On Beating Overwhelm – Or, A Formal Apology To The Time Known As “Dawn”

On Beating Overwhelm – Or, A Formal Apology To The Time Known As “Dawn”

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It all just feels so much more complicated now than it has in the past, doesn’t it?

Or maybe it’s always felt this complicated, we’ve just been too distracted to notice…

The dictionary definition overwhelm – “to overpower in thought or feeling” – doesn’t hold a candle to Overwhelm In The Roaring (20)20s. I’ve written about what to do when it all feels like too much, I’ve written about being overwhelmed by the good things, I’ve written about Ghost Worries. But the nuances of overwhelm in what I’ve been calling the “For-Now Normal” are really something else.

This is an illuminating time we’re in. We’re learning new things and mourning new losses and reaching new milestones and sometimes all three at the same time, and we have very few places to go to recalibrate our system.

Maybe you’re one of the people privileged enough to own a spin bike so you can ride to nowhere, or maybe you have a large backyard or a multi-story house, or maybe you’re in a studio apartment. Maybe you live with other humans (and/or pets) to talk to in person, mask-free. Maybe you’ve moved in with family, or family’s moved in with you, or are Air BNB-ing it long-term for the time being.

But no matter what your situation, you’re being forced to make do with whatever’s in your immediate surroundings, repurposing them to create escapes and releases and comfort and coping mechanisms when all they’d usually be are the norm.

~

To be overwhelmed, I’ve learned, isn’t necessarily a numbers game. It’s not to feel as if there are too many things going on or too many boxes to check off your to-do list. My to-do lists have varied over the last year from page-turners to one simple box to check next to the words “make lunch.” If overwhelm was merely about the numbers, I promise you, I’d be spending way less of my days overwhelmed than I currently am.

No; overwhelm right now is maybe what overwhelm has actually been all along: when your thoughts and feelings not only *feel* overpowering, but they morph and shape-shift so often that you lose sight of where you end and your surroundings begin.

Overwhelm is the place you go when you feel like the world is playing a game of tug-of-war and your arms are the rope. Pull, pull, pull, back, forth, back, forth. It’s not the tug-of-war itself that’s the issue; it’s the way your head and heart are trying to compute what the hell is going on. Internal alarms and ticker-tape thoughts and flickering lights and total blackouts from an over-processed processing machine.

~

I’m up at 5am this morning writing this, every so often glancing over my right shoulder and out my window to see the silver-blue light of morning rising. I look down at the streets, snowy and snow-plowed; someone walks by maybe every five minutes, maybe. Because, pandemic and 5am and bone-ass cold.

I’m up at 5 because I was up at 4:30, because every single human I admire claims to wake up early for whatever reason they deem important. Writing, meditating, moving. But whatever they do, they all claim this is the time they feel they KNOW. The time the doubt and fears fade and they just do what they do.

In many cultures, 4-5am is the time “at which the boundaries that separate the physical realm from the spiritual realm are at their weakest” (quote from this article). “Witching Hour” is usually considered in the 3am or 4am hour, a time that folklore once associated with supernatural happenings. Many articles I read about this time have to do with some sort of spiritual awakening – literally, your spirit waking up – and talk about how many artists, writer, and poets abide by an early waking time.

I always thought it was because it’s the time they’re able to do what they do without being interrupted by the world – work, kids, tasks, partners, friends, colleagues, pets, traffic, the list goes on.

But maybe it’s because it’s the time they’re able to do what they do without being interrupted by themselves.

~

After listening to a few podcasts a few weeks back interviewing my favorite writers – all who said they were early-morning-people – I announced to my husband, Jeremy, that I was going to wake up at 4:30am the following morning.

He asked me why.

“Because I want to. That’s when the writers wake up, and I want to write when the writers write.” It had never occured to me that I could just make a choice like that and go with it.

It’s been a few weeks now. The first week, I stuck to every morning – now, it’s morphed into about 3 times a week, which is a rhythm I can get behind. The main thing I notice that at this time, at this moment, is that my brain just can’t. It won’t access the overwhelm that plagues most of my days – maybe because it’s tired, or maybe because it hasn’t “warmed up” yet. It’s New York City, for freakin’ crying out loud, a city not only built on overwhelm but thriving on the bet it will make you feel all the things at all the times. It’s 5am but I’m still in the middle of the human-made chaos. Still looking over the same avenue.

