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What to do when you feel overwhelmed

Spam Filter For Your Brain - Episode 31

This week's podcast is a topic that resonates with most of us: overwhelm. It's a common misconception that overwhelm stems from an overflowing to-do list and a ticking clock. However, upon reflection, I've come to realise that the root cause of this feeling might be different. It isn't about the sheer volume of tasks, but rather about our lack of energy, resources, and, crucially, emotional availability.

Being overwhelmed often means that we're saying yes to others, to more tasks, and to more responsibilities when we're not even available for ourselves. This can cause us to lose sight of our power and control, leading to a feeling of helplessness. Interestingly, we can reframe this concept of overwhelm. It's not about having a mountain of tasks for work, family, or ourselves; it's about not having enough time, space, or energy to contemplate our needs in a given situation.

Reframing it this way opens up a world of possibilities. We can pause, reflect, and navigate our circumstances with greater compassion for ourselves. This isn't about self-indulgence or introspection but rather about understanding our capacity and prioritising accordingly. By attending to our needs, we can better allocate our focus and energy, allowing us to commit wholeheartedly to our tasks.

Ironically, when we're overwhelmed, we're more likely to perform tasks half-heartedly, which can make us feel like we're not prioritising the people and things we care about. It's important to remember that being fully present in our tasks often starts with being able to process our emotions and navigate our feelings.

Dealing with emotions can seem daunting, especially when we already have a lengthy to-do list. The natural instinct might be to keep going, to make headway. However, in my experience, resisting emotions often magnifies them. If we think, "I don't have time to feel stressed, anxious, sad, or grieve," we inadvertently trigger our brain to view these suppressed emotions as emergencies, making them even larger and harder to ignore.

Interestingly, taking a step back and allowing ourselves to feel can not only give us more time but also bring us closer to our true selves. The feeling of overwhelm can often be traced back to the sense of losing oneself, of not having enough of oneself to devote to the tasks at hand. Therefore, any actions that bring us closer to our authentic selves will inevitably give us more energy, more time, and more heart to invest in our chosen tasks. It also empowers us to set boundaries and decline tasks that we don't want to take on.

I've developed an Emotional Resilience Toolkit with £11.11 maps, available through my bio, for those wishing to explore this work more deeply. However, the aim of today's discussion isn't to promote this resource, but to encourage you to pause when in the thick of overwhelm.

Next time you're making a cup of tea or taking a breather, instead of mentally running through your tasks, pause and ask, "What am I feeling right now?" Try to identify any messages that your body might be trying to communicate. Is there any wisdom you're ignoring because you've told yourself you don't have space for it today?

We've all experienced feeling overwhelmed and having a never-ending to-do list. If you don't want this to be your narrative forever, perhaps it's time to experiment with a new approach. I hope this perspective serves you and proves useful in your day-to-day life.

In the meantime, remember to take a moment to breathe and care for yourself. The journey to overcoming overwhelm begins with.


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