To say that the whole world is suffering from a large dose of overwhelm feels like an understatement.
There is a tangible tension with overwhelm as though we’re all buzzing with something that doesn’t belong in our bodies. Sometimes it can feel debilitating, even making us terrified to get out of bed because we don’t know what is going to ask us to have an answer or do something we feel ill-prepared to do. It can feel like we are unable to move and deal with even the smallest things around us. We can struggle to keep a sense of perspective, we’re more reactive and we can be fed all manner of thoughts to keep this cycle going. Our plate can feel like it is just overflowing with what we feel needs to be done.
In our home we might see more shouting, less tolerance for ‘breathing’… it feels like we have so much to do and time is slipping through our fingers like sand. We feel the shame of being unable to keep up, pathetic, like a piece of limp lettuce. There is a nagging sense someone might expose us at any minute as being an abject failure and a fraud, so we have to work doubly hard to keep it all 'under wraps', to keep the illusion going. The skills we have developed are often admired by others – “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”. We are actually perceived as being successful and productive in our overwhelm which makes it harder to let go of… that is, until we crack, when we physically cannot do it all. In fact, ‘cracking’ is, often, the only way we and others will allow us to walk away from that level of productivity. 'Cracking' finally gives us an excuse to stop.
- It could be, that the identification we get from being able to ‘do it all’ that is championed by others, is actually harming us.
- It could be, that we have simply said ‘yes’ to so much that we have forgotten how beautiful and loving the word ‘no’ is.
- It could be, that because we have decided we are so good at ‘doing everything,’ we take away the learning experiences for others who live with us or work with us, because ‘we will get it all done quicker' (of course that is absolutely true). Therefore, no one offers to help because they are worried about failing and not doing it to the perfection we expect or in the timeline we have set, confirming 'it is all down to us'.
- It could be, that although overwhelm is exhausting, it is actually familiar to us, we know how it works, we get a lot done and we get noticed. To change might be more overwhelming, we might lose some of the identification we have received from being able to do it all, heavens, we might even drop the ball...
Overwhelm is not a 'thing', it is a state of mind we focus on so intently we are out of balance.
“I am on my own, I am a single parent, I am coping with 2 teenagers and a 3rd about to be a teenager, I have this high-flying job which has a high-flying car to go with it, I don’t know how to do my job… on top of that I am starting to remember things from my childhood that I really need to deal with – there is genuinely a lot going on. My overwhelm is totally understandable.”
However, if we allow the focus of our thoughts to be ‘everything is a disaster, everything is a train wreck’ that is how we will see, hear and feel it. Everything is a drama and will be seen in that way. Furthermore, we will perceive what people say to us and what we feel we 'have to do' through that lens. A fog of overwhelm means everything you hear is heard as ‘I have to do it all’ and justify that perspective.
If we let go of ‘we are on our own’ and 'it is all down to us', then we will see what is to be done and what is presented in a different way, drop the drama, shift the intense focus. There is always support. If we cut ourselves off and feel we are alone, then we are lost in the fog of overwhelm and more likely to search for those comments about how 'good' we are and how 'helpful' we have been.
Where would we be if we didn’t place our focus on it being all about what we do and about all the things that make up the overwhelm? Just drop the ball and see what happens...
What would happen in our world if we stopped feeding the overwhelm?