Overwhelm: One Key Mindset Shift to Help in Times of Stress
Earlier this week, while submerged in a bath with the hopes of calming my nervous system, my mind just wouldn’t stop. It was spinning about all the things I had to do. All the little to-dos I needed to remember to write down, all the people I needed to follow up with.
And as I caught myself spinning, I invited my body to move and shake a bit to let out the tension. I vocalized some sounds, and brought myself back to the sensations in my body.
And then a phrase arose out of the calm waters that repeated, “You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to do anything."
I didn't have to write this newsletter. I didn't have to follow up with a client. I didn't have to buy my friend a birthday present before her birthday. I didn't even have to go to work the next day. The list goes on.
As I repeated this phrase to myself, speaking directly to the overwhelmed part of myself, I slowly felt the tension, anxiety, and overwhelm dissolve into the bathwater. I felt my heart begin to open a bit. And I felt like I could start to relax into the moment.
The pressure was off.
And as I began to feel the shift in my body and mind, there was an opening that allowed me to feel a sense of inspiration to do these things out of desire instead of overwhelm.
Sometimes you will need to just let things go, to not show up for the external world how you’ve always shown up in order to really care for yourself and your nervous system.
I often talk about how this over-culture is dangerous in how much it expects out of us.
We are not machines, and should never feel like we need to do more in order to be successful. The pace at which we move in today's society is extremely unhealthy and unsustainable. We all need to slow down.
Yet sometimes the simple shift in mindset will provide you the energy to do what you need to do from a place of choice instead of anxiety and resentment.
For example, you don't have to pick your child up from school. But if you consider what would happen if you didn't, you may feel you actually really want to choose to do that.
So I wanted to share this experience with you in case you are one of those people who, like me, wants to care for others and care for the world so much so that we sometimes deplete ourselves in the process. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to do anything.
I’m not talking about the literal things we do need to do to survive. I’m talking about the imposed actions that leave us feeling overwhelmed and like we’re carrying so much on our shoulders that we might break.
I’m talking about the things that if we don’t do, may feel like death - like not showing up at your kid’s soccer game. Like not going over to care for a sick parent, and asking someone else to do it this time. Like not going into work and taking a mental health day even if your team is counting on you. Like canceling last minute on a friend date. Like just not completing the assignment on time.
While I don't recommend canceling commitments willy nilly, if you're depleted, overwhelmed, and are at a breaking point, sometimes it's best to just say no, even if you do really want to show up on some level. Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves, even when it feels like there's absolutely no way out.
And hopefully, we can all learn to not carry so much to begin with, and live a life that's slower and more aligned with the ease of our true humanity.
Not showing up for others sometimes feels unimaginable, like a death to us, because a part of our psychological image of ourselves does actually have to die: the perfectionist, the rescuer, the hero, the good mother, the A student, etc. What does it say about your worth when you let that image go? Ask yourself, "am I still worthy and good if I don’t do _______?"
If a part of you believes the answer is no, then some deep investigation work is in order - this is a part of your shadow revealing itself to you. Start to question this part of yourself that doesn't believe you're worthy:
Who says? Where did you see or learn this? What is the archetypal image you're associating with (Perfectionist, Good Mother, etc.)? What does it mean about you if you don't do this? What is the worst that will happen if you don't do this? What is the best that will happen if you don't do this? How does your body respond when there's a possibility to rest instead?
Get really curious about how this part of you is thinking and crafting your life. Get really curious about how old this part of you is, what they look like, what emotions they feel, etc. It's only by bringing these parts of us into light that we can become empowered to not operate under their control.
So what is one thing that you could let go of today? What is one moment today that you can fill with yourself: with breath, with pause, with rest, with beauty?
The more we choose ourselves, the more energy we will actually have to our families and the collective.
You have my permission to choose yourself today.