To start, let’s talk about what overwhelm isn’t. It’s not a mood. It’s not a personality trait. It’s not who you are.
I find that people talk about overwhelm as something that is from within them. People identify or self describe as being an easily overwhelmed person for eg.
But what is overwhelm really? It’s a feeling. It’s a physical and emotional response to what you’re currently experiencing in your external circumstances.
So overwhelm can be a guide when you look at your life, the situation or whatever it is and ask – what is causing me to feel overwhelmed?
- Have I committed to too much?
- Or am I in a situation where my boundaries are not being respected?
- Is there too much stimulation?
- What do I need right now to help me?
- What is this response in me really about?
- What can I do now?
Feeling overwhelmed is a signpost. Sometimes it’s a warning. But it can also be a good thing.
The overwhelm you experience when you’ve taken on too much or aren’t taking good care of your nervous system is different to the overwhelm you experience when you’re expanding your comfort zone.
The differences are subtle. It takes self knowledge to spot the difference. It takes creating a slower life to get the clarity.
When you take on an exciting project, learn to EXPECT overwhelm at different stages. It’s part of growth. So when it shows up you can say “oh hi, I’ve been waiting for you. I’m doing it anyway”.
Learn to soothe yourself with good rest practices, stress cycle completion tools and a seasonal approach to life/work. (Growth is non-linear so why not plan for it that way!)
Learning to work with good overwhelm like that will not only expand your comfort zone but also help you to notice when your body is sensing the kind of overwhelm that signals a wrong turn.
By denying your overwhelm, shaming and guilting yourself for feeling it, you internalise it and literally turn off the guiding light that it can be.
This is what our cultural system of patriarchal capitalism wants for us. The system benefits from us internalising overwhelm. It’s what drives the system.
Same goes for all “negative” emotions and feelings. Feel them, listen and ask – what is this telling me?
Turn back on your guiding lights and let your response to overwhelm lead you down a new path.
In this episode
- What Overwhelm Isn’t
- What Overwhelm Is
- How to use overwhelm as a guide
- The cyclical nature of overwhelm
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