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
I stare at the computer screen biting back the tears. Telling myself to hold it together, that maybe it will work this time…. But No. My plugins won’t update and until they do I can’t write anything on my website.
The dam bursts and I can’t hold it in anymore. I am gulping with enormous sobs as I break down completely. I have been trying fruitlessly for two hours to update my plugins. The ‘idiots guide’ my brother created for me is not idiot enough for me I think despairingly. I am trying to cry and not wake the baby at the same time, I sound like a strangled pig and even if I don’t wake him I have 15 minutes left until the school run anyway.
My brother comes to the rescue and fixes what took me two hours to fail at in about ten minutes. His kindness overwhelms me further. My heart is breaking. My mind is in overdrive telling me how I’ve wasted this precious time. The precious time I have precious little of these days. A blip like this derails my whole schedule.
I must look crazy from the outside I think, getting this upset over such a small detail that is now fixed. I try to reassure myself that it will be ok. Tomorrow is another day. But the less kind inner critic is having a field day. Perhaps she hopes to solve my problems by demoralizing me further but it just adds to the overwhelm bearing down on me from all sides.
Right now, in the thick of it the pain is all consuming. Acute and raw. I cry and I cry. I can’t do anything else but cry. And this is how it is. A small seemingly trivial event that has even been resolved has the power to tip me over the edge into despair. A pit from which I can see no solutions only hardship. A dark place of sadness where I secretly believe myself to be completely useless and no good to anyone. The way I am feeling bears no resemblance to the size of the fairly ordinary event.
I feel trapped. No way out, nothing I can do, panicking as time ticking loudly and ominously away reminding me of all I’ve not done yet.
Except there is one thing I can do. One thing I know to do. The NPA Process.
So I take overwhelm through the words to the NPA Process ( a simple 6 line spoken word process that you can find here)
I say the words and I sit allowing my experience of the energy of overwhelm to unfold with the gentle support of the NPA energy.
Relief floods my body. “It’s not just the computer” I say out loud and I start laughing. In a nice way.
Somehow the simple statement that it is not just the computer that is causing me to feel overwhelm has the power to unlock the whole thing. I feel the tension and stress flowing out of me. I see myself at the centre of a misty landscape surrounded by all the important people and jobs in my life. I can clearly see how much I have going on and why I have ended up in such a state of overwhelm. Anyone would. It is not because I am more useless than anyone else. It is because I have so much going on and I fell into the trap of pushing relentlessly to get it all done. Telling myself it had to be now and this way caused me to feel like the world was ending when life had other ideas. Too much self induced pressure. Rigidity.
As I continued to watch space began to open up around me. The events had space around them and from me. I could breathe again and felt myself relax. Somehow this simple process has caused me to see I am overwhelmed and I am still ok.
I sit some more. Witnessing the experience.
Then it is gone. Just like that. I am no longer overwhelmed.
I have just as much to do and no idea how I will make it work but it no longer has the power to crush me. I am OK, I know everything is going to be ok and its time to pick my kids up.
So I gather up my son, dirty nappy no shoes and all and leave overwhelm behind. I let the relief carry me up the hill instead. I feel free, clean, empty. Even though my son yanks my hair hard and continuously yelling goal each time I am ok, Tomorrow really is another day and for today I am ok. This is the simple power of NPA.
So what does this story have to do with pregnancy and preparing for birth?
Well the last time and on a few occasions previously that I got to this point of overwhelm, where the slightest issue could trigger a complete break down, I was pregnant.
Now you are pregnant you have just added a whole new level of activity to your daily life, that goes on under the surface 24/7. As it carries on without your conscious input it is easy to be slightly less than conscious with how we treat our hard working bodies. We keep going. We push our bodies and our selves to keep going at the same pace we did before we were pregnant. We try to be superwoman.
But creating a new human being takes some serious energy expenditure and as with our financial budgets what goes out has to be balanced with what comes in. When we don’t do that, when we don’t take extra time and space for self care, overwhelm and exhaustion are soon to be found tagging along at our heels.
When we are pregnant we are different in other ways too. More emotional. More vulnerable. More intuitive. These are all qualities that enrich our connection in pregnancy and support us to grow our baby. And they are all the qualities that are not particularly valued in a world that prioritises the masculine experience. A paradigm that expects constant output in a steady rhythm regardless. A paradigm that does not take account of our fluctuating rhythms. That shames our emotionality and vulnerability. That does not understand intuitive knowing and prefers scientific facts that can be measured.
So we succumb to the status quo and to the ancient, unconscious conditioning that our lives run on. We accept the pressure to keep going and not complain. We hold it together like we have been doing for centuries. Too often we leave ourselves and our needs to last or even out of the equation altogether. Until we reach breaking point as I did at the computer.
My question to you is do you recognise yourself in my story? Do any parts of it hit you on some level?
Perhaps you have been getting into a state over what your inner critic says are just small events that you should just get over and get on with it.
Perhaps you are finding yourself arriving home from work too exhausted to do more than put your (swollen) ankles up on the sofa? Falling asleep to wake ( if you are lucky enough to get unbroken sleep) to start the whole cycle over again. But you have not had the time to reflect on the craziness of this and make a change and in the mean time is flying by.
Perhaps you are shy to admit you are struggling, Perhaps you have not noticed as you keep going relentlessly, feeling guilty to ask for more breaks or rest time ‘just’ because you are pregnant.
These are all signs. Hints by your body, by the universe, by your soul that you need to make a change. If you have not noticed that you are running on empty and you are still running, running running…. It is time to stop and re-evaluate your priorities.
My invitation to you today is to stop. Take a little time to enquire of yourself? Am I looking after myself, am I honouring this body and this pregnancy? Ask your body how she is doing and what she needs. Then take her advice. Take some time this week to do something different, something restful and regenerative just for you. Just because.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you choose to do. I would love to hear and celebrate with you.
If this story has awoken your curiosity in NPA , (the incredibly useful and versatile tool that helped me shift quickly out of overwhelm mode into a kinder, gentler state in which ironically much more is getting done with less effort) then please check out this ( affiliate) link where you can download the NPA Process sheet for free and have a go yourself.
Feeling stressed, overwhelmed or burnt out and want to take some direct action with personalised support?
My mother Nurture Massage Treatments are the perfect antidote to overwhelm and are a very enjoyable way to create space and time for you in your life.
My birth confidence Sessions are best for you if know your life is too busy and you are suffering from overwhelm or burn out but you can't bring yourself to make the changes you need on your own. Deep transformation awaits for you if you choose to invest in this option.
I will be back next week with more on the theme of overwhelm and what to do if you recognise you are either in overwhelm or fast heading towards breaking point.