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The divinity of overwhelm
For the past few months, I have been working on a massive project with a team that has grown to 18 people. There have been a lot of “whoa” moments – times when I feel I’m being stretched in big ways. More people, more tasks, more expenses, more complexity and more at stake than ever before. At times, it’s felt overwhelming.
So when a client called on me a week ago to share that she was feeling overwhelmed as she navigates a big launch, I understood. Here’s what I told her…
Overwhelm is a good sign. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it means you’re feeling. If you stop feeling – go numb – you’re missing the experience of living while you’re alive. So in the name of aliveness, welcome overwhelm. Overwhelm is a sign that there are big things happening in your life, and that you are being called to create more space, to pay more attention, to grow.
What is important is how we respond to overwhelm. Do we get lost in it, or dance with it?
Staying in overwhelm is saying “I can’t handle this” and “this shouldn’t be happening”. Inherently, this frame is lacking in gratitude, perspective that there’s a bigger picture at play, and the ability to see possibility. From this frame we forget that we have handled everything in our lives before this, and that we will handle this, too.
Dancing with overwhelm is saying “I’m being called to pay attention” and “I’m expanding”. From this frame, we can find great gratitude for the gifts of abundance, for being stretched, and for the opportunity to grow. We recognize that there is a bigger picture at play, and that there are gifts we haven’t yet uncovered.
When you choose to dance with overwhelm, you don’t need to find the “silver lining” – the consolation prize. Instead, you mine for gold at the heart of the experience, understanding that the whole thing is a gift that you just may not be seeing yet.
HOW TO DANCE WITH OVERWHELM
Be more like mama earth
Rather than trying to hold it all together , simply hold it. This is the difference between a mommy or an entrepreneur who gets all emotionally swirled up and frazzled about trying to hold together every.single.detail., and the mommy or entrepreneur who finds her way to breathe through it, understanding that everything will be okay, even if it’s not perfect. There’s an energetic “switch” that can happen when we lean towards being more like mama earth, who doesn’t protect us from falling, but catches us when we fall.
Choose what balls you’re going to drop
Because when you’re being stretched to your limits, balls will be dropped. No juggler will go from juggling 3 balls to 5, and not drop a few while they learn. It’s okay. What’s important is that we consciously choose which balls we’re going to drop, so we don’t end up inadvertently “dropping” our relationship, our health, our sleep, or our sanity. Instead, choose to drop email, text messages, Facebook messages and a spotless house. Whatever it may be, be sure to choose it.
Choose your comforts
Stretching is uncomfortable, so will naturally create a strong desire for comfort. If we don’t choose how we will comfort ourselves in advance, we’ll likely reach to food, wine, TV, and other vices that don’t always serve to create true replenishment for us. Schedule a dinner out with friends, start a “text therapy” thread with girlfriends, use your favorite essential oil, schedule a tech-free day, prepare nourishing snacks, and get full nights of sleep.
Build better boundaries
Sometimes we need to protect ourselves from our own bad habits. These little distractions are like energy leaks that create depletion in a system that’s already feeling stretched to the max. By creating a few simple boundaries for yourself – no tech in bed, no email before 11am, no laundry unless it’s Sunday – you stop up the little energy leaks that are making a big impact.
This is something I am working on myself right now! Often, when we get overwhelmed, we disappear, leaving others wondering what happened to us and leaving us feeling guilty and more overwhelmed. Just let people know you’ll get back to them and create the space to do so. Peace for all.
Build better systems
When you’re dancing with overwhelm, you can see opportunities everywhere – the need for better organizational systems, the need for better planning, etc. It’s tempting to think “I don’t have time for that right now – I just have to get everything done”, then feel more overwhelmed because you see planning and organization as just more to do. But this is the time to do it. Build in a bit of time, even when you’re sure you have none, for building these systems. They will help unclutter your mind and create the foundations to prevent getting stuck in overwhelm in the future.
Mourn in the morning
Growing up is tough, and sometimes it’s hard to be an adult. When we feel stretched to our max, we can be inclined to “buckle down” and push down our emotions so we can slog our way through. But without the emotional release, tension builds, and we end up feeling more stressed and depleted than ever. Instead, consider giving yourself a bit of space for a good cry in the morning when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Let the pressure off. You won’t cry forever, and you’ll find more space to dance through your day.
––> In the comments below, I’d love for you to share some of your best tools for dancing with overwhelm, and what you’re taking from this conversation.