No B.S Friday: try this stress-buster on for size.
I was riding the edge of my overwhelm the other day.
No real reason. It’s funny how it works like that. I was busy. I had a lot on. A lot of deadlines coming to a crunch.
But that’s not unusual for me. I’m a high productivity individual. There’s always a lot going on. Life is always full.
But sometimes you’ve got a handle on the beast. Sometimes you don’t.
Last week, I didn’t.
My first strategy when I get like this is to stop, breathe, and make a list.
I just jot down all the things I’ve got to do. As much as I can think of, I just get it down on paper.
What I’ll often notice is that the list ends up being a lot shorter than I thought it was going to be.
When I’m mulling from one interconnected problem to the next, I can often go round in circles without noticing it.
It feels like I’ve got a hundred things. But all I’ve got is ten things. I’ve just counted them all ten times.
So stopping and doing a head-count can reduce a lot of anxiety, I’ve found.
Getting it down on paper also means getting it out of my head. Holding ideas in your head takes energy. It takes effort. When you outsource it to a to-do list or some sort of project management software, you free up mental resources, and that can feel relieving too.
But in this case, writing a list didn’t help.
I mean, it sorta did. But it still felt like I was riding the edge of overwhelm.
And I think that meant that it had become a bodily phenomenon at that stage. And I think what was really throwing me – why overwhelm is so curly for me – was the mismatch between my physical and mental states.
In my mental universe, I’m tackling massive problems, as sirens of emergency wail all around me, and people watch on, in desperation or judgement, wanting to know if I’ve succeeded or failed. Everything’s on the line.
In my physical universe, I’m sitting in front of a delicate piece of computer hardware, mostly still for hours on end, just gently tapping at keys every now and then with my finger tips.
It’s hard to imagine a less heroic physical state.
But that’s where I was, and my mind and my body were in total disconnect.
And that can be ok. But living in that disconnect requires a compensatory energy at some point in the equation.
Normally, it involves managing your adrenaline and hosing down your body’s desire to fight or flight.
Some days I really do feel like ramming my fist through the monitor and then shoulder charging the office windows and commando rolling out onto the street.
Not because that would actually help me finish the email I’m writing, but because that would give me the release that comes when my physical and mental realities align.
So yeah, I think overwhelm comes from constantly telling your body that we’re in the middle of some sort of epic battle AND asking it to do nothing about it.
It’s why overwhelm often comes laced with a feeling of futility.
That’s what it feels like to me. And it’s why hitting the gym and just smashing myself often sorts it all out. It gives the body the release it needs.
Writing this, I’m wondering if this might be a particularly blokely approach to stress. That maybe it’s more of a masculine tendency to meet stress with brute force.
I don’t know.
But I still think that there’s something in this. That maybe the feeling of overwhelm is just your body saying “I can’t live this lie any more.”
I think you’ve got to listen to that.
But if it’s true, it means that managing overwhelm is not about dealing with anything on your to do list.
It’s about giving your body the release it needs.
Whatever that looks like