Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The other day I tried to set up an appointment with a friend who answered that she would rather meet in January because she was doing overwhelmed right now. We agreed that we will get together in the New Year, but her comment tickled something in my brain and I have been thinking about the concept of being overwhelmed since.

This time of the year a lot of us are doing overwhelmed. I recognize in myself that, over the past two weeks, I have been giving myself the feeling of being a bit overwhelmed; this is really funny because the last two weeks are really not that much different than the previous eight weeks. So what happened?

Beliefs, beliefs, beliefs...
Looking at the concept of overwhelmedness, I started to realize that I have beliefs about being overwhelmed. For example: when overwhelmed, it is good to take a break and to get some good sleep. And this one: doing new things is sometimes overwhelming! Another example is: if you don't take a break once in a while you will overwhelm yourself.

I also carry the belief that you do overwhelmed once in a while; it is something that is here and then gone the next moment, not something that persists like depression.

The Cycle of Being Overwhelmed
Then I started thinking, "hey what does it actually mean to be overwhelmed?"

For me it means that I need a break. However, needing to take a break doesn't tell me what it is that I need to take a break from. Nonetheless, instead of questioning what it is that I need a break from, my response is to simply take a break.

After a good night sleep, my being overwhelmed disappears for a while. Then, somewhere, I start doing overwhelmed again! So I repeat the whole cycle.

After a while, if one night of sleep doesn't work anymore, I might decide that two nights will do. After a while, if two nights doesn't do, then a week.

Of course, I'm doing all this because I feel overwhelmed. In the end, I have no clue as to whether or not the cause of my being overwhelmed is lack of sleep; I haven't been specific. Further, while working on my sleep (to get rid of this feeling of overwhelmedness) , I am not doing the things I normally would be doing. My regular activities are piling up, which is kinda, well... overwhelming!

There are Always Signals
Saturday (which is normally the one day I do not work), I scheduled different work things to do. In the afternoon, I scheduled phone calls that I had been delaying a bit because of some intense intestinal pains I had resulting from food I had eaten earlier in the week. I was bouncing around trying to find a way to get myself comfortable enough to do the calls. Mark said, "Why don't you take a hot bath and see if the warm water helps your intestines to relax. You can make the calls later today?"

Within half an hour of Mark's suggestion, I surrendered myself and went into the bath. While my muscles relaxed, the intestinal pains mostly disappeared and I gave myself over to the moment of relaxation and reflection. Later in the day, I made my phone calls with pleasure and I felt great! I was focused and enthusiastic.
What I Learned
I do overwhelmed when my body is uncomfortable. My body gets uncomfortable when I haven't been working out or when I eat things that are not digested well by my system. I have been traveling lately and when traveling, I often eat whatever is around instead of taking care of my body! I also don't work out.

So, now I realize that my being overwhelmed has nothing to do with the amount of sleep I have, but everything to do with a healthy diet and regular workout.

Knowing why I do overwhelmed is really useful. Instead of hauling water to the sea (getting more sleep when I already have enough), I can start focusing on the real causes of my being overwhelmed. Way more useful.

Stop Doing Overwhelmed!
I believe that for everyone there are simple solutions that can help us to get ourselves back to a comfortable place. I suggest that instead of doing overwhelmed and taking a break from everything, it is more useful to:
  1. Ask yourself what specifically makes you uncomfortable
  2. For each answer, determine the best solution.
  3. Do not accept "I don't know" or "I am too overwhelmed" or "I need more sleep" as a solution.
  4. Put those solutions in place immediately
  5. Take action to take care of yourself

I am looking forward to hearing the insights you have when you look at why you are doing overwhelmed...


  1. Thanks Iris. I do overwhelmed when I have over promised and under delivered to rationalize it being ok to not meet my committments. The end result is still the same so all the overwhelmed does is make me feel worse. I love you! Kathy

  2. I am very tired, I have a cold, my sinuses hurts - and I make up that it's because I did not take a break but kept having several overwhelming experiences - one after the other. They were all so deliscious, I did not want to miss out on them.

    For me overwhelming experiences are intense meetings with people or experiences full of impressions, full of love, being present, using several senses. Often I feel more overwhelmed after the experience than during.

    - I just cancelled my ticket for a big new year party, because I do not want more big fantastic experiences - this year.

    Rest and workout helps me after being overwhelmed.

    Love Joy

  3. Thank you guys for sharing this with me. It's interesting to see how the concept of being overwhelmed is used in many situations and seems to be placed there by us to allow ourselves to take a break during busy moments, moments in which we otherwise would not consider to take a break.

    If we figure out what a quick and easy way is to take care of ourselves, we might decide to skip the doing overwhelmed part and just relax when needed instead...

  4. I definitely do overwhelmed to give myself permission to take a break. I also do grumpy and cranky at the same time. I've been learning to just be ok with stopping when I want to stop,though I still sometimes judge stopping as bad and not something I deserve unless it's needed to stop me tormenting others! Does that mean I do overwhelmed to torment others to give myself permission to rest???


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