Let’s talk about feeling overwhelmed.
Have you been there before? Are you maybe there now?
Over the past few years, I’m seeing an increase in a dangerous trend among my clients, friends, family, and general acquaintances. Everyone has gotten used to a heightened state of anxiety and overwhelm, and they’re all running around thinking it’s normal to feel that way.
It’s not normal. It’s not healthy.
Sure, life as an adult often means balancing a lot of things. I’m sure in the entire history of humanity, people have always been a bit anxious about things (like when is that sabertooth tiger gonna make an appearance). There’s anxiety and then there’s anxiety. The same goes for that often suffocating feeling of overwhelm.
I like to ask people to do an exercise to help them visualize just how much they’re juggling and how overwhelmed they really are. Seriously, people get so used to how they currently feel, and they get really good at managing, that they never stop and question if they want to keep feeling the way they do and if there’s anything they can do to change.
With your eyes closed, I want you to imagine that you’re holding both your hands out in front of you, the sides of your palms touching. Now, picture everything in your life falling into your hands as random shapes and sizes- blocks, pebbles, whatever works for you. Put in the usual stuff- work, home life, family. If work is creating a lot of overwhelm- make sure that the pebble or block you picture reflects the size of the overwhelm that piece creates.
Keep adding. Add in your mental health issues (if you have any), add then add in physical issues that cause anxiety, stress, or overwhelm.
Add in all the things you think you should be doing. Exercising more? Eating better? Pursuing a hobby, keeping your house cleaner? Socializing more?
Keep adding- what takes up room in your thoughts that you give weight to. This could be a decision that needs to be made, concerns about the direction of your life, or the planet in general.
How are you doing? Is everything staying put, easily, in your palms, or are you realizing how much you’re juggling and things are falling to the floor?
If you feel overwhelmed just during this exercise, how do you think you’re feeling in your real life- the life where all of these blocks you just added are very real things. It’s become normalized living life in total overwhelm, and expecting praise when we constantly keep it all together.
Drop it all, right now.
Take deep breaths. Notice how much, and where you are feeling physical tension from all this weight you’ve been carrying without realizing it. Drop and roll your shoulders, roll your head. Loosen your jaw. Keep taking those deep breaths. Get some water while you’re at it.
When you’re ready, over the next few weeks, take some serious time to think about how you want to feel on a day-to-day basis. What pieces will always need to be in your hands- work, a home, relationships, and whatever your family situation is.
Think long and hard about what you want to add back in. What do you want to carry? Drop all those I shoulds into a bouncy ball and kick the hell out of it. Should can go bye-bye. See ya!
What are you carrying for other people that aren’t your responsibility? Dropkick that stuff too.
Overwhelm in our current society is rarely a good thing. There will be moments of positive overwhelm in your life- maybe when you get engaged or married, when you get a new puppy or become a parent, when you move to a new location to improve your quality of life. These aren’t bad things, and in most of these cases, the overwhelm is temporary.
That’s what I hope you’ll sit with after reading this. Overwhelm is meant to be temporary, not a permeant home address. If you’re constantly, painfully overwhelmed- it’s time to change.
For your sake.
You deserve more than that.