Overwhelm is overwhelming isn’t it? I know, honestly i do.  It seems to creep up from nowhere; one moment we are flowing through life, the next, we are standing in a pool of quick sand, sinking up to our neck and reaching out for a branch to pull us safely to shore before we go under.  During some of those moments, the feeling of panic can border on unbearable, the branch looks like its in reach, yet, our fingertips are millimetres away and we cannot get a grip.

Maybe someone will come along any moment and throw us a rope, or, we might wake up and discover it’s all just a bad dream.  We might even get to the end of that to do list after all, if only we can stand on our tip toes and keep from being swallowed by the mud.  Oh my gosh, the mud! It’s going to consume me, I am going to die an uncomfortable death, swallow gob full’s of mud and choke, gasping for air, I can only hope that it’s over quickly.  Everyone will know that I died of my own failings and that I should have avoided the quick sand.  I should have had enough foresight to know, to see that it was there.  If only I had been a better hunter, a better warrior, I would have taken an easier route.  If I get out of this alive, I will employ a guide, or, I will never come this way again, or, I will find a way of working quicker and smarter, of leaping over the quicksand.

Familiar? I mean, to do lists, there’re pure evil sometimes aren’t they? Relationships, children, jobs, businesses, even navigating the shopping can be enough to tip us over the edge.  Countless times I have stood in some queue waiting to be served with a feeling of impatience, or, I have been in conversation with my partner, child, friend or colleague but, Ive not really heard what they’re saying because, I am already 3 or 4 items down my own mental checklist of things to do, urgent things, things that will pull me under if I don’t tick them off soon.

Lack of sleep, pushing back tears that I haven’t got time to cry, avoiding phone calls that I really should make but haven’t got time for, sending rushed emails, or else, not sending them at all and the exhaustion.  The total overwhelming feeling of needing rest, real, wholesome and nourishing rest that I know will sustain me, will support my plight, but which is representative of the just out of reach branch that I am fighting so hard to get hold of, but, which I know can only happen if I can hold my head up enough to even see it.

And then, there it is again, the vicious circle that is life, that is overwhelm, that I am trying to step outside of but, I can’t seem to find the exit point!

The good news is I found it! Would you like know what it is?

The feeling of overwhelm, however it plays out in your life, however powerful and unpleasant it feels; It’s a feeling!  It’s a state of mind and it’s VERY common.  It’s common because, as humans, we believe we should or need to be Superhuman! The truth is, we already are, when we remember that our feelings aren’t telling us whether we are doing a good job of life….our feelings don’t know anything about that.  In fact, our feelings don’t know anything outside of us at all, but, because they appear so tangible, we believe that our feelings do know exactly how we are doing, or what we should or need to be doing!

Our feelings only know ONE thing; what the nature of our thinking is in any given moment!

When we believe that our feelings are telling us about something other than the principle or nature of thought, we start to try to manage our feelings by managing the things that we believe our feelings are about; the to do list, the boss, the business, the finances, or in the case of overwhelm, absolutely everything!  Before we know it, our mind, which actually has the capacity to clear all on it’s own when left alone, has suddenly been given an impossible task, that of altering an outside state.  Our mind is an inside job and cannot possibly manage something which it doesn’t have responsibility for.  Our mind is reaching for that illusory lifeline.

Swap lifeline for shopping list, relationship, job, work, boss, colleagues, etc etc, but, you get the picture?  Of course, there are always things to do and I am not suggesting that you don’t need to do them, but, you are not able to control your feelings by doing them.  Feelings, they change shape naturally, all on their own, when we stop trying to change them, manage them, have more or less of them. Clarity is our natural state and it is innate!

When we see for ourselves that in any given moment, regardless of the feeling we are experiencing, we are still ok, it’s almost like we realise for ourselves that we can in fact straighten our legs and touch the bottom of what looked like a pool of quick sand and stand up straight.  We are in a better position to attend to the job at hand from there, to lean over a little and grab the branch.  Ok so, its a little messy, there were a few hairy moments, the wade into shore wasn’t totally pleasant, but, we are safe.  Maybe we could have swam gracefully, maybe someone else will compared to us, but, so what? Is graceful and safe and better than messy and safe? Of course not!

If you are experiencing overwhelm, understanding that the feeling of overwhelm is an indicator of how busy your mind is and not the importance or urgency of your to list, is going to do all of the heavy lifting and will push you to safety with a lot less effort.

Of course some things in life are urgent, but, you will be far better equipped to perform them with a clearer mind than with a muddy mind.  You are built to navigate life in any given moment, your mind will self correct along the way.  To find out more, email me on nicky@nickybartley.com