Feeling overwhelmed is the pits. It feels like there is so much coming at you that you are drowning, you are powerless, you are rendered incapable of even thinking clearly. Which makes overwhelm extremely tricky, because how can you make good decisions in the grips of something that causes confusion? It’s like Carrie Matheson trying to do espionage when she’s off her meds on Homeland—it’s harrowing.
As much as you may tell yourself that it’s just the nature of modern life—with its information overload—or your life—with all its complexities and competing priorities—to be overwhelming, it’s just not true.
Overwhelm is not a state of being that you have to simply accept.
On a subconscious level, feeling overwhelmed is a habit. And habits can be changed.
I talk about Five Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On in a blog post I wrote for Acacia TV, but I’m going to jump over those five miraculous steps to share with you, my MsMindbody readers, the one question that can cut right to the heart of it:
What do I most need right now?
It’s a question I ask myself and my clients regularly. And the power of this question is that it creates an opening in your busy life and swirling thoughts to peer beneath the surface and access the wisdom you always have with you.
I asked myself this question a few weeks ago, after a long winter of being the primary caretaker of my kids and my recuperating husband (he broke his ankle at the end of January, had two surgeries and spent four months on the couch). As grateful as I was that he—and the weather—were improving greatly, I was also fried. And there are a couple projects starting to bubble up to the surface of my mind and heart, and I wasn’t feeling like I had the energy to do them justice. It went beyond the kind of tiredness that extra sleep can cure. I needed a break. Even more importantly, I needed alone time.
Which is how it came to pass that I am leaving this Sunday to take myself on a three-night, four-day solo writing retreat.
Can I get an amen?!
And it all happened because I asked, “What do I most need right now?”
Sometimes the answer is right there and sometimes it takes a while to surface. How long it takes to hear isn’t important. That you ask and then are open to receiving the answer is the vital part. It cuts through all that chatter of “This is all too much,” “I don’t even know what to do next,” and “Calgon, take me away!” It gets you focused on the way through instead of the mess.
And if you ask yourself the question and feel like you don’t know the answer, know this: You know a lot more than you think you do. Keep asking. Keep listening for the answer. And—this is the tricky part—don’t swat away the insights that come as too silly or expensive or implausible. There is always some way to honor the answer. You deserve to give yourself what you need.