When You are Stuck in Overwhelmed Land

There is no shame here. Because being overwhelmed is a real thing.

There is loads of scientific research that has found that we don’t process other emotional information accurately when we feel overwhelmed. This can result in poor decision making. You know this, don’t you? Do you feel better knowing that science confirms it? You are not the only one making poor decisions because you can’t make it through a day while living through this tragedy.

One researcher, “Carol Gohm, used the term ‘overwhelmed’ to describe an experience where our emotions are intense, our focus on them is moderate, and our clarity about exactly what we’re feeling is low enough that we get confused when trying to identify or describe the emotions.” (Dr. Brene’ Brown, Atlas of the Heart, p. 7)

So we know we are overwhelmed and “done” so we can’t bear to feel all of those emotions at that moment so we don’t even try to understand the emotions. This does not make for a good set up for decision making.

So we freeze, flee, or fawn. Then when we become a bit more aware of the life around us we shame ourselves for this bad decision making.

Shame hurts—and likes to keep you in pain. If you leave shame unchecked, shame will make every decision for your life.

How do we move out of overwhelmed land when we are so overwhelmed? Being overwhelmed—especially when life gives you a tragedy—is a real thing. You just can’t wish it away. You just can’t power over it.

Give yourself grace for the bad decision making.

Shame is not your friend. Shame does not make the situation any better. Shame wants you to stay small and in overwhelmed land. There is grace to help you get through and back into a responsible life. Tragedies have a way of obliterating that responsible life—for a time. For all of us. We give you grace. You give yourself grace.

Intentionally make a gratitude list.

Now, in the midst of overwhelmed land. This change of perspective will be a path. Start with the ABC list. Then everyday find something. You will soon start seeing a path.

Speak your body’s language.

Your body is stressed. You feel it. The best way for your body to complete the stress cycle is physical movement, between twenty minutes and sixty minutes a day. Your body has no idea what your stressor means to you. It does know what jumping up and down means.

You may not like physical exercise of that jumping up and down sort–or any sort. Here are some other ways to help your body complete the stress cycle:

  • Social interaction – Casual but friendly social interaction is an external sign that your world is a safe place. The more you greet acquaintances the more your brain feels like it is safe.
  • Laughter – This requires social interaction. This also means deep laughter. Laughter that moves your body.
  • A 6-second kiss – This is an awkwardly long kiss. But 6 seconds is too long to kiss someone you resent or dislike, and it’s far too long to kiss someone with whom you feel unsafe. Basically you have to stop and deliberately notice that you like this person. A hug for 20 seconds is an alternative. (John Gottman research.)
  • A big snotty cry – If you’ve had one of these, you know the physicality of it.
  • Try any sort of creative expression. Knit that scarf. Build that birdhouse.

While these ideas do help your body complete the stress cycle, the cause for your overwhelmedness doesn’t have such a neat ending. Hence the dailyness of speaking your body’s language. Hence the beautiful truth of H.O.P.E.

Ask others to pray for you.

Ask with specifics. Because your prayers have become a cycle of fear and shame.

  • When you pray do you overwhelm yourself about the things you really cannot control?
  • When you pray do you become angry (even more angry) with how you’ve been wronged?
  • When you pray do you become obsessed with what you don’t have?
  • When you pray has food, sex, entertainment, or money overtaken your thoughts?
  • When you pray does shame seem louder in your head?
  • When you pray do you find yourself being self-critical about you?
  • When you pray are you building a story-line about God that is untrue?

I understand why you are praying less. There are times when I’ve stopped praying all together. It’s okay. You’ve asked others to pray for you.

Notice the ones who are not avoiding you.

These are the ones who don’t give you platitudes or drive-by prayers. These are the ones who keep showing up, often not knowing what to do but are still showing up anyway. Some of my favorite people are the ones who will get mad at God with me.

With this extra time your mind now has because you are not praying, dream of ways to bless these people who are not avoiding you. Maybe this blessing gift will involve a new craft or a new something. This new thing will actually help you feel empowered during this time when you feel so powerless.

The day will come. H.ang O.n P.ain E.nds! Meanwhile you continue to trust this Invisible God who has broken your heart. This is faith mixed with total confusion. It is the people who really trust God who can vent their anger at him.

You’ve been doing a lot of angry venting lately, right? It’s okay. You now have some good steps to do also. This will end. Staying in overwhelmed land will soon move to a new normal—probably with a broken calloused heart—and a deeper beautiful understanding of this Bigger and Lower God.

From one who knows all of this to be true. Brenda!


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