A conversation with a friend the other day got me to thinking about what causes us to become overwhelmed by life. We talked about how those feelings of being overwhelmed might arise when events in our lives happen too fast and we’re not ready for them. We might get overwhelmed when we’re surprised by an event and it upsets our whole life as we knew it. We are likely to feel overwhelmed when we’re not prepared to accept that a major change needs to happen in our lives and we’re resisting that change.
Each of these scenarios is similar yet subtly different from the others. Let’s take them one at a time and see if we can shed some light.
Overwhelmed because things happen too fast …
I can think of a great example from my own life for this one. A little over a year ago, I got the gut-wrenching news that I was to be laid off from a company for which I had worked for 18 years. I had 30 days to make some very tough, life-changing decisions. Should I take early retirement? Should I find another job doing what I’ve always done? Should I try my hand at something else? Should I start my own business? What about health insurance for my husband, now that we’re no longer covered by mine? I was overwhelmed by all the critical decisions that I had to make in a short period of time.
Life was certainly happening very fast for me, and the time constraints were weighing heavily. What could I do to reduce the sense of overwhelm and get my head clear so I could make sound decisions? First, I took the advice of a friend who said, “María, act as those this situation was your idea.” Immediately those words took me out of ‘victim mode’ and put me into ‘control mode.’
Next, I engaged in a tried and true technique that I learned years ago at another time in my life when a major transition was happening—I got calm. There are lots of different ways people use to get calm. There is deep breathing, meditating, yoga, massage, visioning, to name a few. I have developed my own way, which combines deep breathing and visioning. I go to a very calm place in my imagination—it’s been the same place for years. In my calm place I have all the wonderful things that mean the most to me and I’m surrounded by the beauty of the ocean and the mountains in the same place. It’s my imagination—I can go anywhere I want!
Once I visited my calming special place, I would become very still and … listened. It was then that I could hear my intuition speaking to me—what I like to call my Inner Wisdom. All of a sudden, decisions seemed easier and the sense of overwhelm slowly abated. Ahhhh!
Overwhelmed because of a surprise event …
A while back I was working with a client, let’s call her Nancy, to help her make sense of some career choices that presented themselves. Nancy was very successful in business and seemed to be very even tempered and self-assured. In the midst of our coaching to clarify her new career direction, her husband hit her with divorce papers—out of the clear blue as far as she was concerned.
This event set Nancy in a tailspin from which she had a hard time recovering. The career options took a back seat—in fact she lost one of her options because she became overwhelmed by the surprise of the impending divorce. Her job started to suffer. Her family and friends became worried that she would not be able to handle all that she had on her plate now. Nancy started doubting her own value and became unsure of everything. All decisions became hard for her, when normally she was quite capable of making them.
Through a process of self-discovery, value assessment and envisioning her ideal outcome, Nancy was able to regain her composure and natural confidence. One day she made a critical decision—she CHOSE to become her own best advocate. That means that she decided that she would control how her story was going to end. The feelings of overwhelm went away and her decisions were guided by her intuition and values.
Overwhelmed because we are resisting a change …
A good friend of mine has a chronic resistance to change. I’m not sure from where it stems exactly but, it actually got worse before it got better. Let’s call my friend, Madison.
Madison’s husband is in sales management and has taken jobs in different cities over the years requiring them to make major relocations each time. As you might imagine, for one who resists change, Madison had a hard time with each and every move. I think she may have felt forced into those moves—it seemed like she just got settled in her job, made meaningful friendships, had her daughter settled into a routine—even though each move was years apart. And with each move she distanced herself from her husband, found it harder to make friends and felt like an outsider at work. Making even small decisions became hard for her and each relocation totally overwhelmed her.
That’s what can happen when we don’t want to face what is happening—when we don’t participate in the situation as an equal partner in the decisions. There is another major relocation coming for Madison and, this time it is very different. She has decided to discover why this pattern of resistance to change has been so prevalent in her life. She has chosen to participate in the process this time and as a result she is actually looking forward to this next move.
Becoming aware of her resistance to change was the first step for Madison. Then making a conscious choice to speak up with respect and request that she be heard, her opinion valued and her feelings considered was the next step. It has taken some time but, the relationships in every aspect of her life now are so much richer and more rewarding as a result of Madison’s choice to participate in change. After all, if life isn’t changing then we are not living. If we’re not living, then we’re stuck in a rut. If we’re stuck in a rut, we can’t move forward and what fun is that?
So, when life happens too fast or you’re taken by surprise or you resist an inevitable change, take a moment to breathe. Becoming overwhelmed is something we let happen to us. We have the power to change that. Get calm. Listen to your Inner Wisdom to guide your decisions. Discover what it is you really want. Envision your ideal outcome. Participate in the process. Respect others in the situation with you and you will likely get respect in return.
I will leave you with this
“I choose … to live by choice, not by chance; to make changes, not excuses; to be motivated, not manipulated; to be useful, not used; to excel, not compete. I choose … self-esteem, not self-pity; and to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinion of others.”
Make this your day ~~~ Explore … Dream … Discover!
Chief Inspiration Officer | SafeHarbor Coaching | For women facing life transitions
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