Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Do you ever have those days where you feel like too much is going on? Deadlines for work. Phone calls to make. Emails to send. Text messages to answer. Loved ones to care for. Errands to run. A "To Do" list that could rival Elon Musk’s. And when you get one thing done, three other things come up that need your attention too. It seems never ending.
These feelings of overwhelm are often magnified when in grief. Grief itself comes with its own set of messy, roller coaster-like feelings so something that may not otherwise be a big deal can seem utterly insurmountable when in grief.
In the year following my mom’s death, I went through a major breakup, started my training towards becoming a yoga therapist, had to move 3 times in 2 months and, when finally settled into my new place, it got flooded (crazy story which I share about here). There were many moments I thought, “I can’t handle any more!!!”
A peek into my meltdown when writing my first book.
So I’ve had those days of overwhelm. A LOT. And now, years later, with a big vision for how Flow Into Grace can help women transform through heartbreak, I constantly have ideas flowing in which continuously adds even more to my "To Do" list. Then when it feels like too much, I get stuck. I freeze.
Overwhelm can lead to paralysis. Or it can lead to exhaustion. Either way it doesn’t feel good. So what can you do if you’re feeling overwhelmed?
(1) First identify potential triggers of overwhelm and put a system in place. Like when running errands during rush hour. Either run errands at a different time of the day or, if not possible, put on some soothing music in your car or listen to an audio book you’ve been wanting to delve into. Basically, make the best out of it you can.
What are your triggers for stress? Is it while driving to work? Is it being there for others while your own needs remain unmet? Be honest with yourself here.
Where could you be being unrealistic about your time and tasks? (this was something I had to be honest about with myself as I was often underestimating the amount of time it took to do things which only led to more overwhelm)
Are you doing other things to avoid doing something you don’t really want to (but have to) do?
What are the most important and urgent professional things to be done today?
What are the most important and urgent personal things to be done today?
Can you delegate any of these tasks to anyone else?
Can you let anything on your list go? How important is it really in the big picture?
How can you shift your perspective on what you’re doing from stressed out mess to calm and collected? (this is where you put your new systems into place)
(2) A powerful way to start shifting your perspective is to take a few deep breaths and remind yourself to be present. This, right here, is where it’s at: be present.
Overwhelm is a state of mind, NOT a state of your external circumstances.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s not only how we’re managing these hours but how we’re managing our thoughts and feelings around the things we’re doing. (Ohh, how I’m talking to myself here too! Just caught myself recently cursing about something and I realized, in that moment, my outburst of profanity was because I’d let myself become overwhelmed. That was my cue to pause and be present).
Photo by Pedro Heshike
The good news with overwhelm being a state of mind is that we have control over our inner landscape. We get to choose how we respond to things. It can be so easy to slip into stress, anxiety and frustration, though, right? So how do we step out of it? How DO we become present?
Stop and use your 5 senses. Look at what’s around you in this moment. (If you’re like me and can’t stand looking at the paperwork stacked up in front of you, look at something else like the clouds outside your window). Feel the temperature of the air on your skin. Feel the texture of the clothes on your skin. Notice the sounds (or lack thereof) around you. Notice any smells. Notice any taste in your mouth (maybe there’s a hint of mouthwash or the meal you ate earlier or take a sip of tea and savor its flavor).
BONUS: Anytime I catch myself in overwhelm, here’s a breathing exercise I use to bring me back to Zen (fast forward to 2:05 to start the exercise and excuse my akwardness as I was totally new to YouTube back then). This breathing technique works like a charm, every time! I even do it in my car in traffic (but with my eyes open of course).
Feeling overwhelmed comes from a desire to control things. Specifically when going through grief, we feel no control over things (we couldn’t control that our loved ones have passed on, we couldn’t control that a relationship ended, etc). Once we accept that we don’t have control over what happens in life but we do have control over how we respond to it, we free ourselves up to release the overwhelm and go with the flow.
PRO TIP: One thing one of my dearest friends, a fellow Life Coach, Faye, pointed out to me is that I was always saying “I have to do this, I have to do that…” and that our “have to’s” add pressure. Instead of having to do something, consider that we “get to” do these things. Most of the things we worry and stress about, when put in perspective, are a blessing. What a blessing to have a car and to be able to drive it. What a blessing to have kids that get to go to school. What a blessing to have work that pays me. Perspective is everything. How can you change yours now?
“You can’t calm the storm…so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” ~ Timber Hawkeye