How to handle overwhelm + lessons on tending the mental garden

 

There are some days I wake up and feel completely overwhelmed for no specific reason.  It seems to happen when I have a lot of projects going on, and I don’t feel like I’m making much progress; it feels like I’m stuck in quicksand.

Even though I have a full-time job, this blog, a wonderful relationship, loving family and friends, an active social life and a healthy mind and body, I can still feel like I’m treading water and not getting anywhere.  I’m busy, but sometimes I’m just too far into the woods to see I’m surrounded by beautiful flowering trees.

Overwhelm can often come from living life fully.

The cycle of overwhelm is familiar to all of us; here’s the process I use for digging my way out.  (You have a process too but maybe these tips will help.)

1.)  My path back to solid ground starts by just acknowledging the overwhelm and giving in to it for a bit.  Rather than fighting the feelings, I wallow in it for a bit because the only way out is through; whether it’s sadness, fear, stress or anger, I swim around and let it wash over me.  It’s quite indulgent in a deliciously negative way, but in order to move on from it, I have to know what it is.

2.)  I begin to remember that the heaviness holding me down is not something I want taking root in my life.  I remind myself that overwhelm is happening because even though I feel stuck, there’s a lot of action happening in my life that is causing it.  A lot of action means that I am trying, I am taking risks and staying open.  And that’s a good thing.

3.) I continue digging myself out by mentally regrouping. I make lists and do some deep breathing. I pay attention to the part of me that really wants to grow + learn from my experiences, even when I’m feeling trapped and paralyzed.  I take a step back and have gratitude for what is good; that helps put everything into perspective.

::  I tap into the feelings of what is working in my life and make moves towards growing that area.

::  I begin to peel away the fear.  I don’t dive into things headfirst, I cautiously unwrap myself.  Gentleness and patience are my friends.

:: I look at things as they are rather than how I want them to be.

::  I set aside time to be quiet and listen to my heart.  I feel my way through the process of slowly climbing back up rather than muscling my way out. I trust my gut.

4.)  I make a mental list of how I can use these tricks for next time.  When I feel like myself again sans panic, I can step back and see what I’ve done–how I’ve untangled myself from a web of fears that probably don’t even exist to begin with.

When I take the time to slow down and reevaluate, I see that my overwhelm is usually 1/3  my imagination, 1/3 unorganization and 1/3 dread of tedious, but necessary tasks.  Picking it apart helps me see more clearly–It brings light to the darkness, levity to the heavy.  In the end, I try to appreciate my courage for moving forward and getting over that hump of overwhelm.

This process is a part of becoming more me;  just like soil that needs to be turned, the richness is under the surface.

How do you handle overwhelm when it takes over?

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