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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.

Forget about the silver lining.
Find the gold at the heart of it. {tweet it}

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.

Communicate
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.

38 Comments

  1. Nisha,
    The timing of this post… Divine. Thank you. It was like getting a shot of Nisha magic directly into my being at just the time I needed it.
    All love,
    Kit

  2. Timing is everything. The timing of you sharing this article with us couldn’t have been better for where I am in my life. My company recently grew from 1 (me) to 3…I’m growing, learning, stumbling, laughing, kicking ass, failing, thriving, living my dream, making mistakes, recovering, stressing, thinking, planning, giving thanks, breathing, and so so much more..(I had to chuckle to myself reading about your staff of 18!!)
    I needed this information so much right at this second, I’m thinking about printing it out and hanging it on my office wall.
    Thank you so much for giving our overwhelm such a lovely place to reside. Everything serves us in some way and I have a wonderful service to attribute to my recent onset of major overwhelm.
    In Gratitude,
    Chef V

    • Virginia, that first leap from one to more can be a doozy! I so get it. Thanks for sharing. So glad to have you here 🙂

  3. Nisha,
    I needed this email today big time! I am 36 1/2 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I am very excited BUT totally overwhelmed. It’s our busiest time of year at work too. So I am managing but I REALLY need to read your blog at this exact moment. I totally feel I need to embrace the overwhelm. Thank you for showing me this today. It was a true blessing and for that I am grateful.
    Have a beautiful weekend.
    Alina Renee

    • Thank you so much for your share Alina, and please receive our love and blessings for the very lucky baby that is to be welcomed into this sacred life by you. What a gift! 🙂

  4. I just received this in my emails & your timing was PERFECT!
    I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately and the truth is I have been getting a little lost in it – Complete bye bye to communication etc… I’ve been able to catch little glimpses in my mind of “Yes, THIS is why I’m doing this!” but I’ve generally been pretty down about it.

    Your email helped me see that I’m handling it better than I think I’ve given myself credit for.

    & Mourn in the Morning.
    I’m not really naturally a morning person & I REALLY struggle getting up lately so I tend to feel pretty tearful then even though I might feel better later. I’d been looking at this as a bad thing & a bad start to the day – You frame this totally differently, maybe it’s worth thinking about the way you write it – as release rather than a sign I can’t handle it.

    The truth is I AM handling it – & with this tips & maybe more in comments hopefully I can continue to!

    • We celebrate you Karen! 🙂

  5. I paused everything to read this.
    I read it out loud and with faith that the overwhelmed feeling is feeling alive!

    Thank you
    Ginger-vee

    • Thank you Ginger, so grateful to have you here with us xo Jolenny

  6. Thank you for this. “Mourn in the morning…”, that is genius. I’m often overwhelmed in the morning, nervous, and wait too long to eat breakfast. I get upset about how my life is going and try to push it down to power through the morning. Now, I will not. I will cry or yell or write in my journal or simply complain (haha) and not feel badly about it. Blessings, Erin

    • This is beautiful Erin, to share your love with yourself in such a way you will welcome what is, in whatever way that may be as you begin your day. So so powerful, thank you for sharing xo ~ Jolenny

  7. Perfect timing for this post! This week has been an overwhelming one. I did not think of that as a good thing like you stated in this post but after reading this, I will work on changing my viewpoint. The way I dealt with it was by talking about it (I love good conversations), deciding what I could drop, and figuring out better ways to organize things.

    I love the way you described the communication section. Although I communicated with my husband about how I was feeling, I did not communicate with other family members & friends about why I had not been as in touch lately. Thanks for that eye opener, Nisha!

    • Learning that part myself, Laureen. It takes the pressure off, for sure. xox

  8. Thank you Nisha. Great post at the perfect time. I am passing it along to a friend as well. She can use your touch right now. I want to get her signed up for your newsletters. I feel I’ve actually been embracing the overwhelm these days. It is quite powerful to feel it and still move forward. I actually enjoy it. It is helping me to let go and grab on and see what REALLY matters. Agan, thank you for your insight.

    • You’re welcome, Kim. Happy to welcome your friend with open arms 🙂

  9. The synchronicity of this was amazing Nisha. I’d scheduled a newsletter to go to my subscribers on this exact same topic this week. We seem to both be juggling many balls, and to use many of the same tricks to manage this. Thanks for sharing, I loved reading your perspective and ideas.

    • We are all learning together Naomi 🙂 So grateful to have you here with us. With love ~ Jolenny

  10. I’ll echo what my sisters have said and tell you how divine the timing of this message is. As always, you share some profound wisdom + very practical tips. Thank you!

  11. Oh my gosh, Nisha, I needed this right now! It would take too long to explain it all. but I have realized that I am actually stronger when I am dealing with overwhelm alone . This has given me a new perspective on those tough spots I tend to hit just before I veer off trak and now look forward to the next time i waiver, knowing I can deal and grow with the experience. Thank you!

