Overwhelm…probably makes you feel a little…Anxious? Nervous? Fearful? yep, even thinking of the word can conjure an unpleasant response in our body.
So what exactly is it, where does it come from and most importantly how do we stop it from taking over?
Overwhelm is rooted in a feeling of powerlessness. Overwhelm happens when we have lost our sense of self and have been plunged into confusion feeling a myriad of limitless options surrounding us with no idea which way to turn. This confusion may come from outside of us or from inside our own minds - but either way - it all feels like “too much” and often makes us want to shut down.
It pushes many of us into procrastination or gets us doing meaningless tasks that aren’t in line with our truth.
So why does overwhelm happen? Why, even though we know it is not helpful for us, do we let it in? Why can’t we stop it?
Here are two fundamental reasons for overwhelm
1. YOU ARE NOT ANCHORED IN YOUR OWN AUTHORITY
You get overwhelmed because your focus and energy is directed outward too much. There is too much emphasis on things that are going on outside of you and what other people are doing, thinking and saying.
This is the manifestation often of a huge boundary issue, especially for empaths. Where your sense of self and identity is based on the reflections you receive from those around you and is not generated from within.
You then get overwhelmed because there are limitless options available to you out there and without being anchored in your own authority you have no way to narrow down those options.
The world is simply too much and your container is always overflowing with other peoples thoughts and ideas. Your own voice is crowded out.
2) THE VOICE OF YOUR INNER CRITIC IS LOUDER THAN YOUR INTUITION/HEART
You haven’t cultivated a strong enough relationship with your intuition and the voice of your ego takes over often.
Your ego voice is one of fear. This conditioned voice will keep telling you you are not good enough, you need to be small, you shouldn’t cause a scene, you shouldn’t speak up.
You feel overwhelmed then because suddenly everything feels like too much of a challenge. Everything is too scary, too dangerous, too risky. So you end up not doing these things - your ego has won - it has kept you safe and small.
The pressure inside your mind has overwhelmed any dreams or desires you have in life to go and do what you want to do.
The outcome as a result of either 1) or 2) or both is that you feel small and restricted in your own life and feel out of control.
In both scenarios you are perpetuating a concept of separateness. You are disconnected from source, disconnected from truth.
The natural order of things is wholeness, balance and abundance. The concept of overwhelm is a construct of your mind that keeps you feeling small because it wants you to be safe.
Overwhelm often comes with a growth moment. It is when you are asking more of yourself than you have done before.
But, very importantly, you CAN grow without overwhelm.
Here are 5 action steps you can take whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed in order to reduce the overwhelm and allow you to move forward in life in whichever direction you want to go.
1) GET INTO THE BODY AND MOVE THE ENERGY
Any intuitive movement is good, even just focusing on the breath works.
Overwhelm manifests in the body but lives in the mind. Therefore, you need to acknowledge it, and then move it. Examples include dance, yoga, stretching, walking, gym workouts. Any somatic practice that takes you out of your mind and into your body works well here. This is not the best time to learn a new physical skill though because you need your mind for that. Choose easy movement that you know how to do.
2) TELL YOURSELF A NEW STORY
Use affirmations to change the story in your mind. The most important thing here is to find statements that feel true to you. Here are a couple of examples.
“I am more powerful than what is making me anxious”
“I am a divine limitless spiritual being having a human experience”
3) SET BOUNDARIES
This will feel hard at first and may even feel more overwhelming but once you have set them and then stick with them your life will feel so much easier.
A very tangible example here is setting boundaries around giving your energy to others. If you are constantly being asked by other people to do things for them and have no time for you then start setting boundaries with the people in your life. State clearly that you are happy to help them out but with conditions. Give time limits, share how much resource it takes you etc. let people know what you are available for and if they ask more of you then stay firm and say “no”. Make sure you are always spending time each day giving your own energy back to yourself.
4) BREAK DOWN TASKS
Break down tasks into the smallest conceivable size.
I love this Hemingway quote that always reminds me of this…he talks about writing a book, saying that the idea of writing a whole novel can feel too daunting, too overwhelming…instead of thinking this he says “all you have to do is write one true sentence”.