Overwhelmed? Step back, then scale back.


So I spent the last three days trying to write a blog post. Now, I happen to truly enjoy writing blog posts. I look forward to writing them. They are fun and exciting for me, because I’m always discovering something about myself while I write them. Discovery! So much a “why” for me when it comes to writing.

And usually I can sit down and write a rough draft of a post in about an hour or so. The process doesn’t always work that way. But often, it does.

This week, however, it didn’t. I arrived at the computer determined to work on a blog post and I couldn’t manage to crank out more than a paragraph or two. And then I got frustrated. And then I got angry. And this happened three days in a row.

I said to my boyfriend,  “Maybe I’ve said all I want to say in my blog posts already. Maybe that’s it.”

“No way,” he said. “I don’t believe that.”

And I didn’t believe it either. But something was off, very off, and it made me panicky.

And I’ve been here before — maybe not recently in relation to blog posts, but in relation to other things. Like my novels. Like my relationships. Like cleaning the house, or taking that trip I’d planned. That place where I think that something is supposed to be happening and it shouldn’t be so hard, but it’s terribly, terribly hard. It’s a feeling of spinning my wheels in mud and just getting further entrenched. A feeling of doing and doing and nothing actually getting done.

I call it “the spin cycle.”

I found myself staring out the window instead of looking at the computer screen as I tried to write the blog post, and I realized my body, in its infinite wisdom, was pointing me to the fact that it was not time to write, it was time to be. Regardless of how “behind schedule” I was.

So, I went to the sofa and I lay down, staring at the ceiling for a while. And I began to relax. And I began to get it.

This time around in the spin cycle, here’s what I’ve learned:

1) When I feel this way, more often than not there is some type of resistance going on. Resistance to what is: a sure route to insanity. What have I been resisting this week? What’s the reality of this week?

Well, my parents came to visit one week ago and left today. And I had a freelance project I was working on in addition to my usual daily routine.

But I didn’t factor any of this in and kept right on with my “usual” schedule. I didn’t factor in the fact that I’m an introvert and I need alone time to recharge and I wasn’t getting much of it this week. I didn’t factor in the extra hours and toll on my energy the freelance project took.

The reality of my personal energy: I am a finite being with limited energy, much as I fantasize about being able to “do it all,” seamlessly.

The reality of time: There are 24 hours in a day.

2) When something that is usually enjoyable and do-able feels really hard, it is not a sign to step it up and push it harder. It is a sign to step back and ease up and ask what is going on.

But my mind will tell me I need to keep pushing and that easing up is a sign of weakness and a lack of discipline and commitment. This is what my mind does, and how it thwarts my need for self-care. But it is a lie.

How do I know it’s a lie? Because of the way it feels. If stepping it up and pushing harder were the truth in this case, it would feel challenging but expansive, like doing it was helping me grow. But that’s not how it felt. It felt like pushing myself to do it was diminishing me. (Interestingly, I kept getting an image of myself writing on a tiny notebook with a tiny flashlight inside of a tiny black tent, my legs bursting out of the flaps like Alice in Wonderland after she drank the potion that turned her into a giant.)

So, after I lay on the couch for half an hour or so, allowing myself to space out (and giving myself full permission NOT to write the blog post), I realized that writing just one paragraph of a blog post would actually feel good. And so what if I am “usually” able to write more than that? Different week, different guidelines. I went to the computer, wrote one paragraph, and then, as it turned out, I wrote the whole darned thing.

Which brings me to the third thing I learned, this time around in the spin cycle:

3) When I keep trying to get something done and it’s just not happening, it may be because I’ve lost my connection with why I’m doing it at all.

“Because it’s time to publish a blog post” was not enough motivation for me to write one when my creative well was empty and I was in spin. When I’m in that space, I’m like a ship without a rudder. Doing for the sake of doing is meaningless if I’m totally out of touch with why I’m doing it. My “why” is what propels me into inspired action.

As it turned out, giving myself what I really needed — a time-out — connected me back to my “why”.  And my “why” led me right back to writing the blog post that had felt so impossible to write only hours earlier.

What are your ways of dealing with “the spin cycle”? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Work With Me: Do you need some support in practicing better self-care? I’d love to help. See if we might be a good fit, here.

Image is “Outlook” © Guyerwood | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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