How to Overcome Overwhelm

Have you noticed that you have felt more overwhelmed in the last 2 years since the world has been turned upside down?

If you have, you are certainly not on your own. Overwhelm has crept up on most of us at some point over the last year or so. When it strikes it can wreak havoc with your emotions, thoughts and ability to function and perform as you would like

What is Overwhelm?

Overwhelm is an internal experience, something that is happening within you. It is a collection of uncomfortable feelings, frequently coupled with racing thoughts and a negative or hostile outlook. The more overwhelmed you feel,  the less able to feel to deal with the pressures of life.

If you find yourself withdrawing, feeling fatigued, groggy, irritable, or your emotions seem extreme at times, you may be struggling with overwhelm.

Short term overwhelm certainly isn’t a problem, but longer term overwhelm can lead to prolonged emotional distress, anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue and other such symptoms

What Causes Overwhelm?

Overwhelm can present itself when…

  • we are taking on too much and our expectations for ourselves exceed either our ability or our desire
  • the apparent demands of external life exceed our ability to deliver or meet those demands
  • we feel out of control of life…victims of circumstance
  • the intensity of life gets amped up – as we have witnessed in the last 18 months
  • we are going through change, individually or collectively.

What are the Solutions?

The first step in overcoming overwhelm is to own your experience and recognise that your body is trying to get a message through to you. Whatever is going on inside you is yours. Your feelings and emotions are information, they are here to help us navigate through our day to day experience, so allow whatever feelings are coming up. Come into the present moment, drop attention into your body, breathe, and simply allow the sensations and feelings that are arising in that moment.

You will notice that when you allow your feelings without resisting them or judging them, a significant proportion of suffering automatically dissipates. Bringing attention into the present moment and allowing whatever is taking place in the body is the crucial first step. Your feelings are not a problem; when you allow them to flow they will not harm you and you will not drown in them.

Once we have allowed and acknowledged our feelings, the next step is to figure out whether they are guiding us to take action. As we reflect on what is going on for us, we can create space inside for a solution to arise. This is where intuition, insight, and realisations come into play. In some instances there will be action we can take – this could be where we have given ourselves too much to do, or our expectations are unrealistic. In other instances there may be nothing for us to do. For example, if we are going through a period of change, or, as we have all experienced with the covid pandemic, life can present with a series of uncertainties which can feel very uncomfortable. In these instances, all we need do is allow our feelings and show ourselves deep compassion.

The Paradigm Shift

Many people think that their feelings of overwhelm are directly caused by outside life. In these instances it is all too easy to be caught up in feeling like a victim of circumstance, a passive observer of a life that lies beyond your control. The danger of this perspective is that we believe that in order for us to feel good or OK, certain things need to happen in life, so we frantically try to control life in order to control the feelings that arise for us.

Effectively, this means we are setting conditions for feeling good…”I can feel good when _______ happens in my life”. Because we don’t and can’t control life we are setting ourselves up for failure, which results in more tension and overwhelm.

Energy-Flow Coaching would argue that because your feeling experience is created within you, and not directly controlled or dictated by outside events, it is entirely possible for you to have different feelings even when events and situations remain the same. This means we are removing conditions from feeling good. You could have different feelings even if circumstances don’t change. Good feelings naturally arise when we are aligned and connected with our inner wisdom, our true selves. So we don’t need to control external events to facilitate good feelings, we need to look inward and connect with our own energy-flow, and as we do, feeling good ensues.

Feelings are not inevitable.

Opening up to the idea that it is possible for us to feel good even when events would suggest otherwise, it doesn’t stop us from allowing whatever emotions and feelings arise in the now moment, but it does enable us to recognise that there is flexibility in our feelings. Our feelings are not set in stone and dictated by outside events.

In Summary

Overwhelm usually arises when we have too much of an external focus and we are trying to match ourselves and our output to external circumstances. When we redirect our attention inwards and know that we can feel good regardless of the expectations of life, it becomes much easier to set realistic expectations about what, how, and when we do things..this takes the pressure off and the body no longer needs to send overwhelm messages.