Recently, I experienced a succession of life changing circumstances all at once. This required a level of emotional accountability and self-care that most of us, including myself, ignore or neglect.
So, for those of you who may be facing big challenges that are causing your overwhelm alarm to sound, here is a step by step guide to help you navigate. You are FAR TOO valuable to swim in such dangerous waters for too long and I truly hope this will help you get to the proverbial shore safely and intact.
STEP 1 – HONOR YOUR ALARM
When your nervous system sounds off with the feeling of overwhelm, PAY ATTENTION. Below are some signs that are important to heed if they are frequent, persistent and/or recurring.
- SIGNS OF OVERWHELM
- Simple tasks feel “too much” or “too difficult”
- Life feels chaotic and difficult to sort and/or prioritize
- Focusing on more than one activity/responsibility/task in a day feels too much
- A desire to cut out/shut out and/or avoid: people, places, things that feel too much
- Recurring feelings of agitation, irritation and pressure when thinking about your life and your circumstances
- Feeling of not being able to catch your breath and/or that too much is coming at you at once.
- LIFE feels BIGGER than you
- Dreading your day
- Foggy, fuzzy, fragmented focusing ability
- Anxiety, sleeplessness, panic attacks,
- Sudden and drastic changes in: appetite, behavior, motivation, desire, energy levels.
- Feeling alone
STEP 2 – CHECK FOR SMOKE/FIREIf the fire alarm went off in your home, you would immediately check for the problem. It is important that you do the same thing when your inner overwhelm alarm is sounding. This alarm is a self-protective mechanism and it is alerting you for a reason.
- Identify the place, or places, in your life that are triggering the alarm
- Be as specific as possible
(for example, ending a relationship, moving a residence and a business all at the same time… yep that’s me)STEP 3 – RATE THE ALARM
Is it a one, two or three overwhelm alarm? Here is how to tell…
- If you only identified with one or two of the overwhelm signs, then chances are you’re at a one
- Three to six signs, then you’re at about two
- More than six, it’s a three alarm (This is nothing to play around with… please, I say this with love and concern, act swiftly to get yourself professional help)
STEP 4 – GET HELPPlease note, whether you are a one, two or three, this is serious. A state of overwhelm is a HUGE tax on your nervous system and not something to swim in for prolonged periods of time. Solving the circumstances causing you to feel overwhelmed, cannot happen unless you alleviate the feeling of overwhelm, and right NOW you CAN NOT do that ON YOUR OWN. Why? Because you have already taken the measures within your present capacity, yet the emotional overload is still present and/or increasing. So pay attention to your body and please gets some help. Below are some help options. I highly recommend a combination of MORE THAN ONE!
MENTAL HELP PRIORITIES (Notice I said priority. Mental help support IS a priority in a state of overwhelm)
- Counseling / Therapy / Medical Professional
- Strategist / Coaching
- Peer Support
- Social Connections
PHYSICAL SUPPORTIVE PRACTICES
- Meditation / Mindfulness
- Restorative Yoga
- Deep Slow Daily Breathing Practice
- Daily Light Physical Exercise
- Getting outdoors in nature
STEP 5 – BE HONEST WHEN HELP ARRIVESStep five is the toughest. It’s easy to talk about the circumstances causing our stressful feelings. It is incredibly difficult, however, to reveal the impact the circumstances are having on us. But the disclosure of this impact is critical. It is the TRUTH as I like to call it. And divulging that truth is the key to alleviating your level of overwhelm. Without alleviating the FEELING of overwhelm, the mind cannot devise clear, cohesive strategies to manage and/or solve the circumstances. In other words, LET PEOPLE SEE YOUR INNER DROWNING SELF… Yep, you gotta show them your present floundering state.
- Understand it’s going to feel awkward and scary at first. I mean, who wants to show people how bad we’re struggling?
- Understand that it’s the best, and most important thing, you can do for yourself right now
- Give yourself the chance. This IS what you need.
- Take it slow and know it won’t all get fixed in one day BUT it WILL get better
It doesn’t matter how mighty, well trained, efficient, proficient etc. That we are, every one of us will face one, or more points, in our lives where the overwhelm alarm will ring. That moment is a pivotal moment. It is the moment where we can either grow and thrive, or risk taxing ourselves to a very harmful state. Yep, if you keep pushing it can get that serious. It is not worth the risk. You are FAR TOO VALUABLE for that. So, take care, listen to yourself and please take action if the overwhelm alarm is ringing. I care. People care. You are not alone and there is help to get you ashore.With lots of love for your health,
Brandielee Baker, NLPMP is the founder of Positive Constructs, a strategy/coaching company, and the Co Founder of the National Non Profit, Code 9 Project, which provides resources and training to First Responders for the prevention of PTSD and Suicide.