Why Overwhelm Has Us Living in a Lie
Updated: May 5, 2021
In this Healing Chronic Illness blog series, author, Gupta Program Coach and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome survivor Jen Evans shares insights from the recovery journey
Do you ever feel like you’re in a vicious cycle? Doing too much, or feeling you should be doing more, but feeling exhausted and defeated before you even start?
I felt that panic and overwhelm were normal, everyday things. They were even required for anything to get done. At some point, the enormous list of to-dos and expectations became so overwhelming that I would have to do something - and by repeating this over and over, I learnt that this is how things get done.
Calm, patience, learning, building a foundation - these were not allowed. There was so little time and whatever did get done had to be perfect the firstt time around, so I learnt that everything had to be done in a great whirlwind of a rush, throw it all at the wall at once and hope that it sticks, hope that it doesn’t get me criticised and humiliated.
It was the product of growing up in a family environment where productivity and pleasing people were paramount. Emotions, desires and personal needs were not considered. No one I grew up around took care of themself, showed me how to deal with intense emotions in a healthy way, or did anything just for fun. Life was an ever-increasing to-do list of chores, obligations, and saving face. It was survival mode.
So I lived a life in panic, using the adrenaline and cortisol of overwhelm and self criticism to move me to do anything.
This resulted in a lifetime of recurring illness, addiction and then full physical crash into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The strategies I had learnt to live life, and to cope with all the negative responsibilities and beliefs that I had developed, did not serve me. Living in overwhelm meant I was in a constant state of panic and sympathetic over-stimulation. The body is not designed to live like this.
So the illness came and what happened then? Peace and space to heal? To get to the root of symptoms and general dissatisfaction i had felt in life until then? No, not at first. First came even more overwhelm, constant panic, increasing symptoms and depression. When a life is based on doing, on being productive and trying to gain attention and acceptance, love and respect, from doing more and more and more, illness came as a huge burden that only made the pattern worse.
It took me years to see what was happening. It took me years to realise that I was applying this same strategy to the healing process - do more, overwhelm myself and feel that there was never enough I could do to get better.
But a shift did occur. A shift that started with the Gupta Program and going through it a second time I realised, I’m not getting this. I learnt the techniques and I applied them, but I was applying them from the same mindset that I had used to live life all along - more more more, perfectly, and when things improve, use that energy to get back out there, to find my identity and the affection I craved in the outside world, a world of achieving and doing and helping and pleasing.
When I started to get some help, some outside perspective and some accountability for the way I was approaching my healing, bigger shifts started to happen.
There were new behaviours, thoughts and concepts that I needed to learn. I didn't realise how hard life had been living like the world, and myself, were on fire.
I had to learn to be slow, progressive, powerful, present, joyful in the moment, enjoy the process and not focus on the outcome. Sometimes the joy of the process changed what I wanted the outcome to be. That’s how it’s meant to be, not desperately scrambling towards imagined goals, inflexible and unable to deviate in any way. Unable to fail, to fall, to falter. Unable to learn from the process of life itself. This is no way to live. It’s a prison, a hamsters wheel of exhaustion and never getting to the goal. Never feeling love. Because all the way through it all, I denied myself love. I whipped myself, I hurt myself, I defeated myself. Because someone in childhood taught me that whatever I did was never good enough.
But when you learn that they taught you a lie, that they only treated you that way because that’s how they were treated and how they felt about themselves, suddenly the realisation is very stark - I have been flailing and flagellating in service of a complete lie.
I don’t need to do or achieve or be anything in this world to be of worth, to be loveable, to be accepted. That is already within me and it’s my own power to bestow this love and respect and trust to myself. It doesn’t not come from without.
How can you unlearn this way of being too?
First, make sure that you’re not applying an old strategy to a new way of being. Doing it all perfectly, and doing it expecting an outcome, will only keep those stress cycles spinning.
Start small. Feel how uncomfortable that is, talk to the part of you that feels that way, and then know deeply that this is how true change occurs - one small step at a tie.
Keep promises to yourself. Doing just the smallest things for yourself in your day can build self-respect, self-love and build a foundation of trust to move forward on the journey.
Focus on the steps of a goal, not the outcome. You can hold the shining outcome as a dream to move towards, but once that’s in place, break it down into paced, achievable , realistic steps. And then, because you may be used to over-pacing and overdoing things, which is what creates all the overwhelm, break it down even more. It may seem ridiculous how small the step you decide to take is - GOOD. Choose that. This is how we learn to pace and move in a positive direction without overdoing it and having to reset and recharge everything we want to do anything in this life.
These are just a few ideas on how to reduce overwhelm. Take each step at a time and celebrate each one. It’s more than enough. The other option is to desperately try to do it all at once and either exhaust oneself or paralyse oneself so no steps are being taken at all. Either one of these is stimulating the nervous system in negative ways and can result in chronic stress, anxiety, overwhelm and eventually illness.
Stop living the lie. Start making the change.
For more wisdom and techniques to reduce overwhelm, come along to one of my Releasing Overwhelm workshops (see Services for current dates).
Jen Evans is a Wellness and Life Purpose Coach, supporting individuals and groups to free themselves of dis-ease and living unfulfilling lives. She is a coach for the Gupta Program, an accredited EFT and Matrix Re-Imprinting Practitioner and Life Coach. Work with her 1-1 or in group coaching, email email@example.com