Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

Journal

Five ways to step back from overwhelm

 

How to avoid overwhelm

Overwhelm - that familiar feeling of everything going too fast, there being too much to do, too many options, too many noisy opinions - is in many ways a justified reaction to the world we live in. We do live too fast. we do have too many options. And then there is the environmental mess we are in, and the state of world politics . . .

Wrapping ourselves up in a ball of overwhelm and hibernating under the duvet with a box set can seem the most sensible option.

And yet it is exhausting, joyless and guarantees that we get absolutely nothing done. It doesn't go away because we close the door and ignore it, it just gets worse.

I believe that Overwhelm - with the capital O - is like Burnout. It isn't until it has taken over your life that you notice it, and it isn't till you start to fight it that you see how big it is.

Last month I came off a coaching call with my business coach sobbing at the sheer difficulty of life. It had been a summer of stress, nothing major but a constant background of health and personal decisions and dead ends which, alongside the constant effort of running a business, and the crazy decisions that seem to be being made in the world, just wore me out.

The overwhelm left me unable to make the smallest decision, take the tiniest action. Everything seemed too hard. I wanted nothing more than a handy adult to come and make all decisions for me. And let me sleep.

I was incredibly lucky - the sobbing in bed happened three days before I went on holiday and I was able to take almost 2 weeks to reverse the overwhelm and begin again.

This is what I did.

1. Stop the influx.

A lot of my overwhelm came from external noise - politics, being in environmental Facebook groups, twitter, podcasts, instagram. It came from spending my time listening and absorbing and reacting rather than acting, researching and producing.

I went cold turkey - no podcasts telling me what to do, no rolling news, no Facebook Groups arguing or posting polarised views, no watching the car crash pettiness of twitter threads.

I still wanted to be informed - I feel that is the responsibility of a citizen - so I decided that if it involved drama in any way (the leaked reports, the close sources, the big clickbait headline) I would immediately switch off.

I used the off switch, the mute button, the opportunity to unfold and unsubscribe to remove the high pitched drama from my life.

Instead I read books. I missed precisely nothing.

2. Clear the mind.

For some people this is meditation or yoga or running. For me it is a thing called Soft Fascination.

Soft fascination is the the thing that happens to the brain when you sit still and watch something gently moving without a plot. The examples most often given are sunrise and sunset, waves on a beach - but it can equally be bees on flowers, or car lights on a road seen from a bridge, or clouds scudding across the sky. It just needs to be something where your eyes are engaged but your brain doesn't have to do any processing. Just sit and do nothing and watch for 15 minutes and feel your brain empty and relax.

I also really recommend Yoga Nidra - a guided meditation which encourages a state between conscious and unconscious.

I personally find the rhythm of walking engages my brain into complicated conversations so it doesn't work as soft fascination for me, but I understand that it works for people with a less argumentative mind.

3. Mind your language

Looking back, one of the clear signs that I was becoming overwhelmed was a change in the words I used to described things. The things I do everyday - in a life I have chosen because I love it - became 'chores'. The idea that it is 'a chore' to feed chickens or to harvest tomatoes is ridiculous - they are two of the great joys of my day.

I also began to big up my 'busy-ness'. In reality - when I am being true to myself - I do not rate being busy as a good thing. It is a term we often use to make ourselves feel useful, productive, important - whereas I do not believe that our personal value is in any ways related to how busy we are.

And yet - as the weeks went on I kept hearing myself describe how busy I was, how much there was to do . . .all those chickens . . . all those tomatoes . . .

It should have been a warning. Now I have removed 'busy' from the words I will use to describe my day - because the alternatives 'full', 'engaged', 'active' all sound so much cheerier.

4. Curb Your To Do list.

In much the same way as the words I was using, my to do list should have been a warning. I began to put everything on there - not just the things I needed to remember. So routine things, things I do every single day without planning or thinking - like feeding the animals, lighting the fires, doing laundry, making beds, cooking - went onto my to do list. And suddenly it looked massive, daunting, overwhelming - just reading through it made me want to nap. Just because it was down there in an external bossy form.

Now I don't have a To Do list, instead I have a Priorities list - 3 things that are priorities for that day - alongside any reminders (which get their own column). Once they are done, I'm done.

And surprise, surprise the animals have not starved and the house is not freezing and I've not felt as though I'm being bossed about by a list of chores.

5. Take action.

Just as Overwhelm is the enemy of action - making us exhausted and passive - so Action is the enemy of Overwhelm. I resolved that in all the areas where I feel overwhelm I take action. One of the things that was overwhelming me was options - how do you know that this particular action is the best way to make a difference when the scale of issues is so big? How do I know where to begin in making the changes to the website when there are so many things wrong?

