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Overwhelmed and Out of Balance: Finding Your Inner Chill

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We’ve all got that friend who can’t ever set a date for a happy hour or a lunch get-together.

“Sorry, I’ve got too much going on.”

Perhaps, it is you who is running on the red line from the first bell until you drop dead-like into bed. I am certain some people like this mode. It hardly gives them any time to feel what’s going on in their lives. Workaholism, or avoidant overscheduled-ism, is a poor strategy for suppressing your demons. Of course, alcohol, drugs, and other vices can also be used to cover over some deeper unhealed wounds. So, these folks run on, often run on empty, and make a mad chaotic dash for their potential weekend recovery time. Except, these class-one people fill their weekends to the brink as well.

Chaos As a Choice

Even the busiest schedule has flex points. These hyper-busy do not look for moments of pause or rest. In fact, I think, they avoid them. Downtime would mean there would be a moment without rush and busy, a moment to pause and feel the swirl of your life in chaos. It’s a bit dangerous and part of what these rushers are after. Leave behind the feelings by accelerating into amazingly full schedules that are in the process of creating.

This rush away from feelings is common in single people, and people without kids, but it’s almost acceptable for parents. I mean, “We’re all busy, right?” And single moms (dads too, but less prevalent) get a free pass (or gold star, depending on who you’re talking to) for their dedication and devotion of 98% of their time in the management and care of their kids. Of course, single moms will be 110% ready to defend another single mom for her over-stuffed calendar.

When you mention an opportunity to an overwhelmed person their reaction usually involves a sigh and a quick, “I can’t this weekend, we’re going to Dallas for a tournament.” And for a good bit of their lives, these overwhelmers will feel success at “doing their kids” and setting this as the priority of their lives. Okay, it’s noble, but how’s it working out for you, mom and dad? How is your energy on Saturday morning? What’s the sign about. I hear you are busy, I hear you have kids as the MVP of your life, and there’s something you are missing.

Me Time, Alone Time, Down Time

Hitting the big pause is one of the keys to refinding your inner peace. A weekend with fewer than 3 obligations, would be a big stretch, I’m guessing, but let’s assume you place some value on finding the release from this overwhelm. Your only choice is to stop the chaos for a limited period of time. (We’re not talking about abandoning your kids or your partner.) And there are so many great ways to take a break. Let’s look at a few that might help you get some clarity on what’s chasing you emotionally. Sure, you are busy, but there’s a reason you keep all of your hours booked with chores or work or kids.

Several ideas for finding the chill by yourself:

  1. walk in nature, take a hike, hit the hike and bike trail in your neighborhood
  2. learn to meditate or practice (headspace, insight timer, and youtube offer great meditation material)
  3. exercise doing a sport you love (not the gym, unless that’s your happy place)
  4. swim in a local natural pool, or public pool (just get in the water, swim if you like, but the idea is to allow the water to chill you out, literally)

Time With Lovers and Friends

One of the best antidotes to isolation and overwhelm is finding time and community with your tribe. It’s hard to find the time to meet friends or a special friend, I get it, but THIS IS A PRIORITY. Your life will not wait for you to find the calm center. You will experience the opposite if you keep your blazing self-sacrificing pace: burnout, depression, exhaustion. Community, being with others, will give you both comfort, connection, and if needed, a place to vent. There’s nothing quite like a good friend who can contain your overwhelm.

I can hear about your busy life, I can hear about your kid’s troubles, I can hear about your shitty boss, and I can simply listen. I am not here to fix you. I am here to give you good attention and when appropriate an empathetic response. “Dang, you are really going through a rough patch.” The offer to fix, the offer of advice, the offer of criticism is what is FORBIDDEN. As an ally for a person in crisis is to be a person in unconditional support. I can’t offer you any solutions. I can only offer you my love and attention, and that looks like listening, standing strong beside you, and giving you someone to vent to, reason things out with, and be present with.

Often, this release valve friend is not your partner, perhaps some of what you are overwhelmed about IS your partnership. And it’s best if this confidant is not directly affected or enmeshed in your chaos. (Sometimes siblings and parents do their best, but they offer ideas (advice) that meet their goals, not necessarily yours. A coach can also be a good sounding board who will help YOU define what you want to do and then SUPPORT you in getting there.

Your Needs Can Be Met

Guess what, your kids are going to be okay even if they don’t make the elite sports squad. And they don’t need to do two sports in one season. They can, you both can, but what’s the point? Are you also teaching them to FILL UP ALL OF YOUR TIME? This is not a good life strategy. Allow your kids some downtime too, skip the Eagle Scout track in boy scouts. Pick a single sport and give it some time to emerge as a favorite. And then give you BOTH (all of you, if you have more than one kid) some time to chill. Chilling is a life skill that seems to have been lost in your overpacked life.

We all need to chill. It’s in the quiet times, the non-hurried, non-scheduled time, that we can listen to our hearts. (If you’re avoiding something, yes, these are the moments that are going to give rise to that uncomfortable feeling.) We have got to listen to our hearts. Our hearts, our energy, our joy, point us in the direction of serenity and peace.

What I hope for you is serenity in whatever path you take. If you are a 20lbs-in-a-5lb-bag type of person, I sincerely hope you can read this and not get overwhelmed or angry at me. This is not about me or my ideas. This is the wisdom of the ages. This why meditation became a life-way. This is why mindfulness is my most active practice these days.

In mindfulness, we are aware of our inner passions and pains, we are also aware of our immediate surroundings in the present moment, and we are able to let go of everything that’s buzzing around in our minds. Often, I use the breath as my reset and refresh for a few moments. A few good INHALE and EXHALE moments, can really bring the pause back into my life. From the pause I can examine several things.

Listening to Yourself In The Moment

  1. my energy
  2. my mood
  3. my obsessive thoughts or urgent task warnings
  4. all of this slows into the present moment and the breath
  5. i label the thoughts or mood (sad about my son’s distance)
  6. recognize that feelings are just like thoughts (you can hold on to them, and obsess over them, or you can recognize them and label them, and let them drop into the raging river of life that flows just under the imaginary bridge you are on
  7. pause with the breath
  8. make a choice about what ACTION you want to take

That’s it. Simple, right?

Pay attention to your energy, mood, and thoughts. And then take care of your energy, and let go of the mood and the thoughts unless they are the gateway to the next action you need to take.

Life Is All About Taking the Next Right Action

No matter where you are when you read this, no matter how overwhelmed you feel, or how angry you are that I wrote this, you can PAUSE. Pause and breathe for a minute. And then:


Just start.

Then start again, anytime you need a reset.

And then go back to your regularly scheduled program, but now with some renewed inner awareness and confidence that this “pause” is available to you any time you’re feeling overwhelmed and overscheduled. You can find the time for you. You MUST find the time for yourself.

Your kids are amazingly important, but they are less well off when their parent is demonstrating chaos as a life path. They are learning how you do life. Don’t give them the burden of the hyper-busy escape you’ve been caught in before. Let that shit go. And don’t put that anxiety and stress on your kids.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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