Feeling overwhelmed seems to be a natural byproduct of trying to juggle our various commitments and priorities in our seemingly endless quest for the perfect life that lives in our imagination.
A few weeks ago I wrote about PWS – Perfect Wife Syndrome and the pressure we put ourselves under to create our versions of perfection.
I definitely hit a chord, not only in my own mind (where I always do, haha!) but with our amazing community of readers.
When we can let go of our illusion of what perfection is and embrace the life we have in front of us, we can find relief, right?
Well, yes and no.
Because we live everyday. New things happen. Good things and bad things and really boring things and totally exciting things.
And guess what?
I have a feeling I am not alone in my general tendency to let things go and then pick them back up again.
Life is a process, not just one moment of clarity. Though those moments help the process get easier.
Life is much more like a novel than a movie. We have page after page of decisions and ideas and reflections before we get to the end.
And I say Thank God because I need every single opportunity I can get to start fresh, re-decide, re-align with my inner core and do it all over again another day.
This week I wasn’t just struggling for perfection. I was just struggling.
You know those times when everything comes to a head? When if you add one more thing to your to do list, you think it might explode on its own and disappear it’s so full?
Those days when all you want to do is head back under the covers, but you can’t because “the world as we know it depends on you” or at least it feels as if it does.
I had a super-sized, maxi, big gulp, whopper of one of those days this week and it wasn’t pretty.
To say I was feeling overwhelmed is an understatement.
There were tears and tissues and thoughts of chucking it all and getting a perfectly delightful job at a grocery store, where the hardest thing I would have to do on any given day is add and subtract to make change.
The Hubs was a prince. He held my hand and my heart while I cried. I love him every day, but on those days when it feels like my entire life is in a vat of quicksand and his hand is keeping me from going under, on those days, I love him a little extra.
So having just gone through “The Mega Overwhelm of 2014” as we are now calling it in my house, I learned a couple of things, well actually 5, which I want to share with you today. So that on that bright and sunny day when it seems like an episode of overwhelm might be imminent you know what NOT to do.
Don’t talk too much. Yes you have stuff on your mind and yes, sometimes it’s good to let it out. But the truth is you aren’t thinking clearly when you are overwhelmed and the stuff you are thinking might not be things you actually want to be saying. So consider talking just enough to share what’s happening to you, but not so much that you give more energy to the various crazy thoughts that might be running through your head. Because when you wake up the next morning, you might not think it was the best idea to dye your hair purple and move to Mexico. See?
Do not make any decisions larger than what to eat for dinner. When you are going through any kind of emotional disturbance the worst thing you can do is make a life altering decision. This includes big things like quitting your job. (By all means quit if you need to, but make that decision when you are calm, cool, collected and have evaluated your next steps, checked the balance in your 401k and updated your Linked In profile.) It also includes seemingly little things like picking a paint color or visiting the car dealer for muffler repair and risking leaving with a new car you had no intention of buying. So seriously, stay home, eat dinner and be quiet about it – see #1.
Do not stifle your tears. Do not pretend everything is okay. Do not post on Facebook as if life is grand – we all post too many of the date nights and not enough of the everyday real life stuff like “refrigerator stopped making ice, let’s unplug it, and have our kitchen look like a disaster area while we figure out where the condenser is.” We all have these moments. I promise. Every single friend you have on Facebook has cried at some point whether they post it or not. Their life is not perfect. So don’t feel like you have to pretend that yours is and don’t hesitate to have a good cry. Let it all out. During my episode this week I used the entire tissue box. And you know what? Letting all that emotion flow over me, felt so much better than trying to pretend it wasn’t happening. It’s one of the things you learn as a life coach, that avoiding a feeling is ultimately way more painful than just letting yourself feel it and then moving on from there.
Do not believe your painful thoughts. Okay this one is going to get totally life coachy on you, so bear with me. When we are in pain we have a flood of thoughts and we totally think they are all true. Things like:
- This will never work.
- I can’t handle this.
- Life is so hard.
- I can’t do this anymore.
These thoughts are lies. They are the product of having a virus in your emotional computer. They are giving your subroutines bad instructions. And the best think you can do with these thoughts is notice they are there and say “thank you but no thank you.”
Do not believe your thoughts when they are not helping you. Acknowledge them, say hello to them, notice which ones come up over and over again, just for the love of chocolate, don’t believe them.
And the final, possibly most important “Do not do this, pretty please….”
Do not, I repeat, do not lash out at your husband (wife, partner, significant other or beloved Chihuahua). It is so easy to do right? When everything is freaking you out, the easy button is to start finding some completely insignificant thing that your hubby did to annoy you and then maximize it to epic proportions. Please, please, please don’t do that. This is when you need his loving support the most, this is when letting him in and letting him love you really matters. And really helps.
Here is your insurance policy, use it for free: the minute you feel the stress factor rising, tell him. “Oh dear, I had a terrible day today and anything that comes out of my mouth might be extreme. If I seem like I am totally off or do something odd, please know it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the day I am having.” Then, say you are sorry in advance. Yes, I really mean it. “I am sorry if I do or say something crazy, just want to give you the heads up.”
You know what that does? That helps the person you love most not freak out too. A great rule of life is to try to avoid freaking out at the same time. Don’t believe me. Try it.
So what should you do when you are feeling stressed and maxed out?
Pause. Breathe. Cry. Hug. Read something inspiring. Go to sleep early. Take a break. Step away. Change the channel.
Don’t try to solve your problems when you aren’t thinking clearly. List them out if you want. Write down the most pressing ones. Or share them with someone you love. But don’t take any action until you have had at least one good night’s sleep and can multiply without a calculator. Or something like that.
(Because seriously I always need a calculator, so my own advice might not work on me for that one, but you know what I mean.)
This week’s LOVEWORK? Look at your schedule and see if you can remove one thing and if you can, do it! Preventing overwhelm before it happens is really a great idea!
If you are feeling exhaustion, overwhelm, or stress that’s affecting how your energy levels and ability to enjoy your life and your loved ones, click here to contact me.
I will send you the details on how to schedule a free mind-clearing conversation to help you identify at least one thing that will help you move forward.
During our call we will also explore if one of my personalized coaching programs can help you manage your time, energy and priorities in a way that allows you to create a life you love, instead of a life you are tired of.
If you know someone who is struggling with overwhelm, please share this post. It might be the spark of inspiration they need to make different choices so they have the energy to make changes in their life instead of feeling crushed by it.