I resolved that it matters less what the action is than that I take action. Any action.

And that I surround myself with other people taking action too. Getting on with things.

I would love to hear about your experience with overwhelm and what you have done to get over it. You can either leave a comment or email me Jane@snapdragonlife.com

Tags: life

Comments: 9 (Add)

Heike Gittins on October 11 2019 at 09:45

Dear Jane,

At least once a year I used to get to the pint of overload and overwhelm but towards the end of last year I made some conscious decisions about some of the reasons why and this year I have felt much better because of it.
I unsubscribed from almost all outside influences like Twitter and Facebook groups and also had a really good clean-up on who I follow on my Instagram.
I power walk to clear my head and, like you, I make time for soft fascination at least once a day. This is one of my favourite things to do and I find it really calms and settles my brain.
I like your idea of calling the dreaded To-Do List a Priority List and I think I will change that starting next week.
I truly love finding your newsletter in my inbox and reading your blog, so pleased I found you.
Warm hug from Wales, Heike x

Jane Lindsey on October 11 2019 at 11:11

Thank you Heike - I am very much hoping that I will be able to recognise the warning signs and that incorporating a lot of intentional anti-overwhelm methods into my life like you will help prevent it happening again.
J xx

Becky on October 11 2019 at 12:47

I am sitting here reading this and feeling a direct connect with my state of mind at the moment! I have done nothing today as I've sort of paralysed myself - cant even settle to read, just letting time pass in a state of unfocused agitation.
So what to do???
I have just gone through my diary and checked everything that needs to be is actually in there and not hurtling round my head like a piece of space junk on very weird and unpredictable orbit!
I have put on some washing and released the Hoover from the cobwebs concerning it!
I have made a priorities list.
I am sorting out the books by my bed so that I'm not overwhelmed by my tbr pile.
Small steps, but thank you for your post- ot has come at the perfect time for me!

Jane Lindsey on October 11 2019 at 12:54

Thanks for commenting Becky - I think that so many of us are feeling this way at the moment - probably because we seem to be powerless over things done in our names by politicians and big companies.
I hope you manage to pull yourself out of your overwhelm - much love, J xx

Trudie on October 11 2019 at 13:22

Hi Jane,
Thank you for articulating what so many of us feel. The part about “busyness” defining your worth struck a chord.
I

Jane Brumwell on October 12 2019 at 05:51

Hi Jane! You sure hit a cord with me! Overwhelm (with a capital O!) has been building for a while (in a stealth fashion!) but hit with full force the end of August. My work life was going to change drastically and I was massively overwhelmed! I am of the thought that when I get knocked down in life, I need to give myself time to play in that dirt I’m sitting in! I take time to process my emotions as I know if I don’t they will overwhelm me later. Today, the uncertainty about my work role is still the same, but my approach is much more positive (for me!). It isn’t always easy, but I try to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t. Thank you for providing some more tools to help me deal with overwhelm!

Jane Lindsey on October 13 2019 at 09:18

Thank you Trudie - I think that it is quite an overwhelming time for many of us - the feeling that things are beyond our influence; Much love,
Jane

Jane Lindsey on October 13 2019 at 10:32

Hi Jane - what a lovely way to think of it - playing in the dirt. good luck with dealing with your new work role;
J x

Alison on October 13 2019 at 14:28

Love this Jane . I call it saturation but much prefer your description and how to take action . Will be taking a leaf out of your book . Thank you

