What’s the *primary* cause of your overwhelm?


So, as you know, I’ve created a little survey on overwhelm. (Takes two minutes … have you done it yet? You should totally do it. It’s really pretty, there are cool gifts waiting at the end and you can win these books.)

Now, one of the really surprising things to come out of the survey is the number of comments I’ve gotten from people saying that it really made them think!

And I think I know why.

I suspect it’s because the survey asks questions we just don’t ever take the time to consider when we’re overwhelmed. (Because when we’re overwhelmed we’re too busy reacting and coping – there’s no time to think.)

As with most things in life, however, when  we are able to take a step back, it can be hugely clarifying.

Because often, what we think is causing our overwhelm actually isn’t. And the remedy for our overwhelm (short term anyway) might come from addressing a different area of our life to where the cause is coming from.

For example, the first part of this year found me drowning in life. And I was blaming it on the fact that I was doing some fairly major fire-fighting on at least three separate fronts. I wasn’t anywhere near surmounting a challenge before another presented itself.

But, when I actually created a tiny bit of white space in which to think, I realised the PRIMARY cause of my overwhelm wasn’t the challenges or the fire-fighting. It was the fact that I was hugely frustrated at my inability to be ‘in control’ of my life. (I’ve always felt that so long as I am super-organised and mindful, then life will all fall sweetly into place. But the events of the year were showing me quite clearly that this was not the case!)

So how did I get on top of things?

Well, first I made peace with the fact that in life, shit can, does and will happen no matter how organised you are. Ironically, while this helped my general mindset (in that it halted the uncharacteristic bitterness that was creeping into my thoughts), it didn’t really help with the overwhelm. What did help greatly was relieving pressure in another area of my life – by getting help with the running of our household.

It was that experience that helped shape the questions in my survey. And I guess that’s why the survey got people thinking. Because it first asked them to identify the PRIMARY source of their overwhelm. And then it asked ‘what single thing would have the greatest effect in lowering the overwhelm you feel?’

I think a lot of people experienced a lightbulb moment when they realised that (short term at least) you can’t always ‘fix’ the thing that’s causing the overwhelm … but taking the pressure off elsewhere in life can help immensely.

Are you feeling overwhelmed at the moment? Do you know what’s really causing it? Can you take the pressure off another part of your life to gain some relief? (Did you want to take the survey?!)