    • What a powerful breakthrough for you Bron, thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Thank you so much Nisha! As those who posted before me have said this post is exactly what I needed to see today. I just said to a friends who is visiting, I’m trying to figure out how to manage all the amazing things that are happening. I’m looking at the calendar and I’m already in the middle of May and no open day is in sight. All of your suggestions hit so close to home, especially the one about creating systems and organizing things even though we feel that we don’t have time to. I’m actually going to sign off right now and do that. I know that this will, as you said, really help mitigate feelings of overwhelm in the future and looking at my calender I know I’m going to need that:-) Thank you for sharing and being open about your process it’s really helpful. It’s also wonderful to see all of the other posts on here and know that we are all going to this together!

    • We are all so fully rooting for you Rebecca!! Wishing you a graceful journey ahead. With love, Jolenny

  13. Nisha,
    Thank you for this amazingly practical advice and elegantly crafted message. Interestingly, this topic came up on a call with my mastermind group last night. I immediately thought of your message and shared it with the group after the call, which they loved! I’ll be working on gratitude, building better systems, and choosing which balls to drop this week! Perfect timing with this advice… thank you again!
    Sending love,
    Katie

    • Beautiful, Katie. Glad it helped! xo

  14. Wow what an amazing article!! Overwhelm has been an unwanted companion all my life and it leads to making decisions to avoid it (which leads to not growing as much or as fast as I’d like). I’m going to come back to this article regularly as I can really see this tips working for me!

    • We are so happy to hear this speaks to you Iris, thank you for sharing 🙂

  15. I found this article on my first navigation to your site … Such synchronicity! I’ve been feeling & carrying tension in my body in a powerful way, I’ve allowed myself to use unhealthy means to cope with all want to/need to do but haven’t set in motion & now I have awareness & tools to redirect the overwhelmed into a positive that works for me & not against me.
    I just had a gentle, loving, morning cry. Thank you from that smiling, misty eyed, deep space within.

    • This is beautiful Jag, and we thank you for opening yourself to sharing with us what sacred process unfolded for you on this day. Much love to you xo

  16. This message has stuck with me so hard this week. The idea of “Rather than trying to hold it all together , simply hold it. ” was my message of the week- for me, my clients and my partner. Kate Northrup and Josh Pais did a great interview this week on Kate’s show talking about how to hold your emotions like anxiety and overwhelm in your body without dramatizing the feeling. Love that you guys come at the same subject from totally different places.

    I tend to medicate my overwhelm with a great romp in the bedroom or a walk through the woods (both take your mind completely out of overwhelm mode so you can restart with fresh perspective). Was wondering if you have a go-to daily practice to keep overwhelm at bay?

    • I love envisioning that walk in the woods Emily, it feels so nourishing 🙂 and to help you with your question you presented to Nisha, here is a blog where she shares about a weekly practice that allows her to navigate her days in the way that she desires http://nishamoodley.com/my-weekly-ritual-that-changes-everything/ xo

  17. Nisha,

    LOVED this. One of my dear friends and mentors shared this with me when I told her how “behind” I was feeling. As a type A, I *hate* being behind 🙂

    Your post has come at the right time and though in theory, I *know* most of the ways to dance with overwhelm, it is the application that I need to get better at:)

    I’m committing to choosing my comforts – salon day, meditating, journaling and also, dropping a few balls;)

    Thanks SO much!

    • Those are beautiful comforts Prerna 🙂

  18. This is a wonderfully refreshing perspective on such a debilitating and COMMON condition! I love your phrasing! Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for your share Stephanie 🙂

  19. Nisha,

    You’re my medicine right now, ma! I’m a one person micro biz- in the middle of post travel/away from ‘work’ overwhelm. It’s self-induced because I want to keep writing, creating, and sharing my value. I’m ready to accept ‘help’ in the form of hiring a team member. I’m putting it out there and looking for signs. I can’t yet imagine directing/collaborating with a team of 18- sounds exhilarating. I also can relate to the jump you made from sharing info on emotional eating into business and leadership. I feel a jump from women’s health to women’s leadership/business may be in my future. Although some irrational fear arises that I will lose what I’ve created… Did you experience this? My biggest take away from your post is that I need to create s p a c e right now. Thank You So Much. About to explore your work more deeply. Big Love Soul Sister, Jillian Xx

  20. I’m dancing and hustling with overwhelm so much this week, so your post and reminder is incredibly timely Nisha! Fortunately I have a few days away at the Great Barrier Reef and I will relish that time in the ocean and away from the hustle. The juggle and the struggle of mamahood, a day job and trying to make leaps in my own business have already got me singing the January blues – but I will not let it drown me. I’ll take some time over the next 2 months for soulwork, breathwork and time in nature to give myself a chance to actually ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ what I need rather than thinking and being too much in the mind.

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