Overwhelm: When you can’t escape your life, try mindfulness.

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Article for Yoga Lunchbox


“Hello Overwhelm my old friend,

I’ve come to talk to you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping.”

I often break into song when I feel her coming again.


Overwhelm.



With her short breath, her pinched shoulders, her scratchy throat, her distracted conversations (“Mum, are you listening?”) her constant pull to the list, the bloody list, her tumble of thoughts, thinking thinking thinking, her creepy whispers of “That’s too hard, do that one later”, her drag from the present - I’m not here right now.


One of the hardest things with Overwhelm is knowing you need to stop. But you can’t stop because there’s so much to do. You think “I’ll just finish one more thing on the list and THEN I’ll take a break.” But then once it’s ticked off you actually can’t really relax because you keep thinking of ALL THE THINGS YOU STILL HAVE TO DO. There’s a number of To Do List hacks you can try but at the end of the day, there’s ALWAYS going to be Things To Do. Unless we run away to Raro (I actually did this once).


If you CAN'T escape your life (don’t get too jealous, the list was there when I returned) then what you CAN do is train your body and mind to relax. To not jump on the overwhelm train and steam full noise into a shit storm of tears, irritability and burnt dinners (oh? Just me?).


Having a daily meditation practice is cool. But if you don’t yet do this, it’s really hard to start one when you’re in the middle of overwhelm because you can’t stop thinking of ALL THE THINGS TO DO!


So I teach people to drop little moments of mindfulness into the day. 1 min while brushing your teeth, 2 mins while driving, even 30 seconds while on the loo god damn it.


It all adds up you see. It’s kind of like toilet training a puppy. You don’t just teach it once in the morning and then for the rest of the day let it shit all over the carpet.


No. You don’t.


You keep reminding, gently, showing, “This way puppy. This is how you do it”

This way, instead of having one more thing to remember to do, we can just BE mindful. Second nature. A habit of sorts. As natural as peas and corn together.


Being mindful may not always kill overwhelm in her tracks but it definitely helps to remain calmer and takes us to path of awareness.


I am now acutely aware of when overwhelm is jumping up and down like an excited puppy. Sit down.


Overwhelm and I, we’ve become friends over the years. I used to let her be the bossy one in the relationship (yes mam, all those things WILL get done today) and for a while there I ghosted her (I know you’re right there but I’m ignoring you. “seen”) and then once, we were enemies (Go away Bitch, you’ve ruined my life, and my mascara). But now – now we are friends. I’m aware when she is there and so I choose differently now.


Like today, when I had a deadline for this article, I wrote this email to the editors:


Hey Lucinda and Kara-Leah


Just letting you know with deep apologies that I won’t be able to write an article for the yoga lunchbox by the deadline.


I’ve felt overwhelm creeping in and I’m super aware now and deliberately choose to slow down instead of speed up.


There’s been heaps to do this week. I run a night class every Thursday which I need to plan (and write) each week, my memoir is about to be published and I’m actively promoting the Pledge Me campaign to raise the money needed for printing, I’m writing posts like there’s no tomorrow, I’m writing a work book to compliment my memoir, and I’m homeschooling my daughter every morning and seeing clients in the afternoons.


However, despite the time constraints I’ve been consciously choosing to move slowly, instead of feeling at the whim of “a busy life” and it feels good. Empowering even. I chose to make bread from scratch yesterday. From. Scratch! That takes 7 hours btw. Doing this helped me to stay in the moment, to feel present, to enjoy the time, and not make time my foe.


I’m definitely not IN overwhelm, but I can feel it in the outskirts of my awareness, tapping away “here I am, I’m right beside you”


And I’ve been mulling in my head about what to write for you, my work seems so 101 compared to the highly conscious contributors you have. I haven’t had inspiration hit me yet.”

And here we come to the crux of my overwhelm right here. The task seemed too…much. Too hard, too hard for me, for me because my work isn’t Up There, because I’m not good enough. Which is a recurring theme for me when it comes to writing. This is how I felt when I was a study-mum (a mother who studies) and the feelings of not living up to my (high?) standards as a researcher/writer and also as a mother. I’d done my fair share of working on “I’m not good enough”. I genuinely thought it was a distant memory.


I only realised it had returned though when I got my reply,


Hey Angie,

Quick suggestion - you've written so many amazing IG posts in the last few weeks... one of those would be a great article in and of itself. You don't have to create new content - just use one of those posts with a few tweaks. Because I don't think this is about having time, but rather about feeling good enough. Inspiration doesn't have to hit - you've already got loads of awesome content - it's just re-using one of those posts.


It's owning the AMAZING that you already are.


big love,

Kara-Leah


Here’s someone who is prepared to voice what she knows, what she is aware of. However, her communication was bang on. Not judgy, and not ego based (I know more than you) She just beautifully wrapped up her voice with support. (Here Ange, let us help you) And when you hear the truth sometimes it's both light and heavy. Heavy because someone has called you out. (Gulp. What I thought was so, was not) But mostly light because, well, it’s the truth.


And just like that – BOOM – it became easy. When I thought about writing this article, it seemed effortless, like it could just flow straight out of my fingertips. I considered my actual time….mmmm not much…but then I started to visualise squeezing in some writing time with laptop at the kitchen bench while making dinner.


Awareness of overwhelm is important, but voicing (or doing) is its significant partner.


If I hadn’t have voiced the email, ghosted overwhelm and soldiered on, then I may not have come to THIS place, the end of the article. And neither my friend would you.


Angie


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