Look in any thesaurus, and the synonyms for overwhelm are pretty awful: overpower, subdue, oppress, quash, engulf, swallow, submerge, bury, suffocate.
To anyone who’s experienced overwhelm, and that’s plenty of us, those words may be all too familiar. Whether the overwhelm is sudden or cumulative, chronic or acute, the feeling is one of drowning, immobility and powerlessness.
During those times, everything feels too big or too much. It’s not just everyday busyness and packed schedules. When we’re overwhelmed, making dinner becomes a monumental effort. Better eat out. Bills, housework? Forget it. Tasks that used to take only 10 or 15 minutes now seem utterly impossible. There seems to be no time for anything. So we do nothing. We feel paralyzed. Is there a way out?
Worse, we have no faith that this, too, shall pass. We seem hopelessly mired in the quicksand of “too much.” We keep trying to will our way out of the quicksand with a will that just wants to lie down. One of the charkas that is affected by overwhelm is the ajna chakra. That is the chakra between the eyebrows and it’s function has to do with higher will. It becomes small and congested. We are constricted instead of expanded. It’s hard to get inspiration and motivation from that state. An inner state of overwhelm also affects our basic chakra at the base of the spine. This is the chakra of activity, of getting things done. When this is small and depleted we may have intentions to get things done but we just never seem to get there.
Much of the ineffectiveness we experience is due to the fact that our efforts are going in all directions. This scatters our energy as we attempt to satisfy every desire. Energetically this creates a dense cloud of half formed and disintegrating thought forms. Choosing a clear direction with one-pointedness can shift us out of this.
We live in a very overwhelming time—much more so than in decades past, says Jan Boddie, Ph.D., a California therapist who trains individuals and consults with businesses on the topic.
Things are speeding up. Technology’s well-touted time saving seems to have yielded less leisure time, not more. Companies are demanding longer work hours. Many adults are sandwiched between the needs of older and younger generations. Sometimes there are physical reasons such as a problem in nutrition, lack of quality sleep or low energy due to illness.
“We’re sidetracked. Our lives are in such fast forward that we don’t even recognize we might need help until we’re drowning”
“We have really lost connection, not just with nature, but with our own true human nature,” Boddie says. THIS IS THE KEY.
Part of the problem is the cultural belief system in place, one that overrates doing and achievement and underrates quality of experience and connection with values.
In that cultural mindset, it’s not uncommon for a friend or a magazine article, with all good intention, to suggest the “Nike solution”: Just do it. Make priorities. Choose three things and accomplish them quickly. Go through the mail as soon as it arrives. Do a “brain dump” and create a huge to-do list with everything that you can think of on it. Now get started!
Not bad suggestions necessarily, but overcoming overwhelm isn’t really about measuring accomplishment. It’s about connecting with what has meaning for us, with what feeds and enlivens us. It’s about being who we are, from our deepest levels. Then we begin to feel the power within that helps us know what to do, and have the energy to move forward. How to move forward? Don’t look away. First you must accept who and where you are. Once you see and admit, you can commit to make necessary changes. When your inner state changes, your outer state will change.
When we come into alignment with our values and needs, we find the inner resources and spaciousness needed to get on with life.
Some characteristics that can help with overwhelm are discipline, caringness. dignity, discrimination, productivity and focus. Do you have any of these characters? What other ones can you think of that are helpful to overcome overwhelm? Focus on and use the gifts and good characteristics you have. Paying attention to your good characteristics automatically brings more energy.
Honesty is an important quality to look at. We must be honest about our values, our abilities and the time we have. If you are never able to complete your To Do list then you are not being honest when you make it. Take a hard look at your priorities, abilities and time. Then be realistic. Unrealistic expectations can cause the stress hormone cortisol to be released and add to feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.
Intervention and prevention techniques aren’t the answer. This answer lies in your heart, your spirit. Focus there, connect with your spirit and let that self deal with the tasks.
Does having too much to do always have to result in feelings of overwhelm? Your response could be- to enjoy the challenge.
Are you looking to increase your inner connection? Check out patricia-rowe.com.