When my head is swimming so I can’t even read

Blog, Mindfulness

I love to read, I love to learn with books and text and blogs…but there are times when even reading feels like it takes too long. When overwhelm creeeps in at the edges of my vision and the weight of the world on my back is pushing me to skim, rush and eventually give up in frustration.

THIS IS PITTA push. More on that later.

So, when overwhelm and even reading drives me nuts and I can’t remember or haven’t yet incorporated my pitta balancing, what do I do? I’ll be completely bare boned honest here and tell you that sometimes I get mad, sometimes I push on and end up with eye strain and a headache, and sometimes I throw my hands in the air and go and grab a glass of wine. Yeah, Ayurveda practitioners are human too.

However, I am learning. The BIGGEST lessons to come out of my past 5 years Ayurveda study plus previous Naturopathy studies are these:

  1. Pay attention to yourself. Notice body, mind, emotions and take a breath. Take 5 delicious seconds to scan and realise the dominant factor here, then balance.
  2. No matter how many times you screw up again, forgive self, others, the world, nature and repeat #1.

This is totally unsatisfactory to someone suffering anxiety, pushing to complete deadlines and get in control of what seems like an out of control life. I KNOW, right!? “That’s all easy for you to say, you’re some kind of learned guru hippy health nut!”

Really though, a minuscule pause is all we need:

  • 5 seconds allows you to two deep breaths which oxygenate your blood and brain for energy and clarity, and move you out of flight/fight to rest/restore central nervous system responses.
  • 5 seconds allows you to realise you have been withholding from going to the loo – repressing those urges is unhealthy, you need to ‘let go’ or you’ll end up full of it, quite literally.
  • 5 seconds is long enough to connect to your body, realise you are thirsty and that you would rather a clarifying herbal tea than that coffee which gave you a headache yesterday.
  • 5 seconds is long enough to remember that the glass of wine yesterday made you feel guilty, or it broke your intention of no alcohol this week.
  • And importantly for curbing pitta push, 5 seconds is just long enough, when it feels like the wheels are spinning and about to fall off, when you’ve dropped the ball and don’t know where it is, when you are neck-deep in overwhelm, to scan your TO DO list and find just one thing that you CAN DO now so you can scratch it off that darned list and move forward with some success in your life.

So now that you’ve slowed down a little, that information on pitta:

What is pitta?

Pitta is one of three categories used in Ayurveda to analyse and understand everything from the weather, daily rhythms to your body type and the nature of disease. Pitta dosha (category) is ruled by fire and water. It rules the processes of intelligence and metabolism in the body – mental, dietary and cellular. Pitta is the ruler of understanding and vision, but also ambition and drive. When imbalanced, pitta can manifest in irritation, inflammation, heartburn, red rashes, difficult periods, baldness, bleeding gums, cracked lips. It is the dragon responsible for bursts of anger which can turn relationships and bridges into smoldering piles of charcoal. Meanwhile, that imbalanced pitta drives you. When all else is exhausted, it pushes you, keeps you working until you BURN OUT. Sound familiar?


To balance pitta we need cooling and sweetening. In foods, think cucumber, leafy greens and bitter greens. These foods talk to the blood and liver to cool them down. In hot weather, try some coriander water to cool the body and keep blood pressure in check. For more pitta settling tools, go here.

Apart from food, the emotion or mental element is joy. Joy is sweet and cool. It must be actively searched out. Joy is in a gratitude diary, in enjoying the smile of a stranger (yes, you must make eye contact to enjoy that) and in noticing a really nice tree out the window during your train commute. Joy may be in allowing yourself time for a settling Shirodhara. For me, today, joy is in the big blue sky which has appeared after storms and the gorgeous blues of the ocean under that sky with wildflowers beginning to bud. (Aren’t I lucky!?) Joy is in the delicious permission I have given myself during a period of overwhelm and cray-cray to write this post and hopefully help you. Joy is in remembering to take 5 seconds to breathe.

Space antidotes Overwhelm

Breathing works so well because it does three things:

  • Moves us out of the mind and into the body
  • Feeds our brain and body Oxygen
  • Creates some space within

Air is also known as the element of space – quite the opposite of overwhelm which really does push in from all directions. The expansiveness of space and air is the same thing that powers creativity. So, even if you haven’t dealt with all the piles on your workspace, I suggest taking another few moments to clear some clutter. (Just a moment though, this is not an invitation to procrastinate!) Put something away, or move a pile of papers out of the way until you can get to them. Create space to breathe and create solutions.

After my 5 seconds, I have created something which I hope is helpful, I have enjoyed the memory of my morning walk, I have improved my breathing and achieved two things on my to do list. I am off to get on with the rest of my busy, but now much healthier and more enjoyable day.

Here’s wishing you many small and great joys.

Breathing Exercises

Woman Practising Breathing Exercises