50 Shades of Overwhelm
The concept of overwhelm is complex. The sources are as numerous and varied as the number of people who suffer its effects. There are many more than fifty causes – far to many to discuss in blog posts, but addressing a few can shed light on this oppressive condition.
Have you ever felt that if one more person asked you to do one more thing, you’d explode? Sometimes it’s so bad that a mere question about what time it is seems like a huge imposition. Even doing things for yourself such as getting an iced tea or going to the bathroom seem onerous.
So what’s up with that? How can we get so caught up in what we see as obligations (of our own making or imposed by others) that every day living becomes too much to deal with? I liken it to a snowball, which this winter in the northeast is more like a snow mountain.
When you get up in the morning you have a few things you want to accomplish that day. As the day goes on, more items are added to your “to do” list. Unexpected situations arise – a family member is mired in drama, a neighbor asks you to sit vigil for the cable guy, a client needs an emergency consult, etc.
Then the clock says 6:00 PM and you’ve only completed one thing on your original plan for the day. Crap! It’s going to be another late night, so forget watching another episode of House of Cards.
Why does this happen?
We all have a tipping point – the place where a robust “to do” list becomes so onerous that we feel overwhelmed.
However, all overwhelm is not the same.
Some overwhelm we create ourselves by trying to pack 36 hours of stuff into a 24 hour day.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because we suck at setting and maintaining good boundaries. Too often we let other people’s agendas derail or take precedent over our own best-laid plans. It’s OK to say “yes” to the person, and “no” to the request. And remember, “no” is a complete sentence.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because we don’t have a thought-out plan to accomplish what is important to us. How can we know what to do or if we are on the right track if we don’t know where we want to go?
Often feelings of overwhelm come from too many ideas flooding our heads. The human brain evolved as a thinking and creating machine, not a storage device. The more things you get out of your head and on to paper the less overwhelmed you will feel.
These are but a few of the causes of overwhelm we feel every day. Next week you will learn about others, and what you can do to manage those feelings.
In the meantime, please share what causes you overwhelm below, and they might appear in next week’s post.
Until then, don’t forget to breathe!
Karolyn Blume is the author of Eat the Elephant: Overcoming Overwhelm, which will be released on or about March 23, 2015.