Since my first post a couple of weeks ago on overwhelm it seems that every other person I meet is going through their own version of meeting overwhelm in their lives. Whether they are blaming it on the recent mercury retrograde or Christmas on top of an over full schedule, there seems to be a theme. Too much to do in too little time and a sense of you drowning in the onslaught.
I’ve also been asked a number of times how I manage to stay afloat, how I manage with my three children and a business and all that I do. Truthfully, everything has stepped up a gear now that I have three children and sometimes I feel my head is only just above water. Pregnancy is also a game changer that can cause everything to seem more intense and challenging. But what has changed for me is that I am now enjoying the swimming.
Steps I have been taking over and over since becoming a mother. Steps that you can use with other repeating patterns you may notice in your life that you would like to change. Steps that work in an emergency breakdown situation such as I described in my last post and are also useful as longer term preventative and transformative medicine.
1. Catch yourself and Stop.
So let’s say this talk of overwhelm is striking a chord in you. Your daily duties, however small seem to loom large and impossible over you. And you have less energy than before because you are growing a baby, remember? Tears are bubbling under the surface, beneath which a simmering cauldron of emotions looking for a way out threatens to boil over willy nillly at the slightest trigger.
Awareness in this kind of situation is key and usually at least half the battle. If you are running in ‘overwhelm mode’ then you are invariably either thinking or doing too much. Or both. You are likely guilty of carrying the larger than necessary ‘mental load’ that women tend to carry- planning and managing the whole family’s needs whilst simultaneously undertaking more than your fair share of the actual workload.
This pattern is so normalised that it often slips under the radar but can be a significant contributing factor in overwhelm and burn out.
Once you see your patterns you have a choice. Change becomes possible.
Catching yourself is pretty straight forwards to understand if tricky to do but what do I mean by stop?
Well I do mean just that. Perhaps you need to literally stop, sit down, take a break and breathe deeply. Even for five minutes. When you need to be active again consciously relax the parts of the body you are not using and be relaxed in motion. How exactly you continue to stop depends partly on your individual path and relationship with overwhelm. Emotions may come up. Let them. And this is where you can move on to step 2.
2. Assessment and re-evaluation.
My invitation is to get cosy with a cuppa, sit back and ask yourself how you are really. let yourself cry if that’s what’s here. Treat yourself the way you would your best friend or small child who was struggling. Show yourself the kindness and love you would them. ( See step 3 for more on kindness) Listen and mentally give yourself a hug. Validate yourself and your experience this way. Make this a regular check in ritual for yourself over medium and long term and make sure you schedule it into your regular schedule.
You may hit up against a good dose of denial or resistance when you try to stop and be kind to you in this way. Objections like who else will do it if I don’t or I don’t have time for this now…Don’t let these get in your way. Listen genuinely–and then go deeper. Behind or under this resistance is usually fear. Your old cherished identity is being threatened by the changes you are proposing. It wants to keep you safe, even if that safety comes at the cost of rest and self-care. Under observation its logic often makes no sense at all, hence the complete sense in taking a little time with yourself to enquire where you are at and what you want and need right now.
3. Be Kind to You
The kindness mantra ‘Be kind to you’ was taught to me by Joel Young, the Creator and Custodian of NPA. The benchmark to test your decisions against is to ask ‘is this kind to me?’ You are worth the kindness and time you give to others. Already just catching yourself and resolving to stop is huge. Massive. Ginormous. Give yourself some credit for this already and follow it up with cutting yourself some slack with kindness. In the process of change please be super kind to yourself.
Changing your relationship to the world and yourself gives your cherished identity a big shake up. Not always easy, so go easy on yourself.
I think I am stressing this point a little extra due to my own history of being anything but kind to myself in complete contrast to how I treated others in my life. Extending patience, compassion and understanding to myself has been transforming in how I feel on a daily basis and how I manage with my three young children.
Just to be clear if the judger rears her head with commentary on you about being overwhelmed and not coping when your sister/mother/ next door neighbour did or so and so has more on their plate but they are doing ok.
No, that kind of comparison is a way heaping more weight on your overburdened load.
Telling yourself to pull yourself together, that you are being ridiculous, hold it in and rest later.
Nope, more judgement.
