We’ve been staring at the many-tentacled beast named Overwhelm this week; we’ve talked about the way it adds stress, steals time to write, and causes you to believe falsehoods such as: you have no time, or the very fabric of space-time will shred if you give up one thing.
I want to make it clear that these are not chastising posts. They are written by me, Mistress of Overwhelm, Duchess of Plate Piling and Lady of the Whirlwind right here. Which means, I know how it feels: your neck muscles replaced by ropes of steel cables, your pulse in fight-or-flight mode, your rational mind replaced by a snappy, addled, confused decision maker who barks orders when it can think straight.
I also know that it feels as though you can’t possibly stop or put one thing down because of all the plate shards you’re afraid you’ll find jaggedly at your feet if you do.
But if you read Parts 1 and 2, you know that “I can’t make time to write” is 95% a lie your ego tells you to keep you from taking a much needed pause. Egos like to be busy, important and involved. All that activity feeds your ego the way sugar feeds yeast. Yuck.
Do you know what stress from overwhelm does to your physical body, much less your mental/emotional? Ranging from increasing the cortisol that leads to fatigue, weight-gain and moodiness, it can affect your memory, your concentration, judgment, ability to reason. It can create aches and pains and digestive issues, dizziness, lowered immunity, and sleep problems. Moreover, this can lead to agitation, feeling isolated, anxious and depressed.
Stress is bad, m’kay. You do no one any favors by staying in a high state of it all the time. And your writing? She will wilt like a rose in the desert if you don’t feed and water her.
So, here’s the deal you might like to make with yourself: either take something off the plate, OR, take yourself out of the equation for a day, let those plates spin in dumb circles alone for a day, an hour, a half hour and reboot your system.
The Natural Way:
On Monday my son was out of school for yet another holiday. I had lots of work to do and woke up frustrated by my inability to get much done. Since I knew the day was essentially shot for work already, I accepted a friend’s invitation for a hike. We walked to a most gorgeous natural spot: green hills, bushes and oaks in every direction; tall grass that rippled in the breeze like waves in the ocean; layers of wildflowers peeking out from lichen-laced niches. My shoulders dropped a notch and released my bound lungs, letting in gasps of sweet smelling air. I found it hard to even call to mind what projects or stressors I’d left behind. And guess what? When I came home nothing had fallen to pieces; everything was right where I left it. But now I felt full. Refreshed and calm and ready for Tuesday morning work.
There are a lot of ways to reboot, different for everyone, but I always recommend starting in nature. And that might just mean kicking your legs up in the hammock in your backyard. The body finds itself at home in nature, most of the time—the trees and creatures out there, like the cicada that perched on my friend’s finger for several minutes and the butterflies that teased over our heads, model being either still or present for you. You can’t go wrong.
Cone of Silence:
If you can’t get away, the next best thing is to enable stillness and silence into your life. We have a tendency to turn toward something when overwhelmed that we think will numb out the pain: TV, music, calling a friend. All of those are legitimate, but overwhelm is like a constant internal shouting at your nervous system. In fact, the overwhelm often distracts you from what you really feel, think or need. Try turning down the noise. If you must entertain, consider reading. Better yet, consider ten minutes of quiet breathing, eyes open or closed, in a comfortable place.
Whatever you choose to reboot, pick something. Maybe you do just needs a night out with friends over good food and cocktails. Or a trip to the beach. Or a few rounds on your bike. Get familiar with your overwhelm reboot resources so that when it comes to call, you can keep from burning out.
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Night Oracle, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and, Forged in Grace. And check out my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 30-June 1, 2014. Spots are filling fast, so don’t wait to register!