Overwhelm your Overwhelm

May 30, 2016

When I was a kid and someone asked me how I felt, I usually went with one of the old classics, sad, mad, happy and glad (kids love glad). I didn’t really get that there were feelings other than those core 4, and quite frankly that made things simpler. As I grew older I realized there were a lot more and started adding feelings like frustrated, betrayed, jealous, fearful, vulnerable and the ever present shameful. Now that I am a coach and discuss feelings with my clients all the time, there is one that just keeps rearing its ugly head that seemingly did not even exist 30 years ago.

That is the feeling of OVERWHELM.

Overwhelm – cover or bury beneath a mass of something.

That just sounds like it sucks. People are struggling to live a life of having it all and create the ultimate balance between work and life and all they are being repaid with is the feeling of overwhelm; they are covered or buried beneath a mass of something.

Overwhelm is a bitch because, in case you didn’t realize, you are covered or buried beneath a mass of something. And the nature of the feeling has us convinced there’s not a shovel in the world big enough to uncover us from that mass of something. But alas there is hope, and I figured that out from another set of clients who by all accounts have way more things they want to do than there are hours in a day, yet they do not feel overwhelm at all. Everyone is different and we all have our own coping mechanisms that can be effective, however, I did notice some consistencies within these people that help them keep feelings of overwhelm at bay.

The first is that they all have a pretty solid idea of what they stand for and what is important to them. They understand their core values and prioritize based on that set of values. Where this becomes helpful in warding off overwhelm is that at the end of the day, they can look themselves in the mirror and find comfort and satisfaction that the choices they made that day, were consistent with what they stood for. That is a feeling of control and purpose, which is almost the opposite of feeling overwhelm.

I also noticed that they all have an incredible ability to set boundaries in their life. Boundaries – what’s ok and what’s not ok. Of course that starts with what they say yes to and what they say no to; and people who practice healthy boundary setting say no way more often than those who struggle with boundaries. As Brene’ Brown puts it, they choose short-term discomfort over long-term regret. But it’s much more than just the ability to responsibly choose between yes and no. It’s more of a way of life for them. It is the amount of respect they have for themselves and their wellbeing. They prioritize self-care. As Sarri Gilman explains in her TedX talk on boundaries (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtsHUeKnkC8), they view self-care as more than just a healthy diet and exercise. It is how they treat themselves and honor what they need, in all areas of their life.

Finally, and this one is much more subtle, they rarely start a sentence out with the phrase, “I should.” I should be reading more; I should be spending more time with my kids; I should be exercising 6 times a week. What I found is that every time we say, “I should” we are mentally heaping another item on to the pile of things that we are covered and buried beneath a mass of. Every “I should” adds mental and energetic weight to the load we feel we are carrying. They do or they do not do and they leave it at that. If they “should” do it then they measure that up against their core values and what they stand for and if they are consistent, then they do it. What we think and say has an energetic consequence and when it comes to thinking we should do something, the energetic consequence is most likely contributing to our feelings of overwhelm.

Overwhelm is an epidemic. Many things bring it on; technology, expectations, lack of boundaries, our thoughts, and societal conditioning just to name a few. But we create the world in which we live and as John Milton put it, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…”

We can overwhelm our overwhelm with self-care, setting boundaries, living true to our values and not “shoulding” all over ourselves.

Take a deep breath; close your eyes and ask yourself; what is the feeling of overwhelm costing you in your life? The longer that list…the more important overwhelming your overwhelm should be…so get after it!

Change the world…be your best


To identify your core values and what you stand for, download my EBook; “Can Working Parents “Have it All”….No But There is Something Much Better.” (http://www.trickledownhappiness.com/can-working-parents-have-it-all/).

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