There’s been so much going on in the last few years, that’s it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Things are speeding up like never before in our lives. But the result is that we are feeling over-full.
Over-Full Eventually Feels Like Empty
The problem with feeling over-full for too long is that eventually, your body and psyche gets used to it and it starts to feel like it’s normal. Then, if the over-fullness doesn’t end there, what happens is a very strange thing. You start to feel empty. A great gaping void opens up inside you. You can’t feel, you can’t care, you have a hard time connecting. It feels like you need to fill this emptiness and so you go out and try to find things to do, people to see, things to buy – anything to fill that void. But it won’t work. Because you’re not empty – you’re over-full.
Why It Happens
The reason you end up feeling empty is that you got so overwhelmed by your life that you started shutting down. First it was little things, like not paying attention to what was important to your loved ones. Then it was not paying attention to your appearance. Then you start to eat by rote. Then you start dreading social engagements. Then it’s hard to get yourself to do the housework and get the kids to school. Eventually, you are just tired all the time and you resist everything in your life that demands anything of you. In short, you’ve slowly shut down every system you use to connect with the outside world because it seems that the outside world just won’t give you a break.
The Problem With This Coping Mechanism
This approach works fine so long as the stress is short-term. The problem is that for most of us, it hasn’t been short-term stress recently. It’s been a couple of years of ongoing issues that build up until we feel like we’re going to explode, and then they just keep building after that. If you keep shutting down the systems that allow you to connect during these times, then eventually, not only are you overwhelmed and stressed out, you’re all alone in the process. And because you’ve shut down gradually and without consciousness about it, you don’t know how to get out.
Psychologists know that those who experience trauma alone take far longer to recover than those who share the experience with someone else. There is something about having someone else be there for you that helps you to soften the blow, reduce the pain and cope a little better with the traumatic experience. But when you shut down, you shut other people out and, even when people are around you, you go through your traumatic experiences alone – which only prolongs the challenges and perpetuates the cycle.
Failure to Receive
When you shut down in this way emotionally, you also shut down energetically. This means that you are constantly giving out your energy, but not allowing any back in. This is what results in the feeling of emptiness that I described earlier. You are literally draining yourself of your life force. You have to learn how to open back up to receive or dire consequences can occur.
One Person’s Results
I worked with a woman who went through this process about 10 years ago. She worked a full time job as an independent salesperson. She ran her home for herself and her husband without any help from him and she volunteered at four different organizations. I was on the board of one of those organizations with her when she walked in the door for a meeting one evening. She looked terrible. Physically, she was gaunt and had dark circles under her eyes. Energetically, I couldn’t find her aura at all. There was nothing there. I told her that I was concerned for her and she told me that she had an appointment with a specialist in the morning because she had lost circulation in her feet and hands and because it was winter, she was getting the beginnings of frostbite every time she walked outside. After the meeting, I laid her on the table and took the what little was left of her personal energy which had collapsed into the core of her body and spun it back out into her entire body. She said she felt her circulation open up immediately. I told her that she had to quit at least two of her volunteer positions and talk to her husband about doing more at home. A couple of months later, I checked in with her. She had done as instructed and had not had any more troubles with her circulation and was feeling better overall.
- Admit You’re Overwhelmed – The first step to getting out of this pattern is to admit that you are overwhelmed and that you need the support of others. Even if that support is only in the form of a sympathetic ear. Talk about what has been happening. Tell people how you feel about it – even if you don’t know how you feel, imagine how you think you would feel (if you could feel) and then talk about that. Having support from friends and loved ones accomplishes two tasks. First it helps you to share the burden of your life trauma and heal faster. And, second, it helps bring you back into connection with others – opening up your energy to receive once more.
- Make a List – Often, the biggest problem you face is your own mind. You take the list of things you have to do and cycle it over and over again in your head until it feels like it’s going to crush you – all in an attempt to not forget anything. Stop the cycle by refusing to mentally review lists. Write them down and let them go. Then use your list to cross things off and give yourself credit for each item crossed off. If you’re having a hard time feeling like you’re making progress, then this can help a lot. If it’s really hard, keep the daily completed lists in a folder and then review them from time to time to celebrate your successes. (Of course, if your thought pattern goes like this: “I’ve done all this stuff and there’s just so much more to do still – I’ll never get it done!”, then you can skip the reviewing part – or better yet – change your internal conversation.)
- Get Help – If the sheer number of things going on in your world is overwhelming, then see if you can offload some of the simpler stuff (or the complex stuff if your friends can handle it) to a friend or two. Or hire someone to handle some of the load. You’d be stunned how much peace of mind can come from knowing that something is getting done without you having to do it.
- Take a Break – We’re often angry at the world for not giving us a break, but we never give ourselves one either. Take a vacation. Yes, now. Yes, when you’re really busy. There is no other time. You need it now. Even if it’s just a couple of days at a bed and breakfast in the next town over, do it. You need a change of scenery, and a time in which you do no work – a time when nothing is demanded of you and where your only task for the day is to do something that makes you happy. Each little break of this type will increase your mental breathing room.
If none of this works and you’re looking for more help, give me a call. I’m good at helping people through this process.