There are many reasons people become overwhelmed; for me, the fastest way to become overwhelmed is to have too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. I can’t tell you how many of my clients struggle to take care of themselves, to get enough sleep, to make appointments with me, to do the things they KNOW they’d like to do because they are too busy to do these things. “How are you? ” “I’m busy. Good, but busy.” Further conversation makes the good less clear and the busy REALLY clear. Out of curiosity I recently asked someone to describe a few days to me, to see what busy looks like, and I have to tell you, it was absolutely dizzying. She was seriously busy: good busy, but busy.
The problem with this level of busy-ness is manyfold. First of all, being so busy usually involves limiting some kind of self-care, whether it be adequate sleep, eating good food, or having enough time to think about, feel, and process what’s going on in your life. More often than not, a super busy life involves at least two if not all three of those. Secondly, I believe that being so busy creates a sense of emergency in the body. There is little difference in the body between constantly rushing to get to work on time after the early morning drop-off and rushing to get away from a saber tooth tiger. We’re evolved, but we’re not that evolved. These fine distinctions don’t really matter to the body. Being busy, rushing, or just feeling busy all the time creates physical and mental stress reactions that are not good for us. Finally, being so busy often prevents us from doing things that nourish us, that feed our souls, that make life fulfilling, not just full.
The question is what to do about it. Modern life requires this of us, right? Maybe. I think we have some choices about what kind of modern life to have. What I DO know is that I am the gatekeeper of my schedule. The other thing that I know is that I am consistently surprised by how little ill effect my saying “no” has on anybody, save maybe a slight disappointment from time to time. My saying no seems only to generate benefits for me. This lesson has been hard-won for me. I once described my daily life as carrying stacks of plates, one stack in each hand, other dishes in my pockets, dishes strapped all over my body. My amazing coach (yes, coaches need coaches) said: “What would happen if you put the plates down?” I was dumbstruck. I was too busy to think of that solution. I was sure saying no to any of the load I was carrying was not an option.
Our overwhelm is a product of our busy-ness, but busy-ness is not the only ingredient in our overwhelmed existence. More often than not there are ideas about who we ought to be and how to get there that keep us holding those plates in the air, strapping more on to every available inch of ourselves. But, we’re being responsible, right? This is what it looks like to be a good employee, a good parent, a good adult, right? We become overwhelmed and our efforts often include a lot of spinning, feeling anxious, and looking for our keys and wallets. We may accomplish a great number of tasks, but at the end of the day usually have time only to experience the fatigue that all that juggling , and all of that spinning, creates. We don’t even have time to enjoy the fruits of all that labor. Or we find that the fruits aren’t all that satisfying after all because they weren’t our plates to juggle in the first place.
I hear it all the time, and I used to feel it too.” I’m stuck, I’m trapped, I have to do this…” I’m happy to tell you that the idea that there is no way out is false. The notion that this is what being an adult looks like is a choice. The voice telling you that things will slow down as soon as you finish this project is lying to you. The only way out of the status quo, even a really busy status quo, is to believe new thoughts and do things differently.
In the coming weeks I’ll be introducing a new program I’m running, Finding the Ohhhh in Overwhelm. This program is designed to help you find ways to increase your peace (and your piece) no matter what your schedule looks like, clarify your values and goals so you can prioritize your activities and, learn how to build boundaries like a boss so you have the time and energy to enjoy the fruits of your more focused labor. Ohhhh yes.
Until then, if you’d really like to, but are sure you are too busy to get life coaching, call me (240-367-9730 OR firstname.lastname@example.org). I will change your mind, and help you find a little peace, for free.