My friend Cheryl McDaniel and I just did our first radio program together last week where we talked about the Secret Art of Overwhelm at Work and in Your Career. We took a good look at what causes overwhelm, how to break free from it, and how to prevent it.
Just as important are the lessons that come from feeling overwhelmed. We typically get ourselves into positions of overwhelm because some hidden need is being met. Identify the need and you can then release it or meet it in new ways. About a year ago, I got to take a look at the underlying need behind overwhelm in my life.
There I was sitting in the kitchen with my husband staring at the tile on the counter. He was standing at the computer on the counter looking at some vacation options. We had laid out all of the options, pros and cons, and neither of us could make a decision. I was numb—burnt-out numb. He probably could have said, “Let’s go to the North Pole to get a tan,” and I probably would have answered yes so that I didn’t have to think about options anymore.
Now, I am a woman who is pretty darned intuitive, self-responsible, makes my own decisions, and sets my own course in life, but that day I just didn’t want to have to decide anything. I was so fried I had trouble managing to tell him I didn’t want to make a decision. Mustering every little crumb of energy I had, I finally forced myself to tell him I was numb because I was in utter overwhelm.
I knew that feeling numb meant I had pushed right over my limits. I was definitely in the “over” part of “overwhelm.” Knowing this, I asked myself what I needed to be on the other side of this feeling. All I could think about was sunshine. So that’s what I told my husband.
“I need sunshine and I don’t want to make a decision about flights and vacation spots. Could we keep this simple by just getting in the car and heading south to sunshine?” I asked. Since he was also feeling overwhelmed about making vacation plans and wanted an easy solution, that is exactly what we did.
Fortunately, I recognized I was in overwhelm and knew how to guide myself through it. Yet, the question that still needed to be answered before I returned from my vacation and sat down at my desk was, “How did I get there?”
Physical choices were easy to see. We had put our house on the market, were spending too many hours launching new careers, weren’t getting enough social and play time, and had demanded too much of ourselves on short deadlines. The bottom line was that we were doing too much work. That was easy to recognize.
But how did I let that happen? I’m a counselor. I know to take better care of myself, so what devious little belief was hiding back there in my subconscious that was driving me to do more than was good for me. As I meditated on this, lovingly and compassionately holding myself in my feeling of overwhelm, I felt the hidden need behind the overwhelm—the need to be needed.
That sneaky, unconscious need has gotten me into trouble before, but there it was again. It is no surprise when you consider that I grew up the oldest of six kids with a mother who was ill much of her life. I’m used to being needed and so it is natural for me to thrive when I am in service to others. However, if I don’t keep service to others in balance with a need to take care of my more personal needs like rest, play, self-nurturing and such, I push myself right into overwhelm.
That made vacation easy. I gave myself permission to make choices where I would feel nurtured, rested and having fun. I needed me. So during vacation I showed up for myself. When I returned home, I reminded myself that prevention is good medicine. If I choose it, and I do, there is enough time every day to be of service to me as well as others.
To explore more about taking care of yourself and to prevent overwhelm in your personal life, join us Wednesday the 27th at Breakthrough to the Ultimate You! for Extreme Self-Care – Without Spending a Lot of Money.