Snapdragon social

The sun room table, an old enamel basin, hazel twigs and pure glamour from green tinged white trumpets.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I looked up yesterday lunchtime and the garden was full of sunshine. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
There are a few places in the (very messy) house where keeping a bit of negative space, clear surfaces, a sense of breathing out pays off.  This white table is one of them.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I took this on Sunday, disappointingly it is currently cluttered up with things (a nest, two candles, a box of matches, some receipts) to take down to the Studio.
Over the past year I have become increasingly uncomfortable about how we talk about the seasons to the point that I feel I need to say something.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I'm particularly uncomfortable about how we talk about using the seasons as a life guide.  I can understand why this has happened - it is great, easily understood marketing, it is a ready built structure, I'm sure it helps the people who are desperately in need of rules and timetables at the moment.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
But it is rooted in a very particular idea of what seasons look like - particularly the 4 defined seasons of the UK, Europe and North America;⁠⠀
⁠⠀
Which would be fine if people were talking about their local area, the view from their window.  But that doesn't seem to be the case - this seasonal structure is built up into a programme to follow, the language is very much that 'this is the correct way to think about life'.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
But, if you are saying that the dormant season is the time to rest and recuperate, what does that say about countries where the seasons don't look like that.  Is there to be no rest? Is everyone to adopt the seasons in the UK as the 'correct' version? ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
Language matters, because language is where our assumptions lie.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
⁠The photo is of a rose hip - rose hips are the only berries left in the hedges now.  I used to think that it was because they tasted spiky that the birds left them till there were no other options but recently I found that they have the least calories.  The ivy, rowan and hawthorns produce the Kendal mint cake of berries - perfect for seeing the birds through the cold - so get eaten first.⁠⠀
There is a lot of talk at the moment about what 'seasonal flowers' means - the wonderful @wolveslaneflowercompany have been addressing the issue and they have a great story thread exploring the issue saved in their highlights.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
It was a thing that used to bother me a lot when I grew flowers because I only ever sold flowers that grew here, that was the whole point of the business - and in Scotland seasons are very late. I spent a lot of time explaining to brides that not everything is available at every time of the year. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I didn't ever have cut flowers until April.  I missed both Valentines and Mother's Day. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
This is what I have as flowers in my home through January and February - glamorous, long lasting, amaryllis bulbs are on every surface. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
Elsewhere cut hazel twigs in jam jars are taking over the windowsills. next week I may add in some snowdrops.
Yesterday I sent out a newsletter about extractivism - about the human tendency to push and exploit and keep extracting until we end up with a husk.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
It was sparked by conversations I had after the Oxford Real Farming Conference and a realisation that there is a thread that ties colonialism, industrial farming, privatisation of services and the way we often treat ourselves.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I've been having such interesting conversations with the people who replied.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I resend my newsletters to new subscribers on Sundays so if you want to sign up you can click through my profile to the website front page.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
We have been frozen here for a while - the top inch of ground thawed yesterday, but under that was rock hard.  Most of the garden is a low flood of slush floating on ice.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
The hardy annual plants I sowed in late September and transplanted in October are currently under snow but looking pretty terminal.  The temperature in the polytunnel went down to -6 last week and the salad crops turned to mush.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
Were I remotely self sufficient it would be proving a hard winter.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
But I'm not, so I just add more plants to my sowing plan - sowing seeds is my favourite thing - and admire the beauty of the hoar frost, and feel happy that I have food in the store cupboard and logs in the woodpile and a big pile of books by me.
'See a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I have been embroidering a tiny run of linen needle/pin cases to go into the shop tomorrow - and I have embroidered this rhyme inside them - a reminder of the time when pins were made by hand and were to be treasured and looked after. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
It gives a new appreciation to the term 'pin money' too - the modern kinds of pins, shiny in their plastic box that have made us assume that the term meant a small amount, left over change for fripperies. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
In reality it was used as an alternative name for a household allowance - the amount of which was often laid out in the marriage contract - and was the money that a woman had complete legal control over. If it was unpaid a woman could sue her husband or his estate for back pay.
Allium Chistophii are rolling around under the espalier apple trees in the vegetable patch. ⠀
⠀
I always hope for a little light self seeding as they go. ⠀
⠀
Now they are like glittery tumbleweeds in the frost. ⠀
⠀
In truth we bought the airstream to avoid a divorce.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
We bought it on Ebay late at night after sharing a bottle of wine.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
At the time I was running a business from the house - from a house that was about half the size it is now, a jumble of tiny rooms, painted plywood floors, two small children and a high level of sticky chaos.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I am not a tidy enough person to run a business in a home - even had it been a well run home with storage space - and those years were not remotely well run.  My invoices always had cereal stuck to them, my sewing machine was parked at the end of the dining table, 90% of my working time seemed to be spent looking for something that I was sure had been left 'just there'.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
So we looked for something that we could afford so I could move the business out of the house - we priced up a chalet style home office from B & Q - and then, on Ebay, we saw the airstream, badly damaged, vandalised, forlorn.  It came in cheaper than the shoffice . . . .⁠⠀
⁠⠀
For a few years - before I built the Studio - this was my workspace and since then it has become a storage area and been sadly neglected while I tried to save the money to repair the damaged back window and the sagging floor.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
This weekend we began clearing out all the fabric that was stored in it so that the renovation can begin.  I am very excited.
snapdragon.life
FacebookTwitterPinterest

About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

Learn more about why here

Loading