Conversations at the Crossroads.

Own the Overwhelm

I’ve been feeling a bit under water these last few weeks.

And the language that usually accompanies that metaphor (“under water”) is entirely accurate in describing the sensation I’ve had that I must:

tread water… stay afloat… not lose sight of the horizon… keep my head above water… watch out for oncoming waves… for sharks…

All this swimming has been exhausting. Sometimes it seems like I have to push beyond my capacity. And there are days when I’m doubtful I have managed to move forward from the spot where I started.

I’m sure you’ve been there. In fact, I’ve heard from quite a few clients and friends recently that they’re experiencing the same kind of overwhelm.

As the list of obligations and concerns lengthens, stress and anxiety tend to increase at a similar if not exponential rate, and suddenly life feels like it’s in a flat spin. It sometimes happens then that a temporary paralysis will set in. With so much to do, how and where would I even start?  It might also be a tempting option to withdraw. It’s too much; I’ll have to wait this out.

But the effect of this way of thinking is loss of momentum and effectiveness. How likely is overwhelm to subside if we disengage or hide?

In moments like these, there are two thoughts that generally help me to reengage:

  1. I have all that I need to move through this.
  2. I have a choice in how I experience this.

Take a minute and try that on for size.

Consider an area of your life in which you are feeling overwhelmed. Now ask yourself:

When have I been in a similar situation, navigating challenges like these? How did I manage it then? What knowledge, perspective, skills, etc., can I apply now that helped me before?

Something will come to mind.

You have all that you need to move through this. That’s the truth.

So the more significant question is:

What kind of experience will you have as you move through it?

We often forget that we have a choice in this matter. When there is a lot going on, it is easy to feel victimized by the situation – beaten down, exhausted. I have certainly taken a walk around THAT block a time or two this month.

But what changes when you make a decision to “own it”? And by that I mean, own your role in the story, own the perspectives you develop about the experience, own the thoughts that course through your mind as you take on the challenge. “Owning it” might sound like one of these statements:

I choose to live my life “all in,” no matter what comes my way.
I choose to find the opportunity in challenges.
I choose personal growth over settling and stagnation.
I choose to experience this difficulty with my joyful spirit intact.

We make choices to put ourselves in certain situations, while other situations are imposed upon us. Yet, we are always in a position to choose what we let bother us, and what we let go, whether we feel washed over or in control. When we own the overwhelm, we empower ourselves to start moving forward again, and “riding the waves” becomes an altogether different experience.

I write this post as much to remind myself as to offer you a new possibility! I would love to hear your personal statement of ownership, and how it helps.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published September 15, 2014