I’ve hit patches of stress overload so many times in my life.
And each time, I subsequently hit a wall of overwhelm and paralysis that used to stop me in my tracks. But as I’ve learned to respond differently to that wall, guess what happens? The stress I experience in the presence of the wall notably decreases and I recover from the overwhelm so much faster
You know that feeling, right? You’re going along in your life, juggling all your different responsibilities, staying very busy doing. Maybe you even feel like you’re totally rocking it that day.
And then suddenly the stress feels too big and you slam into that wall of overwhelm and it stops you in your tracks. Your body becomes exhausted. Maybe a migraine pops up. Your limbs feel heavier than they did the day before.
You feel utterly paralyzed and unable to move forward. And yet there’s a very good chance you try. You do what you see so many others around you doing. You tip your head down and push yourself to keep going so you can overrun that damn wall of stress, overwhelm and paralysis. But it doesn’t work so you push harder.
And the whole time this is going on, your inner Judge Judy is going to town on you. She’s likely bombarding you with, “What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you being so lazy?! This is no time to rest! Just look at how much needs to be done, would ya? Hurry up and get going! You shouldn’t need to rest. This is bullshit. What, are you weak? You’re not gonna impress ANYONE if you can’t handle this stress!”
The paralysis persists despite your attempts to get past it so your mind begins to worry it may be the result of something going on with your health. Before you know it, your mind is convinced this is true and it begins to search for how to fix your health. And your whole life suddenly feels like it depends on finding the answers to your health.
Sound familiar? I bet it does for many of you. We live in a culture that fosters pushing past our limits. In fact, it’s often celebrated, right? We commend people we see who are juggling so many balls and accomplishing so much and taking no time for themselves and we say, “Oh, you’re so selfless! You’re amazing! You’re such a hard worker. You’re such a go-getter. You’re a rockstar!”
But what happens when we push ourselves so far that we become human doings instead of human beings? Our stress goes up astronomically. And then we view that stress as wrong and try to find ways to get past our reaction to it.
What if it turns out that the wall of overwhelm and even the resulting paralysis are actually on our side? Well, I’m happy to report that this is, in fact, true.
Do you know what happens when you give yourself PERMISSION to give in to the overwhelm and paralysis, even momentarily?
When you allow yourself to purposely stop doing and spend a little time just being? It changes your experience far more quickly than fighting against it. It resets your system so that you can once again move forward with more ease and productivity. And joy even becomes possible again!
Sure, this isn’t necessarily something that happens the minute overwhelm shows up! We’ve all got our default modes that kick in with automatic responses. For me, when my stress peaks and I hit that wall of overwhelm, my initial response is often to fight against it. And to keep trying to move forward. And my stress only increases.
But when awareness seeps in and I begin to notice that I’m in a fight with overwhelm, that’s where the magic happens! It reminds me to stop and ask myself, “What if this overwhelm is right?” Suddenly I have a perspective I didn’t have a few moments before.
You see, when you fight against overwhelm, this fight is actually taking place between your mind and your inner compass. When your mind moves into overwhelm, it sends your nervous system into stress mode, where it’s convinced fighting against the state you are in is the only answer.
On the other hand, your inner compass never gets ruffled. It’s where peace resides unwaveringly inside you. It can be hard to feel or even believe in it, especially when your mind is busy trying to run the show! But I promise you that we each have our own inner compass. And it’s ALWAYS looking out for us.
Your inner compass knows that fighting against ANY feeling or state of mind only makes it worse for you and zaps your energy even more. It knows that the fastest way to relief is to help you make space for whatever is actually present, including overwhelm and paralysis.
In the moment this can feel hard because your mind is trying to convince you that the overwhelm and paralysis are wrong.
But what if your overwhelm is right? What if it’s simply your inner compass calling you back home, helping you know that the balance between doing and being has gotten off-kilter again? What if the exhaustion isn’t your body betraying you, but your inner compass inviting you to notice just how tired you are and how much you need a break?
Let’s face it. We’re ALL gonna have more moments in our lives when we hit patches of stress so that the overwhelm and paralysis suddenly hit us right between the eyes. This is part of being human, right?
But what if we make those moments right instead of wrong? When you find yourself in stress overload and become aware that you’re fighting against your overwhelm, trying to push past it, stop and ask yourself, “What if this overwhelm is right?” Give yourself permission, even for 5 minutes, to give in to the overwhelm and paralysis, stop doing and just be.
It’s giving yourself permission to give in to the actual experience and feelings you’re having that changes the experience you’re having! Plus it automatically makes those mindless activities you keep feeling drawn to RIGHT! It allows you to take a break AND feel less guilty about it!
So the next time stress feels like it’s gonna topple you over and you hit that wall of overwhelm and paralysis, instead of fighting against it, see how it feels to give yourself permission to give into it, even for just 5 minutes to start.
And if it currently feels IMPOSSIBLE to stop fighting against your overwhelm, but you’re ready to discover a new way to navigate the stress in your life that fosters relief more quickly, let me help you. So many of my clients find it impossible to imagine having a different experience with stress when we first start working together. But they want to! And guess what? With time, they discover the rightness tucked into the wrongness of their overwhelm. And they find a new way to navigate their stress that changes how they experience it and how quickly they move into relief.
If you want to explore this more, shoot me a DM and we can jump on a call and dive into what this process could look like and how I can be a support to you. I work with people in person and virtually and would love to connect with you. ❤️
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell). I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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