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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WANTcast Episode 108: The Life-Changing Power Of Turning Off Your Notifications with Kelsey Patel

WANTcast Episode 108: The Life-Changing Power Of Turning Off Your Notifications with Kelsey Patel

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Burnout and overwhelm are timeless and can show up any time, any where, around any THING. Kelsey Patel is one of Hollywood’s leading wellness and reiki experts, as well as newly published author of Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, and Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress. She is not only a sought-after spiritual empowerment coach, yoga teacher, reiki healer and meditation teacher, but also a multi-faceted entrepreneur and inspirational speaker. She is the creator and founder of Magik Vibes, a soul-enhancing lifestyle brand, which is also the name of her wellness-meets-spirituality podcast. Patel is an expert on burnout and conscious capitalism, facilitating workshops and giving keynote addresses for organizations such as Free People, Aerie, GOOP, and more.

Kelsey’s first book, Burning Bright is a path out of pain, anxiety, burnout, and overwhelm, and shows you the tools you already possess to heal through unique rituals, reiki, and self-care practices.

This episode was recorded a few months back, specifically to address coronavirus-related burnout and overwhelm, and how to transition from what we’ve been calling the ‘For-Now Normal’ to what will eventually be our new normal. Kelsey shares so many ACCESSIBLE tools we can use to, as the artist Bansky once said, “Learn to REST, not QUIT.” Listen for more on this in the episode.

Additional listening centered specifically around burnout while doing anti-racism work, and leaning into wellness as a person of color:

PAUSE ON THE PLAY
Episode 42: How To Avoid Burnout As An Imperfect Ally

BLACK GIRL IN OM

 


SHOW NOTES:

Burning Bright
Website
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Magik Vibes podcast

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 episode is in support of Reclamation Ventures, a family of brands reclaiming our right to be well. They create conversations, invest in the best talent, and support innovative programs to transform wellness – for all of us. They believe “that when we elevate the capacity of diverse wellness leaders to thrive, we can start to close the wellness gap and increase health equities in communities that need it most.” To get involved, click here.

 

WANTcast 098: Overwhelm In The For-Now Normal

WANTcast 098: Overwhelm In The For-Now Normal

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The words we choose to describe the time we’re in *matter.* Saying that this is our “New Normal” implies that the Now is the Forever…which it’s definitely not.

In this episode, we’ll unpack handling OVERWHELM during what I propose we call the FOR-NOW NORMAL – questions to ask yourself and ways to shift your mindset, plus prioritization strategies to help create structure and order when so much feels up in the air.

SHOW NOTES:
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Join me on Wednesday 4/8 on Instagram Live for a digital workshop on shifting your self talk during uncertain times
Mental Health WorkTHROUGH video tutorial on Aaptiv LIVE
Website
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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
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This month is in support of FEEDING AMERICA. Help food banks respond to COVID-19 by donating to Feeding America now. Feeding America and its network of food banks are continuing to provide food to people in need during these times of uncertainty. If you have any means to help, please do! Every bit counts. To get involved or donate, visit feedingamerica.org.

074: What To Do When Sh*t Keeps Hitting The Fan (over and over and…)

074: What To Do When Sh*t Keeps Hitting The Fan (over and over and…)

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Last week was about Goodness Overwhelm – this follow-up is about the other end of the spectrum. You can be a pro at shifting your self-talk when life is going pretty well overall. But what happens when the you-know-what hits the fan…and it keeps hitting the fan? What happens when you’re in major need of a WIN, and that win just isn’t coming your way? In this episode, we talk about five powerful strategies to use when life won’t let up.

WANT yourself:


SHOW NOTES:

• Instagram Bully post
• Lynn Chen on the WANTcast
• Sign up for The (Good) Word
, our monthly email digest

•Check out She’s The First, this season’s spotlight
• Let’s be friends on Instagram!

 

Like this episode? Take a screenshot + share on social, leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast and #womenagainstnegativetalk!

WANTcast 073: Goodness Overwhelm

WANTcast 073: Goodness Overwhelm

the WANTcast

It’s really easy to talk about being overwhelmed when you’re overwhelmed by hard things – but it’s harder to talk about overwhelm when all things are GOOD.

When left unchecked, our first response to Goodness-Overwhelm can be to complain or self-sabotage to subconsciously “balance things out”  (kind of like how we hold ourselves back when we think we’re only allowed to have one “thing” we’re good at…). You might even feel selfish or guilty about being overwhelmed in the first place. If I can’t handle the good, am I even WORTHY of it?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, especially if the things making you overwhelmed are GOOD things, here are six simple strategies – three internal, three external – to help you proactively persevere through whatever whirlwind you’re facing.

