It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And you might’ve gone through your whole life, up to this point, believing that how overwhelmed you are comes down to your circumstances. But have you ever noticed that some people, no matter how much is coming at them, never seem to get overwhelmed?
The feeling of being overwhelmed can come from both internal and external causes.
The internal cause:
The internal cause is what you are telling yourself. When a lot is coming at you, what do you say to yourself? Do you say things like:
I’ll never have the time to get this done.
I can’t handle all this.
I can’t do a good job with so much on my plate.
Why does everything always land in my lap?
I will be late getting this in, and I will be in trouble.
I wish I hadn’t put this off until the last minute. I hate that I procrastinate.
I do my best work under stress, so of course I feel overwhelmed.
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself whether these things are actually true?
Often, the things we tell ourselves are habitual and are not actually true—but they can still negatively affect our emotions.
The external causes:
It’s true—sometimes we do get hit with a lot at once. But people seem to be able to take it in stride while others feel completely overwhelmed. There’s a very good reason for this.
Dr. Elaine Aron has done wonderful research on the highly sensitive person. About 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive, which means that you were born with a nervous system that is different from that of the other 80 percent. To see if you are a highly sensitive person (HSP), you can take this brief test.
One of the characteristics of an HSP is that we feel overwhelmed when a lot is going on. Our nervous system goes into overdrive, making us feel rattled, frazzled, and overwhelmed—especially when we have a lot to do and we believe that we don’t have enough time to do it.
How to love yourself when you feel overwhelmed:
If you often feel overwhelmed when a lot is coming at you, you need to learn to be very kind and compassionate with yourself. Especially if you are an HSP, you need to notice that what you’re telling yourself is making it even harder for you to cope with the intensity of the situation. Instead of scaring yourself with self-judgments and proclamations of not being able to do it, you need to take a moment to breathe and relax your body. You then need to tune into your higher self and ask whether or not any of the dire things you tend to tell yourself are actually true.
You need to honor that your nervous system gets easily overwhelmed and be accepting rather than judgmental about this.
Of the 27 questions in the Highly Sensitive test, I answer yes to 26. Before I understood high sensitivity, I always thought there was something wrong with me, and I feel deeply indebted to Dr. Aron for her books about high sensitivity. Now I know that there is nothing wrong with me, and that, in fact, it’s my high sensitivity that allows me to do the work that I do. Understanding this also makes it easier to love myself through overwhelm by taking the time to breathe and be very kind and compassionate with myself.
I hope you take the time to love yourself through overwhelming times.
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