Do you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the things you feel you must get done?
Are you feeling overwhelmed because you have no clue which life or career direction to follow?
No matter what you are feeling overwhelmed about, let’s explore what prompts these overwhelming feelings so that you have a better idea where they are stemming from and what you can do about it.
When you stop to think about and break down the actual word ‘overwhelmed’, you might experience a sense of heaviness with the word itself. In a search for the definition of the word ‘overwhelmed’, this is what came up:
Overwhelmed means “to bury or drown beneath a huge mass“, and “to give too much of a thing to (someone).”
Notice the emphasis I purposely put on the words: ‘huge mass’, and ‘too much.’ When we feel overwhelmed, we experience this feeling of heaviness.
What is the reason for this heaviness and where does it come from? The simple answer is that whatever is happening in your life feels like too much for you. But why?
The reason may surprise you and I invite you to follow my train of thought.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, what you are actually doing is adding extra, unnecessary weight to your actual reality. The way you are adding extra weight to your current reality is by fighting with what is.
Here is what fighting with reality looks like:
Reality: This is the list of things I am setting out to accomplish today.
Fight with reality: These are all of the things I have to do today! I wish the semester was done already!
Reality: I chose to date a guy who did not share the same values as me.
Fight with reality: I shouldn’t have dated that guy! He’s such a jerk! I am such an idiot!
Reality: I do not yet know what career I would like to pursue.
Fight with reality: I should know what I want to be doing already! Everyone else has figured it out. What’s wrong with me?
Which of the two versions in each of the examples above feel overwhelming?
Like most people I have worked with, you likely agree that the statements that are fighting with reality are the one’s that feel heavier and overwhelming.
Now go back to each ‘Fight with Reality’ statement and note what is happening. What words are being used? What are the thoughts being expressed in these statements.
What you might have noticed is that the words ‘should‘ and ‘have to‘ are being used. What you also may have noticed is the addition of blame and harsh judgment in the Fight with Reality statements, and a wish for the reality to be different.
All of these should’s and have to’s, blame and judgment, and wishing for what is actually happening, or for what has already happened to be different than what it actually is, are adding extra ‘weight’ to your current reality. This extra ‘weight’ likely results in you not just feeling overwhelmed, but powerless and out of control, as well.
Through our exploration of why you are feeling overwhelmed, we can now glean the steps you can take to help you get present and stop feeling overwhelmed.
State and accept what is. Instead of thinking about how you wish things could or should be, get present with what actually is. [Please note that I am in no way implying that you should accept a reality you do not like and not change it. On the contrary! When you stop fighting with what is, you will have much more success taking the steps to make the changes you want to make about your reality because you will be doing so without the extra stress and weight that fighting with reality produces.]
Remove the words ‘should’ and ‘have to’ from your vocabulary. Using these words remove your sense of responsibility and result in you feeling as if things are totally out of your control. To get back in control, use words and phrases that put you back into the driver’s seat of your life, like: ‘I will’ and ‘I choose to.’
End the Blame Game. All blame does is push you down. It is another form of additional, unnecessary weight that distracts you from taking control of your situation, getting present and tackling the task in front of you.
Does using this process remove all of those uncomfortable feelings that come along with some of our most difficult situations? No. But it does make dealing with our realities much easier.
Consider this example:
A woman walked into my office one day feeling very upset and distraught. She described that she had just been dumped by her boyfriend of two years. Since the break-up he has been nasty to her and ignored her whenever he saw her. Being that they lived in the same community, this was an extremely difficult situation for this woman.
This is a snippet of our conversation about her situation. (I will refer to this woman as ‘C’, for client, and will refer to myself as ‘M’ for…me.)
C: I hate this! I hate him! I have not been sleeping or eating for the last week! It’s driving me crazy!
M: Wow. What’s that about?
C: I am just to angry. I’m angry and I hate myself for still thinking about him. I am angry because I know I shouldn’t think about him or care about him. That’s what everyone I care about is telling me. And I do still care about him. And I hate myself for it!
M: How do you react, what happens, when you think the thought*: “I shouldn’t care about him.”
C: I can’t sleep. I am not eating. He and our relationship is ALL that I think about.
M: What about when you think the thought: ‘I care about him.’ What happens then?
C: [Thinks for a minute or two, then] Oh, well then I am just confused.
M: Okay, here is a suggestion for you then. For the next week, embrace what is: that you care about him. Shut out the noise of what you or anyone else thinks you should or should not be doing and accept your real and true feelings.
That is just what ‘C’ did. When she came back for our next meeting the following week, C was lighter and happier. I asked her what happened during the week and this is what she said:
C: I did what you suggested and I stopped feeling angry at him and at myself. It made it easier to accept what was going on and now I am also able to more easily let go and wish him and myself well. I am still sad and still a bit confused, but I am dealing with it so much better now.
The example above illustrates what happens when we let go of the extra weight of ‘fighting with reality’ that we add to our situations. When you shed the added ‘weight’, you, too, will feel less overwhelmed and more ready and capable to tackle any situation, both large and small, with more ease.
Try it and let me know how it goes. You can share your thoughts and comments in the comments below, or send me a private message, here.
In support and admiration,
*The question above is an adaptation of the Four Questions that is part of The Work of Byron Katie. The Work is a great tool for helping you get mindful and present with your reality and live a more peaceful life. Learn more at thework.com. Click here to find other helpful resources.