In our first podcast for ‘Designed to Thrive for Young People’, Jack (21 years old) talks about his relationship with overwhelm. He shares how he deals with things like lockdown, exams and balancing the various aspects of life. He also talks about how easy it is to feel overwhelmed when trying to solve other people’s issues as well as your own. Something many of us can easily identify with as we take on responsibility for the happiness and wellbeing of family and friends.
The dictionary defines overwhelm as ‘to crush, submerge or engulf’, a pretty accurate description of the feeling. What do you do with that feeling when it hits you? Do you fight it, judge yourself for it, or seek to blame someone or something else? Or are you able to pause and recognise that you have fallen for the oldest mind trick of them all and ‘gone down that rabbit hole’ of overthinking?
It’s like we are programmed to do too much. We pick up messages as we go through life that naturally become part of our personal thinking system; from parents and caregivers, teachers, the media and society in general. Messages such as ‘work hard’, ‘please others’, ‘be strong’, ‘hurry up’, ‘be perfect’, ‘don’t succeed’… a seemingly endless stream of instructions about life that we unconsciously digest.
In the normal course of living our lives we look out on the world through the perspective of our different thinking systems. When uncertainty knocks us off balance, like lockdown, it is easy to imagine all of these personal thinking systems becoming engaged at once, as we try to solve what looks to us like a myriad of problems. This throws us into overthinking and the subsequent feelings of overwhelm. It’s like a computer with too many windows open at the same time. It slows us down and, in some cases, paralyses us into not be able to take any action; commonly referred to as procrastination!
In the podcast, Jack refers to the realisations that he has found really helpful in dealing with overwhelm. Firstly, he realised that this is a normal emotional response to overthinking and is certainly a regular occurrence in his life as a young adult. He recognises that there are some days when he feels sad or overwhelmed and these feelings seem to ‘leak out’ into every aspect of his day but more often than not now he spots the feeling much sooner.
With regards to lockdown and the decision about what to do, Jack says “… I was trying to tackle all of these issues at the same time, that’s when I felt overwhelmed and stressed. I stopped and gave myself a moment to collect my thoughts. What is the most immediate issue… breaking it down helped to quell the overwhelm and with a relatively clear head I made the decision.” He realised that when he wasn’t entertaining his thoughts his mind cleared and the decision became clearer to him.
Jack shares a lovely analogy in the podcast about trusting his inner compass to rebalance (how he refers to true nature as the innate design of the system). “I just started to know that eventually [true nature] would do the right thing and allowing [true nature] to do the right thing was the biggest [realisation] for me. I trust the system 100%.”
When we misunderstand how the system works, we are running the risk of getting stuck in the feeling of overwhelm, believing that it is telling us something about the circumstances we are facing, when in fact all it is telling us is that we are overthinking. It’s a useful indication that a historical / habitual personal thinking system (unconscious) has come into play. Noticing that this is what is happening naturally raises our level of consciousness and immediately we access innate resourcefulness.
Listen to the 1st episode of Designed to Thrive Podcast for Young People here.