I had a client and friend this week tell me she didn’t think she could keep going without medication. Her overwhelm and anxiety were through the roof and she couldn’t fathom any effective method of coping other than going on medication. She was at the end of her rope, end of her capacity.
Before I tell you my response to her, I want to ask: how about you? How’s your anxiety? Are you exhausted and/or burned out? Find yourself paralyzed in overwhelm?
What’s happening right now – between COVID, the election, the BLM movement // work, virtual learning for our children, losing access to our “third spaces”, limited social contact and support, working from home, to name a few major ones – it is A LOT. Actually, it’s more than a lot; it’s freaking ASININE. No ONE person can shoulder the responsibility, “work” or headspace that all of these, or even a few of these require. And let’s also be clear that there has never been a point in history where we HAVE had to hold all of these at once AND under one roof.
And what I’ve been hearing – from friends, clients, family and on social media, is thinking, once again, that’s something is wrong with YOU that you can’t “do it all”.
“What’s wrong with me that _________?”
- I am not enjoying this extra time with my kids or I don’t feel the joy of motherhood (like I “should” or used to)?
- I am doing a lot less than “normal”, but I don’t feel like I have capacity for anything?
- I can’t feel joy right now?
- I don’t feel connected to my partner?
- I can’t handle all of this or even the simplest things?
- I. am. so. angry. and exhausted?
A big problem with this narrative? When you believe something is wrong with YOU, you take it upon yourself to do more (to fix it, of course!) or berate yourself for being ungrateful, incapable or inadequate.
TRUTH: how you’re feeling more likely means one or more of the following (this list built off an original by the amazing Beth Berry):
- You have unmet NEEDS that are keeping you from feeling whole and vibrant.
- You are exhausted and don’t have the SPACE, time or self-permission to rest.
- You have unresolved trauma stored in your body that’s being TRIGGERED by everything going on & being at max emotional // mental capacity.
- Parts of you are ATROPHYING – your passion, your joy, your playfulness, your spontaneity and flexibility, etc. – while other parts of you are overworked.
- You don’t feel SEEN for the (limitless, unpaid) work you do and/or energetic investments you make.
- You CRAVE deeper connection and more inspiring conversation than most people around you seem to be able to offer.
- Your nervous system isn’t getting enough BREAKS from chaos and/or hyperarousal.
- You’re introverted and don’t get enough TIME alone.
- You struggle to feel WORTHY of investing in yourself while your kids’ (and everyone else’s) needs are given center stage.
- As much as he cares, your partner DOESN’T QUITE GET IT, which has you struggling not to resent him (I’m speaking specifically to the inability of non-birthing partners to understand the emotional, mental & physical demands of mothering+).
- You don’t feel as if you’re DOING ENOUGH to make any real difference.
- You long for SUPPORT, but you don’t know where to find it and don’t always feel worthy of what you desire. Or when you do get space, you find yourself scrolling social media, watching TV or tasking around the house because you feel your time is either better spent “catching up” or numbing out OR you’re not sure exactly WHAT to do to combat the overwhelm and exhaustion that feels “productive”.
The problem isn’t YOU, my darling. It never was. It’s the SYSTEMS you live in/under, the “norms” and unrealistic, life-sucking expectations of our patriarchal society + grind culture, the stories, thoughts & beliefs you hold about what makes a “good” mother // partner // friend // sister // woman that keep you exhausted, burnt out, always striving and feeling guilty for wanting more or being unfulfilled.
We need to flip the script.
As one of my mentors Kate Northrup says,
“The secret is not fitting more into our days as we’ve been told.
It’s fitting more of OURSELVES into our days.”
Read that again.
There is always a ROOT CAUSE to our overwhelm, anxiety and stress. And the answer is not doing more or sucking it up. For me, in this season of life, the root cause of my stress it’s interrupted sleep (Felix’s night wakings) and running the story that “I don’t have time” to workout, meditate or rest or the space to care for myself well.
Something I’ve found, though? The exact thing you tell yourself you don’t have time for (or isn’t “worth” your time) IS the antidote to the overwhelm, anxiety and stress. And doing that exact thing – standing up for your body & your mental + emotional well-being – is a radical revolution that gives you your power + energy back and transforms your life from the inside-out.
I encourage you to get curious and ask yourself, what is your “what’s wrong with me that ________” story?
Then use the above list of root causes as a starting point to figure out what you NEED to move away from overwhelm and into more ease.
Away from anxiety – which is telling you that something in your life is out of balance* and apathy – which is telling you where you’re overextended & burnt out* (*thanks chroniconofficial) and into joy and vibrant energy.
Take a deep dive the feelings you’re experiencing and then get clear on the WHY and how you DO want to feel. And tell me (like seriously, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org) what YOU would do to take care of yourself if money, time or support weren’t an issue? And then how can you build that it right now, even if just for 5-10 min per day. It WILL make a difference. In fact, those 5-10 minutes will BE the difference.
So back to my friend. I asked her, “If time, resources, availability of support or money wasn’t a barrier, what would you add to or remove from your day to have space to take care of yourself, fill up your cup or bring you joy?”
Her answer was so simple. So intuitive and also revolutionary. Time to herself (alone) outside in nature. I asked if she felt she could ask her partner to watch their child at some point every day to facilitate this. She thought yes.
What was keeping her from seeking help or exploring her needs & desires – what stops ALL of us from doing the same – comes from the patriarchal brainwashing that taking time for yourself is selfish; that you should be grateful for what you have and not ask for more; to accept the status quo even if you’re not fulfilled or happy; that doing more and being busy makes you more worthy of love // more valuable // more productive; and that asking for help or not “doing it all” is a sign of weakness and incompetence.
When actually ALL the opposites are true. Taking for your time is essential and non-negotiable. You can be grateful AND desire more. Your productivity will always be limited by the space you dedicate to rest and recharging your mind, body and soul. Asking for help is a sign of strength and having boundaries around your time & energy helps you stand in your innate worth.
I’d love to continue this conversation with you, as you feel called – below in the comments or one-on-one. We’re in this together.
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- There are certainly situations where taking medication is necessary and/or helpful. If this is you, I both see you and lift you up. It’s also important to get to the root cause (there always is one) because you deserve and were created to have innate vibrant energy, ease and joy; and be able to feel deeply and fully. It is your birth right.
- I know there are those whose experience of asking for help or even getting it truly is or feels impossible. If this is you, I encourage you to begin by asking me. With whatever is within my power or resources, I’ll partner with you and am dedicated to helping you transform your current season of life, from the inside-out. I believe you’re here for a reason; and I’m here for that.
This is so spot on, Whitney. Thank you for sharing and for always providing a beautiful light on the path.
You’re so welcome, Lauren! Big love to you!