Honestly if it is unkind to you stop. If things fall apart because you stop and rest then that is a serious confirmation you were doing too much alone.
As I mentioned earlier, awareness is key and once you’ve let the big emotions out, released the immediate tension from your body and jumped off the routine treadmill, now the next level of awareness becomes available and it is time to take action.
It may be all you need to do is tweak your schedule, or it may need a rewrite with you at the heart and on every page. You may choose to book a massage, go out for dinner with friends, or schedule evenings curled on the sofa with a good book.
Perhaps the action you take is a pruning of any more actual doing activities because you need deep rest and some long periods of doing very little.
When you have been overactive doing nothing is a positive proactive and sometimes incredibly tough next step. Yet, sometimes the kindest action you can take may be to schedule doing nothing at all.
Remember the action you ultimately take to support you will always tick the box of being kind to you. If it doesn’t pass the test- bin it.
Whatever you choose it will not add more to the burden you have been carrying. You just put that down. The invitation here is not take a night off to tick a box and then next morning pick up the old burden. If necessary, unpack that burden with some inner work to be free of limiting beliefs about why you don’t deserve to rest or why it has to be you doing all the work. Then see what is yours to pick up at the end. It will be lighter.
You may need practical support which brings me to next step.
5. Ask for help/delegate
If in the previous steps you really see you have too much on and there are important needs you have that are currently not being met like resting, then do ask for help and do delegate tasks. Try writing a list of everything you do. Then consider who could I ask to help? To whom can I delegate? What can be done later or not at all? If this feels too much then get help with this too.
Seriously. I see far too many women (me included) struggling to go it all alone when we thrive on cooperation and company.
If you felt drawn to needing inner work in step 2, consider whether you will work though this more swiftlly and easily - a kindness to busy you - with some professional support such as I offer in my birth confidence sessions.
Be open to new and novel ways to do things and be supported. Ask around for ideas and inspiration.
Finally, I would like to say let this be fun. Even if moving out of overwhelm is uncomfortable look for ways to make it fun. Breathe some lightness and laughter into your day. This is perhaps the best medicine of all.
I invite you to take at least one of these steps and try it out this week.
See what happens. Do drop me a line I would love to hear your experiences.
If you would like to learn more about how to be kind to yourself using The NPA Process please follow this affiliate link to download you FREE copy of the process.
If you would like some personalised support to help you drop overwhelm for good and feel comfortable and confident as you approach your 'birth date' check out my birth confidence sessions and get in touch
'What are you doing? Come back to bed.' I dimly register the plaintive plea from my sleepy and confused son, but replying is difficult.
“I can’t, it hurts.” I manage in reply.
In fact, ‘it hurts’ is a massive understatement. Lying next to him was excruciating and it is barely better now I am standing by the bed. It was some time past 11pm and he’d woken twice already sensing something unusual. Each time I lay down he closed his eyes, instantly soothed. I meanwhile gritted my teeth and willed myself, against all my instincts, to stay still just a little longer, in the hope he would sleep deeply enough not to be disturbed when I got back up.
The third time I couldn’t do it. I got up and started walking, pacing the room with giant strides back and forth, back and forth as fast as I could.
It helped. I breathed more easily.
Then another wave of pain swept over and through me. I kept breathing. But I felt myself tense, involuntarily bending forwards to meet the rising sensations and hearing panic give voice to suddenly fearful thoughts.
‘I can’t not cope,’ the internal dialogue continued, ‘This is what I do for a living, helping other women find inner confidence and trust in their body so they have amazing birth experiences. I have to succeed. Otherwise I will be a total fraud.’
With the panic, came guilt shame and crashing realisations. ‘Now I get it. Now I understand why some women beg for epidurals, caesareans, anything to take the pain away.’ I felt myself tumbling down from my superiority into humility, appreciation and empathy.
But still the fear and panic persisted with the refrain, ‘What if I can’t cope, what if I really can’t do this?’
There is a brief pause between contractions and in the respite I resume walking but a little slower. I have remembered what I forgot during my first birth- The NPA Process. NPA stands for Non Personal Awareness and it’s a simple 6 line process that can facilitate huge shifts quickly and easily.