And yet…and YET. In this moment, all I feel is the silver-blue light and the soft inhale of the morning and I just KNOW.

To the time known as “dawn,” I apologize for judging and ignoring you. I’ve been so resistant to waking up at 4:30 or 5am unless absolutely necessary, like to catch a plane or teach an early class or finish a project by its deadline. Never did I think “because I want to” was “absolutely necessary.”

I wonder how many other things I don’t do because of what I’ve deemed them, or not – or deemed myself, or not.

I wonder how much knowing I’m missing out on because thinking gets to me first.

~

So the lesson here is: sometimes you don’t need to “muster up the courage” or “stop overthinking things.” Sometimes you just need to wake up so early that your brain doesn’t yet have the capacity for self-doubt.

And I wonder if that’s been the trick to overwhelm – good, bad, in-between – this whole time. Whether you wake up early or not.

Find a moment.

Just a pocket.

Sit in silence.

Stare out the window.

Make time to be.

Overwhelm yourself with knowing, before life overwhelms you with thinking, and beat it at its own game.

 

overwhelm waking up early

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The Joy Tab.

The Joy Tab.

Community Most Popular Posts Tips + Tools

You:
How Are You, Really?

Me:
Last Saturday I hit a breaking point. Or whatever you want to call those moments these days where it just all feels like too much and not enough simultaneously. A vortex of feeling. A black hole of numbness. No tears though. Vortexes suck up tears and numbness doesn’t cry.

I confided to Jeremy that I felt as if the only times I’m truly happy lately are when I’m 1- singing, 2- running, or 3- all doing something together as a family unit (walking, drinking coffee on the couch, watching a movie). All the other times felt…anesthetized. This, I said, made me so sad. Not the feelings themselves (or lack thereof), but the ratios.

And he said: well that makes sense. You’ve spent almost an entire year just focused on how you can help everyone else. It makes sense that the things that fill you up are when you’re totally and completely self-focused.

Oh.

It’s true. Since March 2020, I’ve been switched onto Helper Mode. Personally and professionally. This is not a complaint. Rather, a recognition. My work is completely focused on helping other people through their tough stuff. Always has been. My personal motto (or one of them, along with such phrases as “don’t not give a fuck, just give selective fucks”) is one passed down to me by my high school theater teacher; that whenever you walk into a room the first thing you do is ask “what can I do to help?” Heck, it’s even in my astrological chart and Human Design and enneagram and all that stuff. Being of service is in me on a cellular level. And as entrepreneur Gloria Atamno says, it’s not always an easy task to separate the change you wish to make and what you actually carry the responsibility for – especially for those who feel like it’s their life’s assignment and calling to make that change.

All this focus on others honestly wouldn’t be as much of an issue if I was doing more than the bare minimum to keep mySELF afloat – which is exactly what I’ve been doing. I’m usually someone whose energetic balance is worked into her daily life. It’s not just happenstance – I’ve spent almost two decades carefully crafting my days when and where I can to make sure I get solo time amidst the cacophony that is life. I thought ‘d figured out my formula.

But without commutes, social plans, small talk with the barista at the coffee shop, random trips to the drugstore (because I’m sure I need something, I’ll think of it later), and the predictable everydayness that was life before March, I’ve been way off balance for far too long. My scales (Libra here!) have been askew for almost a year.

~

A healthy human, in relationship with herself OR with others, is meant to have balance when it comes to what and who gets our attention. We’re not MEANT to be 100% self-focused or 100% other-focused constantly – we need to be both.

And yet the last year has held many of us in one lane or the other:

Maybe you’ve been SELF-focused: doing things to keep yourself decent, hopeful, and well – tipping the scales toward the Self not because you’re arrogant or believe others don’t deserve these things too, but because you feel the most primary and urgent needs are your own. If you don’t take care of yourself, there’s no way you can take care of others. A beautiful sentiment besides the fact that, while feeling decent, hopeful, and well, you also end up feeling lonely and disconnected from others.

Or maybe you’re like me and you’ve been OTHER-focused: doing things to keep others decent, hopeful, and well – tipping the scales toward the Other not because you believe you’re undeserving of these things yourself, but because you feel the most primary and urgent needs are out there in the community and world. We create the world we want to live in. A beautiful sentiment besides the fact that, while feeling decent, hopeful, and well about others, you also end up feeling burnt out and disconnected from yourself.

