I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed

I am intimately familiar with it
I used to be the queen of overwhelm
A few years ago, overwhelm was my go-to state of mind
I was working 50+ hour weeks
My husband worked swing shifts
And I had two teenage kids at home who were very active in sports and other school activities

I always had WAY too much to do
And not enough hours in the day

I was an accomplished, successful doctor
But I felt like I was doing a half-a** job at ALL the things

When I was home I was thinking about work
When I was at work I was thinking about what my kids needed
Or what my husband needed
Did I forget to pay the bills?
Was it my turn to bring a dish to the team meals?
Did I miss a deadline at work?

I felt like I should have been able to DO it all
Balance it all
And do it with a smile, of course

But the truth was I couldn’t do it all
And I definitely couldn’t do it all WELL
I felt OVERWHELMED much of the time

Who gets overwhelmed?

People with human brains

So, yes, everyone gets overwhelmed from time to time
The difference is, some of us get STUCK there

But you can learn to AVOID overwhelm for the most part, and
When you (inevitably) end up there from time to time
You’ll know how to get yourself out quickly

I believe (although I have no data on this) that women get overwhelmed more than men

This has nothing to do with the stereotypes
Of women being more EMOTIONAL
Or less ABLE to handle the stress/pressure/demands of life

But it does have to do with the EXPECTATIONS of women in our society
OTHER PEOPLE’S expectations
Familial, cultural, societal expectations
The unwritten rules
That we accept
Because this was how we were raised
What we witnessed
How “good” moms and wives were supposed to behave

The unwritten rules that say women are supposed to be
They’re supposed to take care of others
Even at the expense of themselves
Definitely at the expense of themselves

That then became OUR expectations
To give, serve, care for and nurture
And put ourselves last

This explains much of the uncompensated work we do
At home
And perhaps even at work

Many of us are
Managing the lion’s share of domestic tasks and childcare responsibilities
Even if we work full-time
Even if we are the breadwinner

So most everyone gets overwhelmed at times
But women – we tend to have a lot more balls in the air
And lots of people expecting lots of things from us
So it’s not surprising that we end up in overwhelm

What exactly is overwhelm?

Overwhelm is a FEELING
Caused by your THOUGHTS

Thoughts such as
I have TOO much to do
I’ll never get this all done
I should be able to handle this
I shouldn’t complain
It shouldn’t be this hard
The other moms have it all together
What’s wrong with me?
I must be doing it wrong

Then your brain gets to work to find more evidence that you’ll never get it done
That you’re the only one who can’t manage it all
Do it all
Be all things
To all people
With a smile, of course

So you spend time stressing
Feeling anxious
Maybe even feeling sorry for yourself
Stuck in your thoughts
Your drama
And you spend so much time stressing
And beating yourself up
That you don’t take productive action
So of course you don’t get it done

And violà – you’ve proved to yourself again that you CAN’T get it done
That you DON’T have it all together
That there’s something WRONG with you

But you can’t take productive action from overwhelm

It’s a repeating loop
A never-ending cycle
I can’t get it all done ➡️ Overwhelm ➡️ Inaction ➡️ I don’t get it all done ➡️
Create more evidence that I must be doing it wrong
I’m not good enough

Unless you learn to interrupt the pattern
Break the cycle

This is available to YOU
And I can show you the way

For now. let me leave you with the idea that
Overwhelm is OPTIONAL
It’s a CHOICE that you make
And that’s great news, because
If you can DECIDE to allow the feeling of overwhelm
Then you can also decide NOT to allow it

When you learn to stay OUT of overwhelm
It frees up SO much mental energy
To actually DO the things you want to do
And make better choices about what you choose NOT to do

In the next two emails
We’ll dig further into overwhelm
Why you’re feeling it and what to do about it.
So you can finally start enjoying the life you’ve worked so hard to create.

Here’s to overcoming overwhelm.

Denee Choice, MD