‘This scared I can’t cope, I say out loud . This energy of Scared I can’t cope…’
My son watched silently, slightly perplexed as I completed the sixth line and my walking slowed to some moments of stillness. I felt myself falling into the centre of myself. Around me the energy swirled and eddied. Reality rearranged itself.
A new wave of contractions starts.
Physically it is exactly as before. I am half doubled over in pain equally as intense as before.
This time though I emerge grinning in delight. For the next few contractions, although nothing at all about the level of pain has changed I am practically skipping for joy around my room. I no longer need to frantically pace either. Time has slowed and I have slowed with it.
In just a few moments my whole perspective on what was happening changed. The fear left me as my question was answered. I now knew that I could cope. I knew. Not hoped, or guessed, or rationalised or tried to talk myself into a state of positivity or self belief that I wasn't feeling. I knew from the depths of my being, from the marrow in my bone. From my heart and soul and back again I knew I could do it.
This was a true knowing that could only be experienced. It was not forced or rationalised. I did not have to give myself pep talks and remind myself of the historical statistics of successful births and the biological normality of what I was doing. I did not need to engage my neocortex and rational brain for support.
In this simplicity all the head talk and pressure evaporated along with the fear and I moved into the experience. Like in my previous post on experiencing fear in the context of trust I was now held in the context of knowing I would cope and all was well. Note: not could cope but would cope. It was a done deal that I couldn't argue with. So I didn't argue or question. All drama in the situation had left along with my doubts.
This whole doubting, worrying, panicking consciousness in fact left with as little drama as you might move from one room to another in your house. Which is in fact exactly what I did.
I moved to the bathroom and although I didn’t register it at the time the pain did finally diminish.
By the time I was pushing it was gone completely.
Although the pain left, the best gift was precisely that the pain didn't disappear immediately. That was my big agenda right. That was what I thought I needed to happen in order for all to be well. That would be success. I wanted to be proud of my pain free achievement and paint some credibility over my insecurities and self-doubts as a birth worker.
That the level of pain had become largely irrelevant and didn't matter to me any more was pure freedom. That I'm writing about it now, 2 years and 9 months on feels apt as Freedom is my word of the year for 2016.
There was another shift that happened in that moment too. Surrendering fully to the energy shift of that one NPA Process, (the only one I did in my whole labour,) paved the way for me to let go of all my remaining ideas of how the birth should go and allow the labour dance to unfold in its own way. Which was a good thing as I was plugged into the strongest most exhilarating flow of life force energy I have ever experienced. Like being wired up to the National Grid or perhaps holding a lightning rod as the lightning strikes. I would not have liked to have been trying to control or manage that against its will.
This surrender and letting go of the need to control how my life experiences and feelings show up is also part of my journey in freedom. Just thinking about that brings joy singing to the surface. It sounds like the song of my soul. And I hope you hear her song in my words and in her song you hear your own song and that this post sets off some inspirational shifts in your own journey.
Do let me know in the comments.
Curious to know more about The NPA Process and how it could help you? Please click here.
( Links to NPA Process are Affiliate Links)
I am on the toilet. Time is meaningless to me. I have danced too far along the path to meet my baby to be completely rational. Only thing is, neither me nor my husband have quite caught up to fast pace of my baby’s arrival…He is about to trot off to try and put the pool up. I am about to have the baby in the timeless eternity that has inserted itself into about 15 or 20 ordinary minutes.
As I said I am on the toilet. I won’t go into detail but to say that it is an intense experience is an understatement.
For a moment I begin to panic. What is happening to my body? Is this normal? How can so much power be coming through this small person? Will I cope? My mind was worried for me and the concerned thoughts were triggering more layers of anxiety… Oh OK then, more like terror, that hovered just on the edge of my awareness threatening to take over.
But wait there was something else too. I changed focus to my body. Instead of floating terror there was a grounded peace. It was pale yellow and surrounded me on all sides, present both inside and out. My body actually wasn't touched by the fearful thought, it was just getting on with its job and was completely confident. All was well.
Now I had a choice. Did I reside in the terror and let it take me, or did I allow the peace to breathe me. For a few minutes there was a bit of to and fro movement.
Then I made the choice. Or the choice made me. My heart opened up in gratitude and softened in the peaceful energy. My body began to push and I started roaring like a lion.
