Even When You Have to Do It ALL…
You have so much to do, a really big list, and it all feels important and then it happens.
You shut down.
Your brain refuses. Your body refuses. You can’t even imagine what you should do next.
It’s overhwhelm. The big cloud of too much-ness that cuts us off from our intentions and keeps us from getting things done, and usually makes us feel like crap about that. Yep, overwhelm.
Here’s a secret about overwhelm, though. It’s really just a cloak. It’s a shield. It’s a protective device.
And just saying that makes it seem a little different, doesn’t it? Like so many of our thoughts and feelings, overwhelm is just trying to keep us safe. If we can loosen it a little, we may find that we don’t need all of that protection.
So how do we get out of it, without dumping all of our responsibilities (even if that’s what we’d most like to do)?
I’ve got some pretty simple (notice I didn’t say easy) suggestions on that front.
1) Check in with how you feel about that list of things you have to do. Many times overwhelm is your brain’s way of protecting you from becoming angry, afraid, or my personal favorite when it comes to domestic responsibilities, resentful. I don’t like thinking I have to do everything. It gets me all jammed up. Makes things feel unfair, makes me feel like a drudge. When I am overwhelmed, I don’t have to really feel those things – they just percolate gently in the background instead of coming to a full boil.
Overwhelm often protects us from fear as well. When we have a list that will help us make progress on a big project or includes some risks, steps forward, new territory our fear shuts that stuff down. Nope, we’re going to be overwhelmed instead of afraid because afraid – afraid sucks. No thanks.
Ask yourself if there’s a feeling you might be avoiding by being overwhelmed. If you can admit how you feel and maybe feel it just a little, the fog may lift.
2) Check in with what you think about that list of things you have to do. Sometimes our thoughts make forward motion simply impossible. Let me give you a couple of examples of thoughts that might spur overwhelm:
- I have to get all of this done today – the trick about this one is that there’s usually a second half to it about what it means if you don’t – some version of you’re no good.
- I have to do all of this perfectly.
- Nobody else does anything around here.
- I’m the only one who can handle this stuff.
- Sure would be nice to have 5 minutes to myself.
All of these thoughts (and others) signal to your brain that you need a break, that the list is not possible, that it would be dangerous to try to complete it (because if it’s not perfect you’re screwed or whatever). So you brain complies with a nice bit of fog. There, break granted. If you can find the thought that’s making the list too awful to do and face it, the fog may lift.
3) Create your own break. I know, I know! When you are overwhelmed by everything you need to do, the last thing you think you can do is take a break, but let’s be honest, when you are overwhelmed you’re not getting anything done anyway, right? Why not give your brain what it’s asking for, a break? How you do that depends a lot on what feels like a real break for you, but I can make some suggestions to get you started, in case you are wrapped in brain fog at this very minute:
- Take a short walk outside. The fresh air, the movement, the nature will all help release that fog and help you get some clarity on where to dig in.
- If you are a meditator, do that even if it’s just for five minutes.
- If you aren’t, make yourself a cup of your favorite warm beverage and sit somewhere pleasant and just drink it for five minutes. Don’t do anything else. Just drink your drink, look around and take some deep breaths.
- If you suspect that what you really are is tired and there’s any way to take a power nap, do that. If you can’t, try my favorite trick and set a timer for 15-30 minutes, put your feet up and close your eyes. Trust that the timer will let you know when your time is up.
Giving yourself that time may be all your brain needs to release that fog for you.
Once the fog is gone, you can consider what’s on your list, but I won’t suggest that you edit it because I promised from the start I wouldn’t argue with you about whether or not you really have to do it all…
But do you?
So Much Love,