Lessons, musings and advice from the author of ‘The Life I Won’
Sometimes life can feel overwhelming. This can happen at any time. It can be a slow build that you didn’t notice and then all of a sudden it bubbles over, and everything erupts. Often it can be a series of events coming to a head at the same time. In my experience, the most common occurrence is that one big thing happens, and it causes a ripple effect that makes us see everything through a different lens, and everything feels overwhelming.
What was not a problem yesterday suddenly feels like a major issue and we retreat, hide, shut down or bad behaviour shows up. The occurrence triggers memories of lack, abuse or sadness and everything instantly becomes tainted with the same feeling. We go from in control to confused, angry, upset and unable to cope.
If this sounds familiar, then guess what? You are HUMAN.
Life just happens like this, and we all have our own unique ways of coping.
Some people seem to be completely unfazed by anything, but do you see them crying themselves to sleep? Some people seem chaotic, but do you see that they hold down four jobs whilst solo parenting two young children?
Some people seem shy and unapproachable, but do you see their heart breaking at their own inability to ask for help?
My point is that we all have different levels of competence, life experience, networks and levels of understanding and this means we are all equal. We all become overwhelmed for different reasons and none of them are wrong, stupid or ridiculous. My experience of life is totally different to yours and my ability to cope is completely different to yours, yet we are the same.
So here are some practices that you can consider when you feel overwhelmed. This is not an exhaustive list of ‘things to do’, just a few simple suggestions that have worked for me and people I know, based on experience. There is no science, modalities or instructions behind my suggestions, just a genuine desire for you to feel more in control by adopting something that may resonate with you. Choose wisely and don’t force it, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
It almost sounds ridiculous, and very much overused, but it is the simple truth that slowing down your breathing and becoming mindful of it can transform how you feel about anything. The act of stopping and noticing your breathing and purposefully slowing it down whilst listening, is calming. I have taught myself, over time, to drop into this state when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed (yes, I feel overwhelmed sometimes!) The motion and mindfulness involved in this behaviour is centring. I am not instructing you to meditate or follow any breathing practice, merely suggesting that you try to slow down in the moment of overwhelm and breathe deeply and slowly. Allow yourself no more than ten minutes to do this. Notice the change in how you feel mentally.
Ten minutes is all it takes.
Ten minutes to feel better.
Try it and see if it helps.
I am not telling you to ‘journal’ although that would be good advice, but I am suggesting that you write down how you feel overwhelmed.
Write it down and put it somewhere safe, then when you no longer feel overwhelmed look at what you wrote. Non overwhelmed you may not even recognise how overwhelmed you feels. The overwhelm can trigger deep anxiety or depression that taints your view of the world.
As humans we forget how we felt in a moment of despair, we remember feeling different or sad, but can’t always describe it. Writing it down helps you to identify exactly how you felt so that you can become more aware. Journaling on this allows you to see a pattern but start by just jotting down how you feel in the moment and be honest and keep it simple. ‘When xyz happened, I felt deeply sad which then made me feel unworthy, incompetent and useless.’ That one sentence captured in a moment can give you insight into where your brain takes you in overwhelm and allow you to take action outside of it.
Overwhelm can be a private hell. A place where we feel less than and therefore don’t want to talk about it. This is exactly when you NEED to talk about it. Keeping the feelings inside really doesn’t help you. Saying them out loud and hearing yourself saying them can be medicine. Everyone is always busy, but there will be someone in your network who has time for you. Your job when you feel like this is to find the courage to ask.
Asking is a powerful tool which can transform your life, yet we don’t like to do it. We don’t like to ask because…’they look so busy’…’they have their own problems to worry about’…’they are way more important than me’. Maybe you are right, or maybe the person you choose to ask is feeling just like you and is grateful that someone reached out to them.
You will never know if you don’t ask.
Did you know that you are allowed to feel bad? We often share what makes us feel good, we share it on social media painting this picture of life which appears to be all shiny and perfect.
But bad feelings are not bad to feel. In fact, they are good to feel. They give us contrast and perspective. The bad feelings are our guide.
We are taught not to cry, I say cry.
We are taught to be good girls; I say be a bad girl and have a tantrum.
We are taught to suck it up, I say let it out.
Only by feeling the ‘bad’ feelings and learning that they are a necessary part of life, can we learn to navigate life with all of its ups and downs.
Not feeling leads us to finding substances to mask the badness such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, food, shopping…the list is long. Those substances lower the intensity of the bad feelings but do not remove them, they are still there staring us in the face when the effects have worn off.
We live in a society that constantly tells us how to feel, how to behave, what to learn, what to wear, how to dress, how to look, how to love. It is trained into us from birth and handed down like some torturous legacy.
What we are NOT taught is that we are unique, beautiful beings who feel deeply and when the feelings are withheld then we don’t know what to do. For me, this is why we feel overwhelmed. Our understanding of fear and how it shows up in modern society has been manipulated by the system we are a part of. When you can accept that you are human, with some incredible qualities and instincts then you can really begin to live fully and honestly. It is hard to unlearn, but not impossible.
Choosing to be you and learning how to take life’s challenges one step at a time is completely possible. You may need help; you may want to find your own way in your own time. Both are fine. Just don’t listen to ‘the man’ telling you how you should be and feel.
Use your senses. They are five gifts from mother nature that you were born to use.
Touch your fellow humans; breathe in the change; listen to others and to yourself; see the possibilities and options; taste the sweetness of a balanced, calm life.