Harness the Overwhelm>
words by Sherry Sidoti
June 4, 2018
Last weekend I taught a workshop entitled “Harness the Overwhelm” because let’s face it, everyday living can be a bit much: the to-do lists, the expectations, upholding importance, overstimulation, social media, all the caring. Sadly, feeling overwhelmed has become a new norm, and it’s throwing our nervous system out of whack.
In the workshop we explored four major themes:
What is Overwhelm?
What does it feel like?
What are its’ detriments?
Are there any possible positives to being overwhelmed?
The group gave numerous descriptions for ‘overwhelm’ and how it feels: heavy, pressure, too much, not enough time, overload of input, breathless, scattered, out of control, alone and isolated, agitated, judgmental, dread, to name a few.
We discussed how that state of mind/body can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and puts us into fight/flight/freeze response, wreaks havoc on our immune system, our hormones, and overall reduces our capacity for enjoyment, creativity, concentration and success in whatever we are supposed to be accomplishing. We explored ways that we can re-induce the parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest & digest state. How to turn the oppression into motivation for the greater good for ourselves and others, so we may be more useful, productive, and excited about our lives.
The human brain was developed and thrives on scarcity. Hundreds of years ago we had limited resources; we had to go out and hunt our food, build our shelter, collaborate in team efforts to
get our needs met. Today we are inundated with too much choice, quite frankly, and it’s making us sick.
Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not capable of multi-tasking well but thrives at its’ best when performing one task at a time. The pre-frontal cortex is the thinking part of our brain. Its responsible for concentration, problem-solving, willpower, discernment, focus, and more. With overload, or too much, we lose critical decision-making skills, creative thinking and an overall zest for life.
In order to assist this part of the brain, it needs whats called “waking rest”, or moments where it can de-activate in order to re-activate. This simple “switch” can restore motivation, increase concentration, increase creative problem solving, self-awareness, healthy boundaries, and sets our moral compass on track.
There are many ways to de- and then re-activate the brain. Primarily we need to bring into our lives a healthy balance of what we do not have enough of in each moment. For example, we need movement when we are too sedentary, bright colors of nature in moments we spend too much time on our computer, solid grounding when we feel out of control. Conversation with friends when feeling alone.
Going on retreat is a beautiful way to reset our brains and our lives, especially during the moments when we feel most overwhelmed! New places, different foods, a new community of friends & bonding outside our comfort zones, yoga, foreign language, lands…what a way to reactivate!
One of the reasons why I love to teach retreats is for the bonds and the creative space that is allowed for the rest and digest. Imagine if we could on purpose put our brains in a state so that instead of feeling the detriments/toxins of overwhelm we could turn them inside out and find a healthier, and quite honest- more productive alternative:
Trade the “not enough time” into skill and excitement to prioritize, step by step
Turn the “I’m all alone” into useful collaborations of “we need each other”
Exchange the “resentful yeses” into “no thank you, not now” so that every yes is a “HELL YES”.
To paraphrase Carl Jung, there’s nothing wrong with climbing up a ladder…as long as it’s leaning on the right wall.