12. Managing Overwhelm

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It seems like lately, everyone I talk to, when I ask them how they are doing, how are things going, their answer is I’m so busy or I’m keeping busy or (with a tone of stress or overwhelm) it’s good. 

Stress and overwhelm seem to be a hot topic lately.  I don’t know if it’s because we’re all still learning how to navigate a life that’s not completely back to normal or if you don’t remember the last time you didn’t feel overwhelm, but either way, a lot of people think there’s no way around it.  It’s just part of being a human.  Maybe part of it is, but if you’re in overwhelm for more than 5 seconds, okay, I’ll give you a minute or two, but if it’s longer than that, I’m telling you, it’s too long.

Your lower brain’s main job is to keep you out of danger.  Back when life was more primitive, the choice was survive or die.  So, the brain was like, um survive, and was always looking for danger.  We aren’t in the survive or die environment anymore, but our lower brains are.   It’s always looking for where the problem is because it thinks its life or death. 

Overwhelm is your brain trying to sell you on the fact that you’re in danger.  Wait…what?  So, if I have 20 things on my to-do list, I’m in danger?  It doesn’t make sense, does it?  See, we think that it’s our to-do list that’s causing us overwhelm.  We see this list on a piece of paper or have a list in our heads and our brain says, it’s too much!  It’s too much!  But the truth is, the paper, the list in your head is not what’s causing you overwhelm.

Let me give you an example.

Right now  I’m in the middle of planning my daughter’s wedding, which I thought it would be easy to understand what she wants, but I’m finding it a little more challenging.  We are currently finishing our basement so when she gets married in June, her and my new son-in-law have a place to stay since the rental and buying market is so screwy.  I figured out how much we’d save if I were the general contractor instead of hiring someone, so I’ve been doing that job too.  And some of the trades, we’ve decided to do ourselves and save money, so some mornings, evenings and Saturdays have been more construction occupied.  Then, a company that I sub consult for asked me to do a project that’s about 40 hours’ worth of time and a tight deadline, so we’ll schedule that in.  My daughter, living in Montana decided this was the week she’s going to come and visit us and has brought her dog.  So now I have two female dogs, hers and mine, that are getting close to going in heat for the first time and I’ve been training her dog to not pee on my brand new area rug because I think they are battling for dominance in the house.  And my potty trained dog is starting to pee in the house again.  We don’t have a dog door so every time they ring the bell to go potty outside I’m like up and running to open the door so they don’t potty inside.  I’ve got my podcast to write, clients to coach, social media to schedule, and working at home means I’m walking by the dirty dishes in the sink, thinking I should be cleaning those and my son asking what’s for dinner and all the other things that come along with working at home.  I’m sure a lot of you can relate from when we all worked from home for a bit.  My younger son is working through some things emotionally right now so I want to be there for him and support him and then my oldest son is having drama with his ex-girlfriend and our grandson so we’re trying to help them figure life out too.

And as I am planning this podcast, my engaged daughter comes in to talk about last nights work and of course I want to stop and talk to her, even though it’s her complaining, because I don’t get a chance to talk to her that often.  She 21.  It’s not on her daily reminders to talk to mom.  My daughter wants to talk to me! Woohoo.  Then in the middle of her talking to me, my teenager comes in and complains about how he has to sign up for classes tomorrow and has no idea how to do it or what classes he has to take.  Then my 20 year old walks in from the store, the dogs are going wild, she’s got a big bag in her and hand suddenly my other daughter wants to know what she’s bought and my son’s not interested in figuring out tomorrow so he leaves and I’m like….what just happened?  Pause button, “son, let’s figure out your classes for tomorrow because we know you have things going on after school.”  And I spent the next hour going over the requirements and schedules and teachers he wanted, etc until we nailed something down.

And an hour later, I’m back to my podcast.  So not tons going on. (pause)

We have our to-do list and what happens in between those lines and then there’s the thoughts we have about it.  I just gave you some facts and poured a whole lot of drama in with them.  Did you notice?

My facts are:

I’m planning a wedding, am the general contractor to finish our basement, we’re working on part of the basement ourselves, I had a 40 hour job, my daughter’s visiting, she has a dog, I have a dog, no dog door, write a podcast, coaching, social media, I work at home, dishes, dinner, kids talking to me, class schedule, helping kids.

My facts, those are all circumstances. The rest was just drama, my thoughts about what the facts were.  Do you think my drama is serving a purpose?  Well, if my purpose is to stress me out, then, good job me!  But if that’s not my purpose, is it serving me? Will it allow me to plan the wedding better? Will it allow me to be the  mom I need to be to my children? Will it make the dogs get along more?

Doubt it.    Not to say that you can’t try and change the overwhelm by chasing everything down with your actions or by trying to change the circumstance, but you’ve got to know, that’s the long way around. AND if you don’t solve for overwhelm, it’s coming along for the ride.

