Life can feel like an endless sea of to-dos, responsibilities, chores, deadlines and appointments.
Sometimes it all just feels like too much. Like you just can’t keep up. Like the world is asking for too much.
You’re exhausted and you’re not getting the time your sensitive cells need to recharge.
I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately. I’m currently a full-time lawyer in New York City, the very capital of overwhelm. I have an hour and 15 minute commute every day that involves a bus, a train and a 20 minute walk (sometimes run…).
I’m a never-enough-time mama to the most magical 17 month old pixie in the galaxy who fights sleep with comet strength and stands firm in the belief that I should be her mattress. I spent the first 13 months of her life in utter chronic sleep deprivation and it still often takes me 2 hours to get her to sleep at night.
I have my darling hubby, our Chow/Shepherd rescue dog, and an abundance of friends and family who I want to nourish and cherish.
And then there’s all the cooking, juicing, cleaning, dishes, laundry, bottles, bills, mail, email, doctors, dentists, blogging, plans, decisions and general mayhem screaming for my attention. Oh my!
So yeah, I am very familiar with the ingredients that cook up overwhelm. And my sensitive cells need peace and relaxation, perhaps more than others.
But it’s also very important to me that I not embody overwhelm. I did for many years of my life, always feeling like life was running me over. That is no way to live.
I’ve learned that overwhelm is a choice. It’s a state of mind that can be adjusted.
1. The Zen in Overwhelm
I used to be an extremely stressed out person. I was constantly short of breath, I had anxiety attacks, and I knew nothing of living in the moment. I lived entirely in fear of the future and regret of the past.
And then something happened. I lost my best friend tragically. It was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
I was in the middle of law school and her loss brought my world to a halt. Reality as I knew it changed completely.
It took me awhile to get out of the black haze that is death. But once I did, life was different. I understood its impermanence. I felt its gift. I knew there was a better way to feel everyday, no matter what reality I was living.
From then on, life stopped running me over. And I started living in the moment.
Overwhelm happens to all of us. But you can give two different people the same exact scenarios and one will rise to the occasion and handle things with joy and the other will crumble and drag everyone down with them.
So I constantly ask myself, which person do I want to be? Sometimes I fail and fall into a pit of despair and anxiety, but I work hard to find my way back. And I surround myself with people, like my loving husband, who help me get there.
It’s up to each of us to find the zen in our overwhelm.
2. The Truth About Overwhelm
The truth about overwhelm is that much of it is self-created.
With the schedule I’ve been keeping for the past year as a mama who works full time at a demanding job, I’ve often felt I’ve earned the right to declare an unfair amount of overwhelm.
So I had to take a hard look at the chaos I was facing and admit to myself that a lot of it, I was creating. On top of my job and baby I was trying to burn the midnight oil, squeezing everything I wanted out of life into the few nighttime hours I had. And I burnt out, badly.
So I looked at all I was putting on my plate and started drastically eliminating. It’s what my current situation required.
No one can do everything and when we put that kind of pressure on ourselves every day feels like a disappointment.
If we keep our goals simple and achievable everyday can feel like a win and overwhelm won’t win the battle.
3. The Importance of Honoring Your Needs
When I was burning the midnight oil and burning out I was blatantly ignoring my body and mind’s needs.
I’m a sensitive soul with a side of fire. I’m an introvert who also loves to socialize. I’m all about fairness and self-improvement while working in the ego-filled corporate law word. I need daily emotional detoxing to rejuvinate and reenergize my cells from all this back and forth. If I don’t get it, I don’t function.
No matter what your schedule, finding time for exercise, down time, reading a book, watching a movie, doing yoga, or whatever else it is that rejuvinates you, is essential.
When I wasn’t doing this for myself, I couldn’t be the employee or mother that I wanted to me. You must take care of yourself first to do the best you can for others.
4. The Strength in Asking for Help
I would be lost without the people in my life who make up my support system. I do what I can and then I ask for help with the rest.
It is not heroic to take on all burdens. It’s not empowering to be the martyr of your own life. It takes strength and a humble sense of self to know when you just have too much.
Hire out and automate all that you can. And surround yourself with the right people and you’ll find an abundance of helping hands.
5. The Force Created by Envisioning Your Future
Doing your best to handle the overwhelm you’re facing does not mean you have to accept it forever. If things aren’t working in your current situation, change them.
Sometimes that takes patience. Sometimes it takes work. And it definitely takes a lot of vision.
Imagine your future reality. Play it out. Go deep into the specifics of it. What conversations will take place to make it happen? What are the exact words that will be spoken? What life decisions will need to be made? When will they need to be made by? What will need to be cut out of your life? What can you do right now to start down this path?
The more you envision it, the more you make it part of your reality. And so you slowly creep towards it until suddenly you’re walking in the version of reality you had been imagining.
6. The Never Ending Power of Breath
Your to-do list is overflowing. Breathe.
You’re late to pay those bills. Breathe.
Someone else wants something else from your, ASAP. Breathe.
What absolutely needs to get done, will get done. What can wait, will wait. And it will all be okay.
Breathe to remind yourself of the abundance within you. Breathe to remind yourself that you are in control. Breathe to remind yourself that you deserve to be prioritized.
7. The Lessons in Overwhelm
Overwhelm is a teacher. It shows us what we want and what we need out of life. And it shows us all the many things we can do without.
Find the lesson in everything. Learn from it. And let that lesson guide you down the right path.
It’s the people who drown in their own misery who don’t grow. Those who fight through and find the light at the end of the overwhelming tunnel are the ones who win at life.
8. The Joy in Living Fully
Life may sometimes seem like a ball of chaos, but that means you’re living it.
Life may seem like it’s getting the best of you, but know that you’re giving it your best.
Overwhelm may feel exhausting, but it is far better than idleness.
You are living. You are experiencing. You are gathering information and making powerful choices everyday about what you want for your life.
You are not sitting around doing nothing. The word “bored” isn’t even a part of your vocabulary.
You’re living, actively. You’re engaging, constantly. And you’re growing, spiritually. Every step of the overwhelming way.
9. The Power of You
No matter what overwhelm you’re facing, it is not greater than you.
You bring a life time of experiences and wisdom to everything you face. Use that experience to rise to the occasion. Challenge yourself to find the joy. Find ways to constantly nourish yourself.
If things aren’t working, envision the change. Let the lessons you’ve learned guide you to greater paths.
You are greater, stronger and more powerful than any situation you might face. But you have to believe that for it to be true.
Believe in the power of you and overwhelm will have no power over you.