I realized as I journalled later that it didn't matter that I felt terror because I was bathing in a different energy that was so strong and confident that it could hold the terror. This was my fear being held in the energy of confidence and peace. As long as I tuned into this greater awareness that was holding me I was OK. It was more than OK. It was liberating. I could allow all of my experience to flow through, even the tricky, so called negative emotions.
This gift of being held in a wider perspective that could hold my less desirable emotions was revealed to me through a tool called The NPA Process. The NPA Process is a deceptively simple 6 line spoken-word transformational tool created by Joel Young that helps you let go of blocks and powerfully shift your consciousness.
It was during a practice session on an NPA Community Call that I first experienced the power of accessing a different context in which to allow something challenging to be fully met. Fear rose up strongly in me during the call and I thought I wanted the fear to go. To disappear and leave me alone so I could experience something more fun, more pleasant, like say peace or joy and also get the satisfaction of feeling, Yes I've cracked it and got rid of my fear… Nope. Like mist lingering in the lower reaches of a valley untouched by the rising sun the fear persisted, heavy in my stomach, rubbing up against my shoulders, gripping me by the chest.
I was about to be disappointed and frustrated when the shift happened. I suddenly felt trust. A deep powerful trust in life and in the process. I trusted that I would be OK even with fear present. It felt like angels whispering in my ear that all was well. It felt like a reassurance I could believe in, that I could depend on and.,. well that I could trust. This was fear in the context of trust.
It was slightly surreal to feel both simultaneously, but was a greater gift in the long term than getting rid of the fear would have been. It meant I no longer had to be so scared of feeling fear. It meant I didn’t have to wipe out every last drop of fear from my being to be sure I would be successful. It meant I could live in peace with fear and hear her gentle messages and the wisdom she was paradoxically guiding me towards.
It also gave me choice when fear came up and this certainly served me giving birth. No matter how much emotional preparation we do for birth, (and I did lots), it is impossible to predict what may happen and to what depths of your soul the labour dance may take you. Knowing I was held at every moment and could choose where to put my attention was reassuring to the doubting, worried parts of me that weren't up to speed with the all is well nature of my birth experience.
Back to the toilet. Fear and terror didn't stay there for long in the end and neither did I. As I focused on trust and peace, the space opened up around me and I opened up with it. Gradually the fear dissipated on her own and I moved to the shower.
Somewhere along the three steps it took, (we have a small bathroom,) another shift happened. Those three steps danced me too far along the labour dance to listen to my mind anymore and I just kind of got on with it with no more drama or story. I finally accepted what was happening and quietly dropped down into my womb and went to meet my baby.
In Part 1 I spoke of my journey from unreadiness to readiness, from worry to inner calm, and from obsession over my long, long list of ‘absolute essentials’ to complete before birth should happen, to no worry and no list.
I spoke of my growing ability to rest, relax and allow readiness to be.
I spoke of learning surrender to the unknown and trust as I birthed my child and dropping my to do lists in favour of actually doing, with ease and flow.
In part 2 I am sharing with you how I made this significant transition with relative ease using NPA, a tool I also use in my 1:1 sessions to facilitate powerful transformation. The shift that evening from feeling distinctly NOT ready and worried about how to get everything sorted in time, to going into labour and giving birth from a place of being ready was almost instantaneous, quite surprising and has had long lasting deepening effects on me and my ability to take action.
NPA stands for Non Personal Awareness, a deceptively simple yet enormously effective tool that brings you into harmony and flow with what truly matters to you. It is a short six line process that effortlessly aligns the energy of your experience, releasing blocks and stuckness and allowing into your experience that which you’ve been keeping at bay. Alternatively as Joel Young, the creator and custodian of NPA, taught it to me, “letting the yucky stuff out and letting the yummy stuff in.” He describes non personal awareness as a living, breathing perspective says,
For those intrigued and eager to try it out click here to read more about NPA and download a free worksheet. For those remaining keep reading to discover some of the possibilities of NPA in action with my story of clearing needless worry about being ready and another glimpse into some of the intimate details of the birth of my second child.
On the evening in question having cleaned the bathroom, (Job 1 on the endless list of essential preparations according to the worried, time pressured and desperately nesting version of me.) I’d settled in to a conference call evening of NPA sharing with the NPA Community. The Theme that evening was birth!