Your brain likes consistency.  It likes familiar things because it knows how to solve for them.  Your brain likes everything to be the same because that means you’re safe and you’re going to survive. So when it’s not familiar, your brain is freaking out, thinking we’re going to die for sure.  Being able to manage your mind through this is will change your life my friends.  Especially if you’re a chronic overwhelmist.

If it feels like the to-do list is still too long, then let’s unwind it a little. 

Write down everything on your list you can think of.  I just gave you the bulk of mine so that’s what I’ll go through.  Look at each one with new eyes, a fresh perspective like this is the first time you’re seeing it.  Now decide what you want to do about it. Do you want to keep it?  Because you know, you don’t have to do any of it.    If you want to keep it, then how do you want to solve for it? 

For example,

Plan my daughter’s wedding.  Do I have to do that?  Actually, no.  I could totally hire someone else to do it.  I could also let me daughter plan it herself.  But I want to help.  I choose to help.  Oh, so this is choice I’m making.   I don’t have to do this, but I want to, so I’m going to keep it.  Now let’s solve for it. What needs to happen to plan this wedding?  And as I’m writing down the list, my brain starts looking at the length of the list and how it keeps growing, and its trying to shout DANGER! DANGER! But wait, I want to do this.  This is my choice.  And my brain starts to settle down and we continue to move forward with solving it.

Sometimes your brain sees the whole list and thinks it all has to be done at once.  But if you slow down and think about it, you logically know that it doesn’t have to be done all at once and you have 24 hours in the day, or 1,440 minutes in a day to do it. I know, your brain’s like, “Amber, I have to sleep.”  I know this because that’s what my brain is saying.  And to add drama to it, if I don’t get a good 8-10 hours of sleep a night, I run the risk of relapsing with the chronic mono my body gets.

So I get it.  But here’s the thing.  Overwhelm likes to feel important, because it thinks it’ll help you get things done faster.  It thinks it’s doing you a favor.  But when you’re in overwhelm, your brain struggles to think straight.  When you’re stressed, the only thing your brain wants is to make it stop, but it can’t, so it overrides your logic brain and keeps you in overwhelm because it’s important to be on alert.  So you could try to push through in overwhelm, with a muddled less free brain, or solve for it.

Look at it with fresh eyes.  You can go about solving and decide what you want to do about it.  What if I didn’t?  you don’t have to do any of it.  I don’t have to clean the house, I don’t have to organize the wedding, I don’t have to…..  some of them you are going to want to do.  Some not. On the things you don’t want to do, how do you solve for that?  Can you just not do it or is there a different way to do this?  Is there a way to make it fun?  Maybe you just choose to do that bc you want to (take care of your family and you’re willikng to make the sacrifice to do it)  But notice, this is something that you chose to do.  So you no longer need to have overwhelm or resentment around it because it’s your choice and you like your reasons for choosing it.  It allow you to move into peace and happiness instead of thinking I’m doing something I don’t want to do.

I’m going to warn you, it’s very tempting to complain.  It’s so tempting to go to the negative side of any situation. And sometimes I have to catch myself when I start thinking that way, but I don’t want to be planning my daughter’s wedding, totally resenting it the whole way because I have too many other things to do.  I actually like to create and plan. This is something that’s fun for me. I don’t want to miss out on that.  And if I’m resenting the fact that I “have to” do it, I’m not going to show up as the mom I want to be.  I won’t be able to create a wedding that I know I’m capable of creating.  I don’t want to be grumpy and stressed. 

And I know I don’t have to be.

I could totally let it stress me out and resent the fact that I have to retrain my dog’s potty habits, I can complain and yell about it, but being resentful or stressed won’t solve my problem. It won’t give me better results. It won’t serve me, it won’t serve my dog. When I find myself getting angry or stressed, I have to purposely remind myself.  This is not the experience I want to give myself.  And I’m the only one feeling this anger, I don’t want to do that to myself.  I get to choose my life experience and I choose something different. 

When you’re able to separate out the facts from drama and look at them separately, you will have so much more wiggle room to find the peace you’d rather have. 

Managing your brain is a matter of retraining it.  And training takes time.  When I first got my puppy, it took so much more time to potty train her.  It was constantly watching her, getting up in the middle of the night to take her out, constantly staying on top of her and redirecting her behavior; molding her into the dog I was wanting. It was hard and exhausting and time consuming, but it was totally worth the outcome.  It’s the same with training your brain.  At first, it will take a lot more time, it will take more awareness, but the more you do it, the more your habits cement in until one day, it becomes like second nature. 

Your brain will never stop giving you alerts.  It’s hardwired to do it for good reason.  However, the way you manage your brain can refine you as a human being, giving you the power to show up with more value to yourself and more value to the world.

That’s what I have for you today. And remember, if you like what you’re hearing, rate the podcast to help others find me.

Have a brilliant week!

If you’re looking for a life coach, I’d love to be yours.  If you want to lose weight, better your relationships, or need help with crafting your confidence, I’ve got you!  go to myinnerlove.com and sign up for a free mini-session today.

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