I do NOT want to tip the scales so far in one direction that I lose sight of the other, nor do I want to dim or blur my focus on others just to give myself some TLC. Again, keeping my Others-focus sharp is important to my DNA. I just need to sharpen my focus on myself in the meantime.

So what’s helping me (or at least what I HOPE will help me this month, I’m still working on this) is keeping a JOY TAB.

A list of 10 blank boxes and fill-in-the-blank spaces, to-do list style, to check off per week with things that bring ME joy. A list of suggestions and Common Joy-Bringers at the top, then space for me to fill in the blanks.

Maybe you’re the opposite, though. You feel like you’ve spent so much time and energy isolated and trying to keep yourself satisfied/decent/hopeful/well that you rarely do anything that truly connects you to others in a way that feels meaningful to you that helps you focus on others AS you continue to focus on yourself.

For that I’d suggest the same convention, but with a twist. A CONNECTION (or COMMUNITY or SERVICE TAB (pick the word that feels right to you). 10 blank boxes and fill-in-the-blank spaces, to-do list style, to check off per week with things that serve someone else or connect you with others.

I picked 10 per week because I like the idea of more than one thing a day. I personally need a lot more Self-oriented joy in my life. Also, I didn’t assign a specific number per DAY because I slip. Some days I don’t do anything that brings me joy that’s all my own — but days are long, so if I skip a day, I can surely find something to do to double up on another day. This ALSO makes me feel less guilty for spending “time on myself” when the guilt bug starts to bite (again – for you the feeling might be different).

~

To be honest with you, I stopped asking people “How Are You” long ago. Because I noticed that the default answer is usually “fine.” Even when people aren’t. We’re so pre-programmed to hear THAT question and give THAT answer that when people actually want to know how we are, we end up dismissing a chance for real connection, real emotion, and just real REALness beyond the perfunctory response. “Fine,” to me, is an answer you give when you give when you don’t want to talk about something. Or when you’ve had so many people in your past try to fix you that you just don’t want to get into it. Or, more commonly, an answer you give as a courtesy to someone else you figure is just asking you How You Are because it’s the polite thing to do. Nice, not kind.

And that, to me, is a shame. That we’re so used to equating the question “How Are You” with something either negative or obligatory that we just give the easiest answer that’ll stop the conversation soonest.

So, yeah, I’m not fine. And no, you don’t need to try and fix it. Because since I’m able to identify why exactly it is that I’m not fine — because I know your heart, and I trust that when you asked me How Are You, Really you actually wanted to dive into the deep end with me — I feel confident in being able to move through it. I’ve been here before, I’ll be here again. What’s going to make this time different?

 


WANT YOUR SELF:
What are some things that bring you JOY? What are some things that make you feel more CONNECTED TO others?
Can you make these suggestions for your future-self to take advantage of, for those times you’re looking to balance your scales?

Introducing THE WANT COMMUNITY: A Membership To Make Shift Happen

Introducing THE WANT COMMUNITY: A Membership To Make Shift Happen

Community Most Popular Posts Tips + Tools

Big announcement…

WE HAVE A FREAKIN’ OFFICIAL COMMUNITY!!!!!!!!

(Please excuse the all-caps shout. This has been so very long in the making, and I reserve the right to shout with glee from the internet-rooftops.)

THE WANT COMMUNITY is exactly what I envisioned for WANT when I dreamed it up back in 2007: it’s a place to shift your self talk, build a positive mindset, and make a lasting impact by being the you you know you’re meant to be.

WHAT IS THE WANT COMMUNITY?

We’re a members-only club by women, for women that gives you empowerment, encouragement, resources + support to shift your self-talk – not just from negative to positive, but from reactive to proactive.

WHY SHOULD I JOIN THE WANT COMMUNITY?

Well, I believe that you deserve to be the You you know you’re meant to be…and you deserve to be surrounded by the kind of support + encouragement that makes you believe it’s possible to THRIVE being that person. TWC is where you go to build positive habits, self-confidence, and self-worth for the long run – and where you connect with fellow community members to put all that confidence to good use out in the world.

