That familiar feeling: overwhelm

Maybe you’ve had a busy week or the kids have been sick, or perhaps you have had a lot of events or obligations to attend to. There are so many times that life can interfere and create a sense of overwhelm.

What is overwhelm? The original meaning of the word overwhelm relates to quite literally an army being overwhelmed by another army, or a house being overwhelmed by rising flood waters. So in a literal sense, feeling overwhelmed is like being buried, flooded or trampled. All of those feelings relate to anxiety and feeling as though an elephant is sitting on your chest.

Kelly Sikkema via

Feeling overwhelmed is nothing to be ashamed of but it’s not discussed that widely in society. The glorification of busy is increasingly recognised as an issue, but overwhelm is the byproduct of busy. It’s what we feel when we are trying to fit too much into our lives.

How do you overcome it? Firstly, I’m no expert, I only recognise it in myself time and time again. Whenever I over-commit myself, it pops up and I feel drained and stressed and tired.

The trick for me is to find the sweet spot between busy and not busy. Being too busy, having too many obligations, appointments, tasks etc = anxiety. Being not busy at all, means too much lazing about and not enough direction. The sweet spot is having some tasks but having enough time to do them, not rushed time, a nice relaxed amount of time.

Anyone who has ever renovated a home knows what it is like – you are rushing towards the end just to get it over with, there are so many small jobs, and time feels like it is diminishing (even though it continues infinitely thereafter). Try to recognise yourself in this situation, what will happen if you don’t do that task today or tomorrow, what will happen if you don’t do it at all? Will it matter?

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