Overwhelmed: overcome completely in mind or feeling: loaded (burdened) with an excessive amount of anything (dictionary.com)
These are the feelings which are becoming increasingly frequent and increasingly prominent for me, and I believe, from listening to people talk, also to others.
The fact that this post is five days late, to my definite discomfort, is witness to the power of feeling overwhelmed. Yes, time has again increased its pace, and it seems like there is less and less time to do more and more. Computers, of course, have little problem with this; it is people who are feeling the pressure of trying to keep up the pace. Although these things are real, I do believe that there is also an element of perception which predisposes us to feelings of being overwhelmed.
I am far from being a master of this situation. I can share how I am affected by it, and what thoughts I have developed about it, but that is all. I have not yet discovered how to disengage myself from overwhelm (yes, I have coined a noun from a verb).
This year, it seems as though the minimal work needed to competently do my job takes half again more time than it did last year. This is true for both my jobs, but especially my weekday one. Minimal work to keep order in my house is experiencing a similar squeeze. Work which had been postponed for a more opportune time is raising its head and demanding to be done. Time for reading has all but disappeared, and time for non-productive activity (walks in the park, flower gardening, presentations on DVD, streaming, online or TV, other than basic cooking, and the like) are well on the way to a similar fate. It is a struggle to schedule time for family and friends, no matter how much I may want to see them. Sleep more and more often drops below the 6-hour threshold.
Mentally, I feel foggy – not enough to seriously hamper work, but enough to be uncomfortable. Emotionally, it is easier for me to lose my center. Physically, I feel tired much of the time, and take cat naps when I can. I feel guilty about not accomplishing what I have envisioned, and frustrated that there seems to be not enough time to do it, no matter how hard I work and push myself. Do I choose to order and beautify my environment, to earn the money necessary to pay for that environment, to just have a little fun or sleep? Such choices seem difficult.
Yes, there is an element of perception there about how I see the existing issues, and also how I feel about them. I sense that there is a way to handle all this calmly, to be able to ride the tiger, so to speak. In practice, all I have been able to access is taking things one at a time, staying focused on what is in front of me now (or choosing on what to focus at the moment). Sometimes I can do this. Sometimes all the to-dos gang up in an active mind and demand attention at the same time, as if they were a set of octuplets. At those times, it is less easy to quiet them. And then, there is the issue of sleep. Computers who can handle everything (and who are also demanding and bossy) do not need sleep. People do.
All this does not mean that life is awful. There are certainly many blessings for which to be grateful. There are certainly accomplishments from which to take comfort. There are the little things – a few days of beautiful weather, some tree-lined roads, machines, especially cars, that work, heat and air conditioning, the company of people with whom I live, work, and visit, employment that I like to do, an outing now and then – such things are good to focus on and enjoy. This, too, can help to balance the feelings of overwhelm.
There remains, of course, the option of distancing myself from the mainstream. Simply distancing myself – running away from the issue, so to speak – would be a choice leading simply to a gradual decline, a growing disability to interact with the present in all its variety. One is in the world for a purpose. Running away is not an answer. There is a difference between not engaging and engaging but balancing and grounding the energy. Learning the latter is harder, but more viable.
There is also an approach which most people seem to ignore. That is the growing life choice of living in community, where work is shared. I am not necessarily referring to a commune, or to a guru-led organization. Community is people living in proximity, sharing and caring for each other voluntarily (we can share cars, vacuum cleaners, laundry facilities, clean energy generating facilities, good times, economic needs, and still retain a measure of privacy). Community requires that people learn interdependence (as opposed to the “I” alone) and to relinquish the concept of competition in favor of the concept of cooperation. All that learning can also be difficult, but those who are doing it are pointing to a more viable future.
I wish blessings to all of us who are feeling overwhelmed just now. Take heart and keep up the good work – we are all doing it. May we all feel less pressured as we learn and grow.