WHAT WILL I GET BY JOINING THE WANT COMMUNITY?

⚡️ WANT Your Self Today deliveries: Bite-sized pep-talks, prompts, and pieces of inspiration “From Your Self” (😊) in your inbox M-F

⚡️ Weekly WANT Challenges + Prompts: community prompts in the private clubhouse to make shift happen in both your world and the world

⚡️ Monthly Virtual Meetups: including Q+A sessions, mini-workshops, panels, workouts, guest speakers, community happy hours, office hours, and more

⚡️ WANT Your Self Quarterly: A digital mini ‘zine delivered to your internet door 4xs a year containing community updates, member spotlights, notable TWC Wins, and more

⚡️ Our Private Community Board: This is my favorite part. Connect, cheer on, and bond with other TWC members. Download the app (WE’RE ON AN APP, and it’s not owned by Facebook! 🤯) to stay connected wherever you go!

…and more.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO JOIN THE WANT COMMUNITY?

Because “doable” looks different for everyone, we’ve got 3 pricing options to choose from, starting at $4.99/month. All plans are identical, and you can change at any time

Interested? Click below:

 

I cannot WAIT to get to know you better in The WANT Community — and, maybe even moreso, I cannot wait for you to meet EACH OTHER. You’re gonna love each other.

LET’S MAKE SHIFT HAPPEN.

Meet you in TWC!

WANTcast 119: Joy Is Reason Enough

WANTcast 119: Joy Is Reason Enough

the WANTcast

Feeling unenthused – or just plain confused – about goal-setting this year? This one’s for you. In this solo episode, I share the (awkward and obnoxious) wake-up call my subconscious gave me about my life, and why it’s sometimes the most important to let strategy GO.

SHOW NOTES:

090: Letting Go and Past-Self Pen Pals

063: Let Go and Let Goal with Goal Coach Jacki Carr

061: Reflections and Projections

The WANT Your Self RETREAT in Paros, Greece: Oct 4-9, 2021

Join The WANT Community here!

WANT website

Katie’s Instagram

Leave a review on iTunes!

Subscribe to The (Good) Wordour monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk

WANTcast 118: Rewriting Your Story with Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond

WANTcast 118: Rewriting Your Story with Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond

the WANTcast

If your favorite therapist, poet, and thought leader got together and had a book baby, What’s Your Story?: A Journal for Everyday Evolution by Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond would be it. This guided journal doesn’t just give you writing prompts to riff off of – it asks you deep, nuanced questions that get you exploring and morphing your deep-seated narratives. It’s creativity-sparking, obsession-worthy, and most of all, actually life-changing.

What’s Your Story? is an interactive journal for anyone who longs to bring a new story to life and leave behind the tired patterns of their past. Through a series of deeply personal writing prompts, you’ll excavate the stories that have shaped your past and be inspired to write a new, fulfilling narrative for the future.

In this episode, we talk about examining long-held beliefs, setting boundaries, finding a sense of belonging, and so very much more.

** SHARE, SUBSCRIBE, RATE + REVIEW on iTunes if you love the WANTcast here **

SHOW NOTES:
What’s Your Story?
Rebecca Walker
Lily Diamond
Rebecca on IG
Lily on IG
WYS on IG

Join The WANT Community here!
WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review 
on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word
our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk

117: 4 Steps To A 5-Minute Gratitude Practice

117: 4 Steps To A 5-Minute Gratitude Practice

the WANTcast

We can’t wait for gratitude to come, and can’t just expect it to come naturally all the time (especially in the tougher times). To get fluent in gratitude, you’ve got to have a gratitude practice. And not just in the self-help, pop-culture-mindfulness way: an actual PRACTICE, just like you’d practice a sport or new language, so that when you need it most, you’ll be able to access it. Try this five minute, four-step gratitude practice year-round to strengthen your gratitude muscles.

 

** SHARE, SUBSCRIBE, RATE + REVIEW on iTunes if you love the WANTcast here **

SHOW NOTES:
WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review
 on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word
our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk

 

This month is in support of Feeding America…but that’s not all! It’s in support of you getting involved with your local food bank this holiday season. While providing meals to those who struggle with hunger might look different this year, Feeding America has put together a great guide on how you can help a family put a holiday meal on the table this Thanksgiving (and beyond). Click here for more info.