During the call I spent an enjoyable hour bringing in the energies of confidence and trust. Throughout my pregnancy these two themes were pretty constant companions and the focus of much of the inner clearing work I was doing to prepare for the arrival of my child. By the night of the 24th June I was feeling confident in my body, I trusted my ability to birth. I had negotiated numerous hurdles and challenges along the way that had all served to help me to consciously choose the circumstances of my birth from an empowered grounded inner strength and to trust in these decisions.
Yet I still wasn’t fully relaxed and enjoying that in-between time of a fully formed baby inside an expectant mother enjoying the last twilight hours of their shared physical existence before the next chapter begins. I was aware of a persistent niggling worry about what I still had to do in order to be ready. Accompanied by an equally insistent murmur in the recesses of my mind about the potential pitfalls of not knowing my midwife. These unhelpful thoughts battled with the deeper sense of trust and confidence I felt when I tuned in. Try as I might, I couldn’t banish them completely and I was restless. I was worried about unknown factors I couldn’t fathom or plan for by their very nebulous unfounded nature, even as I was aware of trust in the universe and in my body.
This background noise and tension was not so loud but was real nonetheless and resided just under the surface of my day to day awareness. I had been doing what most of us have a tendency to do from time to time, pushing it to one side and ignoring it, telling myself I was being daft. As usual the universe had my back and was bringing me answers to my deep prayers almost before I was aware of what I needed.
In this case it brought me help in the form of two NPA ‘cookie cutters’ borrowed from a friend. That’s right, they weren’t even mine initially. Another thing I have learnt. I don’t have to be the one to know or come up with all the answers. The answers will come and will be available if I am listening and remain open. Back to the current story though. As I heard my friend share her experience with the energy of ‘The Unknown’ and ‘Being Ready’ I knew with a strong intuitive hit in my gut that these were ‘mine’ too.
I put the phone down and took both phrases through the NPA words.
First up ‘The Unknown.’
All my fears about not knowing which midwife would be on duty and that something untoward may occur and endanger my birth choices surfaced. Crazy thoughts that giving birth the first time was just a fluke and I would totally fail at it this time. Panic and terror at not knowing what was coming next and whether I could handle it overwhelmed me.
I sat still.
I felt it would last forever. I nearly despaired.
I sat still some more.
I smiled as joy bubbled through the mist. I relaxed as inner peace dispersed the mist. I was at peace with not knowing, not knowing what would happen in my birth experience, when it would start, who would be there, content to wait out the future. It had been perhaps 5 minutes but it could have been hours or a lifetime. I didn’t care.
This shift is simple to write in just a few line. Easy to read fast, gloss over and keep reading. I invite you to read it again and let it sink in. Imagine how it would feel to be living with fear as the backdrop and then imagine the contrast of living from a peaceful place. Really, I invite you to take some time to appreciate the depth of this through my words as I can’t begin to do justice with how transformative for me this change in perspective was at this time. This kind of shift has been my repeated experience with taking time to do inner work with tools such as NPA.
With a greater sense of ease in myself I moved onto NPA cookie cutter number 2 ‘Being Ready.’ This was quieter and more subtle yet with immediate measurable effect.
I stopped thinking about the list.
It was not today’s concern.
This was totally unexpected.
Ironic really. I know how effective this tool is. It was a cookie cutter on ‘being ready’ right?
So I shift into a place of being ready and what happens? Yes, straight into labour.
I was ready.
I tried to tell myself it might be Braxton Hicks and it might stop and start and I had a few days or even weeks left yet.
But no, my body knew differently.
Just four hours later my baby popped out (quite literally with a popping sound and a big splash!) into my waiting hands, slippery and warm to my fingers, crying already as I brought him in close to my heart. Quickly soothed by enthusiastic suckling, we gazed at each other. My delighted and euphoric laughter echoed round the bathroom as my husband stared in astonishment. ( He thought I needed water or something when I shouted for him to come.)
Very shortly, I was ready again; this time for some well deserved rest as I dropped off to sleep cradling my newborn in a warm cosy after-birth glow, deeply satisfied and powerfully transformed by the surprising turn of events that evening.
Further information about Joel Young NPA can be found here.
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