Overwhelm. I often see this word on the Yoga Health Coaching forum and the Body Thrive forum. And it comes up a lot in daily casual conversations. People feel deluged with the amount of things on their to do list.They do not feel like they are keeping up.
Responsibilities at work and home are pulling all of us in too many directions.The complexities of living in the world today all pile on top of one another.
I often feel inundated with news, opinions, facts and fictions. I am bombard with things I want to do, need to do, or feel like I should do all the time. Often these different things pull me in all different directions.There are the responsibilities I have to the people closest to me, to my students and my business and then there are the very real threats and concerns in the world at large. Setting world concerns aside as a subject too big for this first blog, why does overwhelm seem to hit the mark for how I am feeling more accurately than anything else? What exactly am I feeling and how is it different from anxiety or fear?
At least for me, overwhelm occurs when I feel bombarded with new information. It does not make me feel anxious and I am not afraid because I know the bigger problem is that I do not have enough information. Overwhelm really is reaching a saturation point. Most of our triggers, like overwhelm, we see as our shortcomings or failures and they are really just signals from our mind AND body to look at what we are doing with a fresh eye. Give yourself the time to process.
What If I Changed My Relationship with Overwhelm?
Overwhelm usually involves new information or constantly changing life circumstances that we have not fully processed. Often times when we feel overwhelmed, we withdraw. When I was young I do not remember feeling overwhelm.There are a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which is, back then we were not being bombarded with so much information in all forms of media. The other thing is when I was young, new information was new and exciting. Everything was a new possibility and everything seemed interesting to try or learn.
What if I changed my relationship with overwhelm? What if overwhelm is not a problem, but a sign that I need to reassess and re-prioritize so that the new information can be taken in. What if overwhelm is an indication that I am saturated right now and need to step back and let what I just learned settle? What if I waited, then moved forward again- instead of running away.
I Felt Like Everyone was Ahead of Me!
When I started Yoga Health Coaching I had very minimal comfort with technology. I knew nothing about sales, but I was a successful yoga teacher. Once I started doing the coursework for Yoga Health Coaching, everyone seemed to be so far ahead of me. There were terms on the forum that were not familiar to me like, “start a new thread” or “tag me.” I may have heard of theses phrases before, but was not sure ‘how to do it.’ In my mind, this feeling of being behind just reinforced how much I needed to learn.
When I would try and actually do something new like set up a document on Google docs or do an e-mail to my list and things would not go the way I thought, I would become frustrated. This would build into all of this anxiety that would force me to take a step back. At this point, taking a step back looked more like “Just give up. Who are you kidding?” and other not so nice things I said to myself about technology, and the world. You can fill in your own expletives & self deprecating phrases yourself. In the days that followed I would have periods of mourning, self-doubt, and giving up.
Hey It’s Just Like a Yoga Pose
Eventually I would have to return to the task at hand so I could be able to come up with a more useful question than “I don’t know what I did wrong?” I discovered that I did understand more than I thought I did. I could actually google a question or ask another person what I needed and then return to the bigger task with my new information and try it out. Most of the overwhelm was because I did not give myself enough time to integrate a new concept before adding on another. The overwhelm is part of the process of appreciating how much I have learned.
I realized that in order to get more done, I needed to do nothing but let everything settle. Just like in a yoga pose I am working on. I may know exactly what I need to do next, yet I still have to continue to work at it, to build strength and body awareness before it all falls into place. Everything integrates- not just the mind but the body and the spirit to allow me to go forward in any task, as with any new yoga pose.
Something Must Be Wrong with ME
The mind body connection is so important. When I am in ‘overwhelm,’ I have a tendency to focus on concrete mental parts of tasks that are not getting done because of the frustrations I am feeling. And I have found the most important thing is the automatic response of “What is wrong with ME?” or even “What is wrong with this program, app, process?” Why did I jump to something having to be WRONG, rather than accepting that this might be part of the process. Trying to do too much too soon, trying to do it all ourselves without help, and not looking at the bigger picture are often more of an issue than something wrong with ME or wrong with _____. Fill in the blank.
I tend to focus on why I can’t move forward and do not look back at all I have done. Often, not always, the overwhelm comes after I have had some big moves forward and I feel like I am getting the hang of things and then right after the roadblock comes. Why do I automatically go to the assumption that something is wrong, instead of looking at it as a sign that this is enough- for now. The mind has processed enough, the body is tired of sitting in one place, and I just need to step back and take a breath to settle everything in without judgement or blaming. So, I do that all the time now and life is rosey. Well, maybe not, but it is a reframe that I do try to remember before pitching my computer out the window.
Full Disclosure, I’m New to Blogging
This is one of my first blogs and it was intimidating to begin. In addition to the blogging and working on my Yoga Health Coaching certification there are many other things going on in the world and in my life that I do not have control over. I considered just dropping doing the blog but I really wanted to build this skill and begin to use the internet to grow my business- all very overwhelming to me. I did not grow up with technology. I went to college in the 70’s and typed term papers with carbon paper copies. All of the changes in communication and marketing are all new, and yes, overwhelming. Reframing and changing my perspective has given me the courage to move forward.
Here’s some tips to follow when you find yourself needing to reframe that overwhelm you are feeling:
- Stop and breathe. Connect your mind, body and breath.
- Give yourself credit for what you do understand or know. And for things that you need to clarify or study more closely, give yourself plenty of time to do just that.
- ASK FOR HELP if you need it. There are resources out there. Use them. In talking out the problem, often the solution is found.
- Take small steps forward. Don’t give up on yourself or the project. Chip away at the huge pile of facts, problems or issues and do what you can right now. It does not have to be everything, but as long as it is moving, integrating, and processing, something you do will get you forward.
- Step back and allow your mind to absorb what it just learned.
So next time you notice you are feeling overwhelmed, try these few steps and move at YOUR own pace. Don’t let the new information get you down. Instead, let the challenge move you forward. What do you notice if you reframe the situation and find your own way? Let me know if this changes anything for you.
Carol Confino has been a studying yoga for over 20 years been teaching for 10 years in Northern Virginia. A former nurse she has focused her attention more on wellness than sickness since switching to teaching yoga with her main focus on gentle and Level 1 classes. Through her studies she was introduced to Ayurveda several times but hearing the Body Thrive approach that Cate Stillman has been teaching she has been inspired to not only change her own habits but also to encourage others to adopt a healthier lifestyle by becoming a Yoga health coach. She enjoys the mountains, knitting, quilting and spending time with her husband and 2 sons.