I think the most common word I hear in my counselling room is Overwhelm.
For many of us this Holiday period is the season of a particular kind of overwhelm. An overwhelm made up of trying so hard for everything to be perfect; of feeling financial pressures as we try to please our children, family and friends; of being so incredibly focused on how it ‘should be’, according to the movies, magazines, or our own filtered memories of idyllic childhoods; or trying to make it perfect for our families because of our less than ideal childhoods.
In a culture of busy-ness we can find ourselves constantly distracted as we focus and re-focus again and again on the next thing on our to-do list, whilst tending to the needs or desires of those around us. We work hard to please, often believing we need to do it all, and fearful of the consequences if we let something drop.
Whatever is feeding into your overwhelm it is likely you are feeling disconnected from yourself, including not feeling grounded in your own body; of spiralling around in your mind; of feeling forgetful, or even on the edge: Of not feeling you have a choice, and not feeling any possibility of letting go, lest everything just fall apart.
Finding time to rest is often attached to feelings of weakness, of wasting time, not being productive. We chastise ourselves and find it hard to give ourselves permission to just stop and pause. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine giving yourself permission to take a seat, to take some deep and calming breaths, letting your body go heavy, and allowing your mind to slow down? Can you imagine how restorative that could feel?
On 24th January, 2016 I am holding a 2 hour workshop on Managing Overwhelm. I originally thought of organising it in December: I chose not to, as I think most of us have too many intentions at this time of year, and find it very hard to put ourselves first, and prioritise that time for, or financial investment in us.
Managing Overwhelm continues to be a practice for me. Although I know (because I’ve done it) that taking time to pause, breathe and be, is the antidote to Overwhelm, I continue to find it a struggle to get back on track. My own personal Overwhelm has quite a loud and piercing voice, encouraging me to keep going, to keep adding worries, activities and purchases to my list. My Overwhelm wants me to be loved, and accepted, and appreciated, so is constantly at me to keep on my game. So stopping and pausing and reflecting is always a struggle. But I know it works. I know it works because I regularly have to practice it. And the more I practice it, the more I trust that it works. And that’s what I would love for you… for you to find moments to practice stillness and find time to rest. It might be moments in the day where you remind yourself to just breathe deeply a few times; or it might be regular journalling to remind yourself of all you do, and of all you are, and to value and appreciate yourself. It might be scheduling some time to do things you want to, even thought Guilt will accompany you (Hmm another blog on the Big G is needed I think). Or it may be stepping away from scheduling and having some unstructured time.
But I am not going to tell you what you should do. I am not going to add to the guilt or the ToDo list. I am going to finish this blog with a few words that I find helpful, from people far wiser than me. I hope they help you too:
Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself. Hermann Hesse
Clarity and decisiveness come from the willingness to slow down, to listen and to look at what’s happening. Pema Chodron
Be there for others. But never leave yourself behind. Dodinsky