WANT yourself:

SHOW NOTES:
Ghost Worries
Sign up for The (Good) Word, our monthly email digest

Check out She’s The First, this season’s spotlight
Let’s be friends on Instagram!

~~~~~~~~
Like this episode? Take a screenshot + share on social, leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast and #womenagainstnegativetalk!

All Too Much: What To Do When Sh*t Keeps Hitting The Fan

All Too Much: What To Do When Sh*t Keeps Hitting The Fan

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I’ve always been a sucker for late 90s, early 2000s rom-coms. The soundtracks! The star power! The good person getting the job and winning the man!

(there’s always the man. more on that in a sec.)

I still love me a good rom-com for sentimental reasons. But the most clichéd ones? They’re now rough to watch. Many require you to majorly suspend your disbelief as you watch a completely problematic and unrealistic situation magically work itself out, and many (at least many of the early ones) reinforced a trope created in decades prior that looking, acting, and responding in a very particular way will get you what you want and deserve in life.

My main issue with rom coms when I watch them now, however, is this:

In many of these so-called “girl powered” movies, the storyline follows women positioning themselves as experts in a field, but somehow, they’re unable to tackle the problems they’re so good at solving when those problems hit the closest to home (dating expert, advice columnist, wedding planner…you get the gist). That’s usually when the man – or someone else – comes in and saves her or shows her the light. It’s rare that we’re shown how to move forward fearlessly when shit gets real, and how to do it on our own. And the message is that when darkness or hardship looms, someone or something will swoop in to save us and make us feel worthwhile again.

Screw that.

We need a new model for what to do when it all feels like too much.

 


 

You can know your through-line, crush Casual Negativity, and be a pro at shifting your self-talk…when life is going pretty well overall. But what happens when the you-know-what hits the fan, and it keeps hitting the fan? What happens when you’re in major need of a WIN, and that win just isn’t coming your way?

Here are five strategies for when life won’t let up:

~

1.) Focus on getting to NOW-Normal instead of BACK-To-Normal.

When things suck, we want to make them not-suck. We want to “get back to normal” or “the way things were back then.” THEN, of course, being a time when there were limited obstacles and you felt in control. This is totally expected and totally natural.

However, normal NOW isn’t the same as normal THEN. You’ve got a new normal in the Now.

Instead of trying to force old habits into a new set of circumstances, focus on accepting this new normal – not trying to adjust to make things like “what they were,” but maximizing “how they ARE.” What might have been easy or routine for you before simply might not work as well for your lifestyle right now.

If something doesn’t really stick, you have full permission to move on. If there’s a spark there, try it again. And again. And again.CLICK TO TWEET

Making lifestyle choices and developing positive habits, then, become like a game. What WILL feel good? What WILL stick? In this episode of the WANTcast with Lynn Chen, she tells us that when her father died and she was too overcome with grief to do anything, she treated her life like she was recovering from amnesia. Trying things out, from foods to workouts, to see what resonated and what didn’t. ZERO pressure to stick with one thing, and ZERO ties to what once worked.

When life feels the most challenging, do like Lynn and do a scavenger hunt to find your Now-Normal. If something doesn’t really stick, you have full permission to move on. If there’s a spark there, try it again. And again. And again.

 

2.) Perform a simple act of self-care.

When your heart feels heavy, when life feels too complicated, when getting out the door is a feat worth celebrating,here’s a list I wrote of some small yet highly effective ways to keep yourself going – everything from folding your laundry to sending one single email.

 

3.) Schedule out white space.

I am NOTHING for ANYONE if I am not GROUNDING for myself. And so when shit starts to hit the fan – or when everything, good or not-so-good, feels like it’s coming at me all at once – I schedule what’s called “white space.” It’s time that is all your own, that you don’t plan to fill and don’t schedule over. It’s both everything and nothingness.

It can be an hour. It can be three minutes. It doesn’t need to be formalized “meditation.” It doesn’t need to be productive OR unproductive. But I’ve learned that white space time, time that belongs to ME and ME ALONE, time that’s like the “white space” on a canvas – TBD, no paint, open to possibility – is a deal maker or breaker for me. If I don’t take time to reconnect to myself with no external stimuli or things to answer to, and don’t take time when I need it most, I end up going off the rails.

When shit gets real, I pause and remember who the F I am and what the F I stand for. Without anyone telling me who I am or what I SHOULD BE. Click To Tweet

