Do you ever feel at the mercy of the stress-filled myriad of thoughts rushing through your mind?

There’s so much stuff rambling around your brain it tires you out! You can’t seem to find an off-switch – but desperately wish you could…

You’d love to feel more peaceful, more positive and more present in your life, so you can enjoy simple pleasures and time with family and friends without that constant feeling of fretting and foreboding which all too easily overshadows your daily life.

Yes? Well, all these things I’ve mentioned above have been my experience too – you’re not alone! The vast majority of my yoga & meditation students come to me because they want to quieten their busy minds.

And if, like me, you’re highly sensitive, then you feel it all more intensely and your inner landscape can often feel unsafe and overwhelming.

Brain overwhelm, and unsettled emotions are experienced by all of us – it comes with this fast-paced, stimulus-drenched, busy world we live in.

Now, the peace-bringing steps I am about to share will empower you to feel more peaceful whether you’re highly sensitive or not – we all need some head space!

Some of us are just more sensitive

But first, a few more words about the trait of high sensitivity – you might be highly sensitive yourself, but if not, you WILL know someone who is because 15-20% of the population have this trait (whether they realize it or not).

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) have a nervous system which is more finely tuned to their surroundings and stimuli.

Amongst other aspects of this trait, you’re more attuned to your environment, you process your experiences more deeply and you pick up on other people’s moods.

In the context of your thoughts and emotions – you think about things deeply and you experience your emotions more vividly.

This is a wonderful gift as HSPs tend to be more empathetic, more intuitive, more aware, more soulful, deeper thinkers.  We are creative. We think and process deeply which means our ideas and solutions come from a place of awareness not reaction. Which is what our society sorely needs.

But… this also means that you might have a tendency to ruminate and fret because your brain is processing more data than non-HSPs; and to feel overwhelmed by the strength of the emotions you’re feeling – which is over-stimulating the stress-response of your nervous system.

{I share this from personal experience by the way, with zero judgment!}

So, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed (whether you’re highly sensitive or not), I’d like to share four simple steps to help you to press pause and get a handle on the thoughts and emotions which are troubling you or overwhelming you.

You are ABLE to find peace

Peaceful sunset: release stress and feel more peaceI want to empower you to realize you are ABLE to tame your mind and feel more emotionally balanced.

The clue is in “ABLE”.

  1. Accept
  2. Breathe
  3. Let it be
  4. Enquire

Let’s take each step in turn.

A – Accept: accept the feeling or thought

This might sound counter-intuitive. Accept feeling angry or fearful or anxious or scared or frustrated? But surely, I want these feelings to go away you might ask?

Therein lies a problem!

So often we create more tension within ourselves by trying to push away strong feelings, painful emotions or troublesome thoughts.

We add salt to the wound by telling ourselves we shouldn’t feel this way; we berate ourselves; we resist and struggle and add even more power to the emotional reactions.

In Buddhism this is described as the Two Arrows. The first arrow which hits us is the pain of the thought or emotion. Then we hit ourselves with a second – even more painful – arrow (and third, fourth and fifth) with our reaction of struggle, resistance and the dramatic stories we create in our minds.

Or, we push the feelings away or bottle up the emotions because we don’t want to feel the grief or self-doubt or fear.

Ouch! That’s a lot more emotional pain we’re creating within ourselves.

For example, the same old record might play something like this: “Oh, she criticised my work. Why? What does she know? She’s such a know-it-all. Doesn’t she realize how much work I put into that? Stupid cow!  I don’t know why I bother. I won’t put so much work into it next time. Hmmm, perhaps it wasn’t good enough in the first place. Oh, nothing I do seems good enough – here and at home. Everything I do seems to fail. I’ve got too much going on. I’m just no good. Oh god, I always get stuck in this self-doubt. Always! I wish I didn’t feel this way. Why do I feel this way thought? What’s wrong with me?!”


What would it feel like to change the record to this one instead? “Oh, she criticised my work. Stupid cow! … Oh OK, so I’m feeling angry and humiliated and doubtful” and then …

B – Breathe

So simple but so powerful.

When you’re feeling anxious, stressed or depressed or overwhelmed, your breathing will probably have become shallow and tight and quicker.

Focus on the out-breath. Release some of the tension.

Let the inhale enter of its own accord (it will!). Breathe out slowly through your mouth and breathe in through your nose.

You’re directly manipulating your nervous system here: when you exhale deeply and smoothly it sends a strong message back to your brain that you’re safe and you’ve got the situation under control. That’s why in my yoga classes I so often invite participants to focus on a soothing exhale.

Likely this well begin to diffuse the strong emotional reaction, so you can …

L – Let it be: Can you just let the feelings be?

Can you sit with the anger or doubt or grief?

Stop pushing them away.

Release the struggle.

I love these wise words from Mindfulness teacher Jack Kornfield:

Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting.

When we let go of the struggle; when we stop resisting how we’re feeling or we stop trying to get the mind to shut up, then waves of release can begin to wash through us.

In giving up the struggle, we let go on so many different levels.

The fists unclench, the jaw softens, the our eyes relax … and the tightness in the head releases.

A fresh perspective can arise of its own accord.

Try it.

Practise surrendering to your busy mind. Give in to the fear and tension.

Let it be … and in doing so, you’ll often find you diffuse the power of the grip of the stressful thoughts and feelings and you spontaneously feel more spacious and free.

And then you’re in a better head space to …

E – Enquire: What’s the message for me here?

This is an important one – and definitely runs counter to the culture of positive thinking which has a dangerous tendency to encourage us to bypass strong “negative” emotions in favour of “positive” emotions.

It’s a recognition that our emotions are messengers. That anger and fear and doubt and shame are with us for a reason: to help us to learn.

It’s a sense of “opening the guest house” of your inner being to whatever guests show up – welcoming them in for tea and conversation so you can learn what they have to share.

There are two parts to this enquiry – ask yourself:

  • Where can I feel this emotion in my body? Is the fear showing up as butterflies in the stomach; is the frustration a tight jaw and clenched fists or example? Learn where the emotions show up. Breathe into them.
  • Why am I feeling this way? Is it a sign I need to change something in my life or something about this situation? Or do I need to accept the situation because it can’t be changed?  Or is it a sign to shift perspective – to learn to take responsibility for how I feel? To understand that while other people can trigger my feelings of low self-esteem or anger, the emotions are mine and mine alone to accept, enquire about and let go of? Or is it a habit – a button that’s been pressed – and I’ve just spiralled off into a learned way of reacting?

In my personal experience I have found that when I enquire into the messages behind the strong feelings and emotions I will often find patterns of behaviour which have more to-do with habitual reactions learned over the years than the what’s going on in this moment!

So, with these four steps you can reduce your  emotional reactivity and learn to find more peace within yourself.

In accepting, breathing, letting it be and enquiring what’s really going on, you re-train your brain and balance the nervous system (which is particularly important if you’re highly sensitive).

The mind becomes quieter. You’ll let go of the emotional stress. You can shift your perspective. You’ll become the witness of your inner landscape of thoughts and feelings and gradually become less at their mercy.

And remember, you are ABLE to to reduce stress and find peace within yourself using these four simple steps.

4 steps to less stress and more peace
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