-- “It’s not your fault: You’re just being human.”
This page will attempt to help you with questions like: What do I do about feeling overwhelmed? What should I think about it? (Quick answer: overwhelm is quite simply trying to think about too much at once -- a form of control that is out of control. Sooner or later you will have to resort to, er… doing -- one -- thing -- at -- a -- time!)
Another three minute guide to a common thought/feeling (a la The 3 Principles).
My Thoughts About Feeling Overwhelmed
I don’t feel overwhelmed too often, these days. There’s something about that ‘state’ that just feels wrong, unnecessary, and an indicator that I’ve gone ‘off track’, somehow.
Usually, as you’ll see in my ‘example’ below, overwhelm is simply a sign of trying to do too much in one particular moment.
In fact -- and here’s the curse of this -- it’s usually trying to think about too much, rather than do too much.
Overwhelm is a sign that we are all control freaks, because control freakery is how things get done -- from an Outside In perspective, anyway -- and, in this moment, our desire to control has got the better of us, and our lil human CPU simply cannot process all the signals.
It literally is too much information.
About Feeling Overwhelmed: The Downward Spiral
Overwhelm can be doing too much. Repeatedly. Too much thinking -- no space to hear your wisdom -- and too much doing -- no space to properly rest.
And I have experienced it as a freezing -- quite literally I do not know what to do next. (This passes, it always passes, and usually because I just do something, anything -- I get out of the loop of unnecessary thinking.)
And I am usually more prone to overwhelm when I’m tired.
Tiredness leads to tired (and hurried) thinking which often leads to giving your worst to the world rather than your best. (I’m tired writing this page, for example, and as such there’s a somewhat harsh tone, occasionally -- apologies.)
And so as I say in the extended (‘weird version’) video about overwhelm…
Overwhelm is not a very loving way to be with yourself -- it could even be described as a form of self-harm
It is not a loving way to be with your thoughts, either. They’re coming at you thick and fast, and you feel you have to ‘do something’ with them to make them ‘go away’, simply to survive.
But when you realise they are just thoughts, and you can think them without having to act on them, then the pressure gets turned off, the spiral stops pointing downward, and -- eventually -- you return to acting on one thought at a time, you return to the present moment, to yourself.
(And it quite often doesn’t matter which thought, as long as it’s an action rather than a thought about action -- the first action could even be to pause, to rest, and to momentarily still yourself.)
The usual solution of multitasking quite often falls down here, often makes the overwhelm worse.
Space is always the answer that works, sooner or later, I’ve found -- whether forced on you through illness or breakdown, or whether that space is chosen. A space to return to yourself, to your wisdom, to what really matters…
About Feeling Overwhelmed -- The Inside-Out Understanding
Imagine you give meaning to the actions you successfully complete, and those actions you do not complete. Example: I am a good Mum.
Other meanings we give to our successfully complete actions could be:
- I am a loving human being
- I am good at my job
- People like me (they won’t laugh at me)
These meanings are, actually, arbitrary but because they go unchallenged by the person who’s created the meaning they end up adding a whole lot of thinking (pressure) to simply doing X and Y and Z actions.
Now not only are you faced with having to manage to organise yourself, and others, in a fairly efficient way, you’ve made it mean something significant if you don’t. Pressure. (Too much thinking.)
Feeling overwhelmed is a marvellous example of what happens when you take your thinking too seriously, when you energise each and every subsequent thought… It quite literally overloads the system.
But an overload doesn’t need to happen, it really doesn’t -- not once you develop an Inside-Out understanding of the human experience, at least.
And then, when you get overwhelmed, you know it’s not the situations that are causing you the problem but the thinking you have of the situations (the meanings you’re making up).
The facts of an overwhelmed life are always these:
- You can only do what you can do
- If you repeatedly push yourself -- twisting and stretching and pleasing -- the consequences of this WILL find you (e.g. irritability, resentment, illness)
- The best way to get anything done is one thing at a time, one step at a time
- Yes, life IS overwhelming at times, especially for parents (usually Mums)
- Long-term overwhelm, on the other hand, is completely unnecessary
Quite simply, overwhelm is a sign that you’re not listening to yourself, and what you REALLY want (rather than what you think you want).
The solution, then?
- Return to yourself, as quickly as you can
- Listen to what you REALLY need (listen to your intuition)
- Make space for your wisdom to help you with the situation
(And if you can’t make space, don’t worry your body will make it for you -- in time -- by one day completely failing on you! Just sayin’.)
(Hmm, I seem to be quite preachy about overwhelm, don’t I. Partly due to the very little tolerance I have for it in my own life, I’m sure. Guess I give the feeling of overwhelm a pretty bad meaning. Hmm, interesting. And this is easily the longest thoughts about feelings page, too, and the longest video… Hmm.)
Looking in the direction of the Inside-Out understanding is a great way to lessen the overwhelm, thankfully, for anyone -- including Mums! Not on purpose, though, just as a natural consequence of reminding someone what really matters. And what really matters is that we listen to our deepest selves, that we see that we are okay, and we remember that we ARE loved (and are love).
About Feeling Overwhelmed -- Video
Here’s what I was inspired to share in a video I recorded in October, 2015:
(Hee, for a laugh you can watch a 5 minute version of this video here! Features me talking to a Tellytubby and other oddities!)
"Leave everything undefined, including yourself. Befriend uncertainty. Fall in love with mystery. Kneel at the altar of not knowing. Give your questions time to breathe. The answers will find you." – Jeff Foster
Explore what happens to your problems when you leave yourself 'undefined'...
(1-2-1 transformative coaching conversations are a powerful way to explore the human condition. First conversation always free.)