After I wrote about my Instgram bully, I had many people write to me privately about their experiences with harassment and, specifically, others telling them to feel compassion for their bully as a coping mechanism. And how fucking INFURIATING that can be. For me, it’s moments like these that remind me why I practice white-space-moments on the regular. So that when shit gets real…when I’m hurt, when I’m highly emotionally triggered…I can pause even for a SECOND and remember who the F I am and what the F I stand for. Without anyone telling me who I am or what I SHOULD BE. It’s in these moments, these seemingly-millisecond moments, I’m able to do the thing that’s most proactive, not reactive (see last point). That I’m able to be the way I know I’m meant to be, not the way someone else told me I should respond.

I practice those white-space moments not for the moments I’m necessarily in. But for the moments in the future when I’ll need them most. It’s sunglasses in the subway and walking back and forth outside before I go and join the party. It’s hiding in the bathroom before networking not because I’m scared but because I can’t bear to not be myself. It’s what I do when the stakes are low so I know where to go when the stakes are high. It’s not the most sexy or socially acceptable thing but it’s what keeps me going. It’s not easy work, but it sure is right.

4.) Nix the one-sided emotional labor and replace it with a two-sided emotional investment.

This one is maybe the most profound (and hardest) for me. Emotional labor is what it sounds like: doing the emotional work to make something function. It’s actually a good thing, but becomes dangerous when it is ridiculously one-sided…and in which case, it’s usually the women who are doing the work.

Emotional labor can look like being the one who is constantly dissecting your friend’s toxic relationships and convincing them to see the light (then they do it again and you do it again, and so on and so forth). Emotional labor can look like putting on a happy face for your partner and “being a light” for them as they continuously stew in their own troubles. Emotional labor can mean decoding the unspoken subtext at work so that everyone can actually get things done. Emotional labor is brushing off micro-aggressions because they’re “not really that big” and “not really worth it” and excusing your bully in the name of “compassion.” Emotional labor is why it’s so exhausting to be a barista or a server or in the service/hospitality industry in any capacity: you’re soaking in the emotions of each and every customer, many of whom are taking their daily aggravations out on you. It’s your job to keep the peace and “put a smile on their face.”

If you’re in the service/hospitality industry, there are going to be parts of one-sided emotional labor that are unavoidable – you need to figure out your own personal boundaries, makes, and breaks. But let’s talk outside of those instances.

Emotional labor is taxing, and gives all your good stuff to others while leaving zilch for yourself. You can’t drink from an empty well, so to speak. And it’s when we’re feeling empty, depleted, and emotionally dehydrated that things turn really dark.

Emotional investments might not be two-ways in the moment, but you've got proof points that when you need it, you'll be getting that investment back in your direction. Click To Tweet

An emotional INVESTMENT, however, is different. By definition, an investment is “an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.” Start-ups present investors with data, proof points, and projections for a reason: to let them know their money isn’t going to waste and their investment won’t make them go bankrupt.

With an emotional investment, if you’re devoting your emotional time, effort, and energy to something, you’re going to see a return. Emotional investments might not be two-ways in the moment, but you’ve got proof points that when you need it, you’ll be getting that investment back in your direction. That’s why investors don’t just pour money into companies that sound cool, and why you shouldn’t invest in people who aren’t going to ever give back to you. That’s not being a friend. That’s being a savior, and dehydrating and bankrupting yourself of your most valuable assets.

When you’re feeling like the bad stuff won’t stop, immediately cut ties from one-sided emotional labor. This is the time your emotional investments should be making a return in the form of love, check-ins, and support while you slowly start to build up your emotional funds again. It’s not the time for you to mindlessly spend as you continue to overdraft.

 

5.) Ask yourself: is this decision PROACTIVE or REACTIVE?

When making decisions during tough, emotionally heavy times, I always ask, “Is this decision proactive, or reactive?” Its a practice that got me through a really horrible breakup in my 20s and it’s yet to fail me. Am I reacting to my situation and letting it dictate my actions, or am I proactively moving THROUGH the darkness, the fear, the anger, the confusion, the whatever-it-is, to make my way through to the other side? Here’s a post I wrote for some encouragement when it comes to taking and embracing the small steps that end up making a huge difference.

Am I reacting to my situation and letting it dictate my actions, or am I proactively moving THROUGH the darkness to make my way through to the other side? Click To Tweet

Above all, know that the know is not the forever. This is a moment in time – a chapter of your story. And while it’s just one chapter, how you choose to read it will inform how you view the other chapters to come.

The storm will pass and the dust will settle, and you’ll still be standing. But the great thing is, you won’t need saving, and you won’t need anyone to “show you the light.” You get to be the star, and you get to write your own success story.

 

powerful cover photo by shamia casiano


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