I can remember, many years ago, when my Chiropractor asked me what I’d done to cause the agony in my neck and shoulders and I replied, “It just happened when I put up the ironing board”. She laughed!
It’s the same with overwhelm ……it creeps up on us over time.
Of course, it was really the ‘final straw’, it’s what tipped me over the edge so that I could barely move my neck and had to seek help!
It’s the same with overwhelm, we often experience it as if it’s been caused by a single event and yet, in reality, it creeps up on us over time. We have ignored all the previous warnings and finally our body can’t cope, and we may experience confusion, have a panic attack, an accident or a physical challenge. We feel overwhelmed.
This happened to me only recently and so it’s fresh in my mind! But, whereas years ago it would have debilitated me for days, now I can respond differently and I’m able to return to being calm and productive more quickly and easily.
Here’s my 4-step process, based on the four cornerstones of emotional wellbeing.
1. The first step is to do a Body Scan and ‘feel’ what’s going on in your body and allow the feelings to be there. For example; it may be a tight chest, quickened breathing and/or heart rate, tight muscles in any part of the body.
(I’ve now created a video and audio version of my Body Scan. If you would like a link please contact me)
2. Notice what images, messages, words, colours or even memories come to you as you sit with the feeling. It could be memories of being overwhelmed in the past, fears about what might happen if you don’t achieve something or meet a deadline. It might be judgmental or critical self-talk, images or colours or a combination of any of these.
Take a pen and write down your findings in a journal or notebook and when you are complete notice that your body sensations will have softened. (If they have intensified repeat the first step until they soften).
3. Overwhelm is often an intensification of vulnerability. Since vulnerability is an emotion which we do not readily want to acknowledge or feel it’s not surprising that we suppress it! But, over time, if ignored it intensifies to get our attention!
Vulnerability flags up that we have a belief or behaviour which is coming up to challenged and moved through. If you look back at your notes you will probably find it within the lines. In my recent situation I noted my beliefs ‘I don’t have enough time’; ‘I’ll never get it all done’; ‘There aren’t enough hours in the day’; and ‘I never get to do what I want to do because I have so much work to do’.
Overwhelm is often an intensification of vulnerability.
I know, through experience, that if I push through and get it all done, I will exhaust myself and crash. Now I’ve learned to notice, challenge and work through what I can acknowledge are old and limiting beliefs. I identify where this pattern of belief came from, how it’s been of value in my life and realise what behaviour I’ve adopted when I’m stuck in the belief.
Once I’m ready to accept that it’s holding me back, I work out what I could do differently and access more supportive beliefs. Again, once I do, I feel by body calm down.
Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs recognise how they have been of value and then challenge them
In my recent situation my supportive beliefs were: ‘There are only 24 hours in a day’; ‘I can amend my schedule’; ‘I can prioritise’; ‘I can ask for help’; and ‘I can choose to have time for myself’.
So once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs recognise how they have been of value and then challenge them, acknowledge your behaviour and work out what you could do differently and what your new and support beliefs are.
4. Inspiration comes –
Be ready with your notebook or journal because this is when you get the download of how you can move forward and your next steps. If you prefer you could record your findings on a voice memo on your phone.
I like writing and so in my recent situation this is what came:
Make a list of everything that I need to do
Prioritise the list; group the jobs into sections and number then in order or priority and deadline dates
Decide what I want to do for myself, with my family and friends in the next week/month and write that in my diary FIRST!
Look at the time available in my diary and compare it with my list and decide what I need to a) delete or leave out b) postpone to another time c) delegate – ask someone else to do for me
Enter the items on my new list in my diary, into appropriate days/times
And this brought with it an even deeper sense of calm and satisfaction!
Of course, life happens and some of our plans go awry and so another tip (and one which I must confess I’m still working on) is to allow for some leeway in your schedule!
The process would not be complete without taking the time to acknowledge your achievements at the end of each day/week/month. Firstly, notice how you were able to move fluidly through a state of overwhelm and find CALM. When you’ve done it once, it’s simply a case of practise.
I’ve been following this process for many years now. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments of overwhelm, but now I move through the process far more quickly and can get back to being, calm productive and enjoying my life more quickly and easily.
N.B. This process is designed to support, not replace, any medical attention you may require and so if this process does not support you and you continue to experience overwhelm and/or panic attacks please consult with your medical practitioner.