assest, people are invited and we have us a pow-wow.

A pow-wow?

Yep. Although we’ve never passed around a pipe and now I’m wondering why the heck not… But pretty much My Inner Council pow-wows consist of me saying straight up how it is and them listening and every so often asking me the best, get-to-the-heart-of-the-matter question ever, during all of which I am pretty much writing everything down. Because, hello! If the Dalai Lama says something to me, you bet your ass I’m writing it down.


Sometimes I have dialogs with these people I channel. Of course, most of them I’ve never actually met. But, no matter. In fact, even better. Because what these people really help me do is see myself and what’s around me, in a new way. They help me recognize and develop existent, yet dormant, qualities within myself. Takes one to know one, and all that.

(And if I ever do meet Cesar Milan, Clint Eastwood, Mary Oliver, the Dalai Lama, Isadora Duncan, Johnny Depp, Hiro Boga, J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, or Leonard Cohen, maybe I will thank them. Probably, I will just be dumb-founded. Or drooling.)

This morning, in a moment that “Losing It” was made for, I began to write, wondering whom to channel. And just like that I knew: I need to channel me. Specifically, how I am with my clients:

Sense of humor.


Me: Hi, Heidi. Come in, come in… How are you doing today?

Heidi: [about to burst into tears] Oh, there’s so much. It’s too much. I look at so-and-so and so-and-so and how well they’re doing, and how together their life is and how happy they are… and when things feel like today, my life just looks shitty… There must be something wrong with me.

Me: [nodding] There’s so much happening right now and it’s all seeming like too much–

Heidi: Mostly, it feels way too crowded.

Me: Crowded?

Heidi: My thinking! It’s crowded! Exclamation points! Flashing billboards on the highway kind of crowded in my head. It’s driving me crazy.

Me: Oh yes, I understand. Sounds overwhelming. Tell me… how would you love to feel when you leave your session today? What quality, feeling or state of mind do you need?

Heidi: I’d like a sense that no matter what is going on, no matter what is coming at me, no matter what, I am OK.

Me: Ahh yes, that is a very wise thing to want. Rather than wanting your circumstances to change, you want to feel that you are OK no matter what.

Heidi: Yes. Whether or not the relationship works out, I am OK. Whether or not my loved ones are healthy, I am OK. Whether or not I get all the clients I need this month before the holidays, I am OK. Whether or not I get all the Aardvark Essentials new things I want to put up on my website up or not, I am OK. Whether or not someone I love ever wants to see me again, I am OK. Whether or not I make my rent, I am OK.

Me: Ah yes.

Heidi: You know what that would be like?

Me: Tell me–

Heidi: That would be like the highways in Vermont, where they don’t have any advertisements or billboards or flashy lights, only directional signs indicating what the exit number is, or the town name, or how many miles to the next rest stop…

Me: Ahh yes. So, things right now feel more like the highway in New York or New Jersey, rather than Vermont?

Heidi: Exactly so.

Me: I wonder if you could tell me how you would know you are OK… I mean, OK could come knocking on your door and how would you know that’s who it is… In other words: how would it feel in your body? How would it be in your mind? In your heart?

Heidi: Well, take I-91 in Vermont. My eyes are free to move about slowly or quickly but without getting assaulted or interrupted by lights and noise and information, which is what it feels like inside of me when I’m overwhelmed… it’s like my attention keeps getting assaulted.

Me: Oof! That is hard.

Heidi: It makes everything be on edge.

Me: I can see that. Tell me more about how would you know that you are OK no matter what?

Heidi: [takes big, gentle breath and slows down to ponder… already there is an observable change]… I would walk confidently, knowing the ground holds me. [laughs] I’m not too heavy for the ground. And I would allow gravity to help me move as I need to.

Me: What do you mean?

Heidi: Well, I’d let gravity bring my shoulders down so they’re not hunched up to my ears. Also, my breathing would be longer and calmer. My heart would feel open and soft. I might cry and that’d be OK. Lately I’ve been too stoppered up and uptight and scared and feeling hard and protected to even cry.

Me: Hmmmm… Heidi, I can see that you know exactly how to feel OK no matter what. Even as you were telling me these things I saw them happen.

Heidi: But why do I feel overwhelmed so often?! There must be something wrong with me.

Me: Sweetpea, I want to tell you a secret that’s not really a secret. Most people feel overwhelmed sometimes. And a good many people feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. They might mask it, but they do. And overwhelm can feed on itself and then that makes it stronger… People do things to keep their overwhelm at bay but those things are temporary distractions, at best. Keeping something at bay doesn’t really make it go away. What do you think all that endless checking and texting and refreshing of screens is all about? Most folks don’t even sit down to sip on a hot cup of something without reading or refreshing some screen or another… Do you really think they are enjoying those things when they do them like that? Just look around, love… start noticing… we aren’t bad for doing those things, but I’m telling you this to invite you to notice, and hopefully feel less unique about the overwhelm…

Heidi: [quiet]

Me: I can tell you really care about taking care of yourself and living with an open heart, Heidi. Could I invite you to consider something?

Heidi: Yes–

Me: When you are feeling overwhelmed, like everything is crowded and noisy and too much… is believing “There is something wrong with me” a kind and helpful thing to think?

Heidi: Not really. It actually makes me spin faster, and then, in addition to feeling the crowdedness in my head, I then start trying to figure out how to fix myself, all because I’m panicked that there’s something wrong.

Me: Exactly.

Heidi: But I can’t help it. I just think it. All of a sudden, there is that thought: There’s something wrong with me.

Me: Right. You don’t make the thought happen. It’s not your fault. It’s actually not anyone’s fault. But you can notice it. And once you notice, amazing things can happen.

Heidi: Amazing things? Like feeling calm?

Me: Possibly. We think we have to change things. To fix them. To make them better. But simply noticing and paying attention is the #1 ingredient of kind, non-violent change. And kind, non-violent change is the kind of change that sticks. Change that’s been forced, always tends to backfire.

Heidi: OK, so I notice the thought, and then what?

Me: Well, you could then do many things. One of my favorite is to say hello.

Heidi: Come again?

Me: “Hello there Thought that there is something wrong with me. Funny you should come by today. Things are rather busy, in case you couldn’t tell. Feel free to sit and make yourself comfy in that chair over there, or you can even hang out with me, but you should know that I can’t entertain you. I have a life I’m dying to live and also, I’m learning to stay calm.”

Heidi: Hunh! That’s interesting. So you aren’t trying to kick the thought out?

Me: Nah. Never works. It’ll come back to bite you in the ass, and probably at some ungodly hour when you’re trying to sleep. But you can say hello. You can laugh with it. And you can treat it kindly. Or you can drop it off at your friend’s house for them to keep an eye on while you do your stuff… But, once you notice the thought, you are onto it, baby, and you don’t have to believe it. So, Heidi, how’d it be if the thought “there’s something wrong with me” popped up but you were totally onto it?

Heidi: Hmm…. I think I’d be able to notice my panic and the crowded billboards in my mind more calmly. Hmm… I’d notice panic calmly. Hunh! Is that even possible?

Me: You just saw it in your mind’s eye, didn’t you?

Heidi: Hmmm… Kind of like the medical people and EMTs who come to the scene of an accident… How unhelpful would it be if they arrived and were all: “Oh noes! You’ve broken your arm! Oh noes. What the hell is wrong with you!”

Me: Exactly.

Heidi: Ahhhhh… Thanks, Heidi. I want to be calm like you.

Me: You’re on your way, Sweetpea, you’re on your way. Now, how about that massage?

Heidi: Oh yes. My favorite!

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