Weapons In The Fight Against Overwhelm

My last post about what I called “something more syndrome” was really me putting down a feeling and analyzing its roots and conditions. I almost didn’t publish it because

1. I felt whiny

2. Most people know this feeling as “overwhelm.”

I was pretty much all “Duhhhhhhh” when I realized this. But sometimes you just have to process publicly, you know?

And overwhelm creeps up on us, no matter our best intentions and constant vigilance — and so it’s good to remind ourselves to ward it off every now and then. But now I promise never to Internet-dump on feeling overwhelmed again! Been there, done that, here’s the permalink, yo.

Consider this, then, the “short and snappy practical tips” companion to that post — actually things you can do to stave off overwhelm.

Don’t get me wrong — there are structural social/political policies we could put into place to make work and life more humane for everyone. But outside societal reform, this is what I personally try to do to get to the end of the day with my soul not quite shattered into a thousand pieces.

The Word “No.”

Obviously! Whether you feel coerced to say “yes” to things because your livelihood or emotional harmony seem at stake — or you’re trying to live up to an ideal in your head — doing too many things without some intrinsic positive motivation just drains you. I mentioned it earlier, but I’m going to try to be better about doing things that will either expand me towards joy, connection and other good juju — and not pile my plate with things done out of fear, anxiety or inadequacy. We can’t always avoid doing things out of obligation, but when I can, I will.

Minimal To-Dos.

A massive and complex to-do list is such a fetish in our culture: a measure of how important we are, maybe. And nevermind that one seemingly simple task these days actually turns into a complicated series of steps: think calls, transfers, password resets, other info retrieval steps and/or buying some new thingamabob. (Have you tried troubleshooting your crappy Comcast Internet service recently?) So I do try to limit myself to just 3-5 items a day. Doesn’t always happen, but when it does, life feels so much better.

Deep Breaths.

Meditation intimidates a lot of people, I realize, no mater how simply you try to break it down. But everyone breathes, right? Just paying attention to lengthening your inhales and exhales does good things to your nervous system. The longer you can breathe deeply and deliberately, the better — but even just a few minutes does wonders. Try this: inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of five, and then exhale for a count of seven. It’s supposed to deeply relax and calm your nervous system if you do this 3-4 times.

Get Ready For Bed Earlier.

I always mean to do this, but I always forget. This doesn’t mean “go to sleep” earlier; this just means beginning the wind-down for the day just a bit sooner than usual. It’s a bit like drawing that proverbial line in the sand, like “I declare the day done, and now it is time to chill.” It looks a bit differently for everyone: I personally try to take out my contacts, and I can feel my eyes just go aaaaaaaah. But for some it’s definitely that last glass of wine. Whatever works! No judgement!

Embrace “Good Enough.”

This is a good one, but since it’s a mindset shift, it’s also the hardest perhaps. It sound so simple, which is not to say easy: a lot of us want to do our best. But “best” in our competitive Americanized culture often means “Insta-perfect,” and that’s just freaking toxic.

But a true sense of grace in life is getting to “good enough.” I’m not counseling settling for mediocrity here, something that go-go-getter American minds seem to equate to “good enough.” What I mean is just getting through a day knowing that you’ve done what truly matters: you’ve given the people you love many choice moments of full attention and made them feel heard and seen; you’ve tended to your inner gardens of creativity, beauty, spirit or adventure, even just a bit; you’ve pumped your amazing, beautiful body full of fresh air, good food and solid motion; you’ve been of service in the ways that bring forth the best in you; you’ve laughed and thought and felt as fully as possible. And that’s good enough. In fact, that’s just plain beautiful good. Anything else is just extra.

2 thoughts on “Weapons In The Fight Against Overwhelm

  1. Something More Syndrome — yes! I’m not able to relate to it to the parenting level, but I do agree that in general the (dare I say it?) obsession with having it all is (a) gendered, as well as (b) socioeconomically enforced (is that the right word? you know what I mean).

    And all the points you’ve outlined in this particular post are just so TRUE, especially the last one: both how IMPORTANT and also how HARD accepting “good enough” is for most of us. I mean, what’s the point of just breathing in a plant when we can start our own backyard organic gardens and try to grow the next celebrity vegetable, #amirite?!

    For the record, I think that many of us appreciate when others do exp:ress our “feels” in a public way. I mean, you’re a writer, too, and what better way to do it? 🙂

    1. I totally know what you mean 😉

      And ha ha, celebrity veggies! It’s not enough to buy local and/or organic — you have to plant a garden! And it has to be, I don’t know, aligned with the magnetic fields of the earth or something like that! You just can’t grow plants in a pot anymore!

      All joking aside, I suppose it’s always going to be hard to just accept “good enough”: sometimes for all the lip service paid to it, the idea of respecting the finiteness of time, energy and attention is not easily practiced, and “good enough” is like the ultimate recognition that you do not have infinite time, energy and money to make every aspect of life Instagram-perfect. I find it almost funny, because it’s like, “OK, we know you can’t do it all — but this one practice/product/lifestyle/etc is the one that matters!!!!” But they ALL say that, ha!


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