A week ago I returned from a coaching intensive (which I’ll no doubt share more about in the future), feeling one part energized, two parts exhausted. I had that good feeling of having stretched myself a lot, but a quieter part of me recognized that I couldn’t keep going at that pace for much longer without losing touch with what I truly needed.
Hmm. What I truly needed. How interesting that it took me almost a week to get there.
As the week wore on, and my after-stretching-myself buzz began to wear off, I noticed I felt scattered, pressured, pressed. By Thursday, I realized I had arrived at that most dreaded of states: full on overwhelm.
Friday morning, “to-do’s” spinning in my brain, I recognized I didn’t want to continue feeling the way I was feeling. And, regarding my rather pinched expression in the bathroom mirror, I asked myself this question: “What do you need right now?”
It seems like a pretty obvious question — doesn’t it?
The thing is, when I get into the spin cycle of “I want to rest — but there’s so much to do — but I want to rest — but there’s too much to do”, I do not see this question.
It was only pausing and noticing how I was feeling, and seeing that feeling conveyed on my face in the mirror, that brought me to this truth. I had a need, and it wasn’t being met. And I didn’t even know what the need was.
Asking yourself “What do I need right now?” grounds you in the present moment, in what is true for you.
Often, when we are in that “too much to do” place, we get caught up trying to plan for and control a future that is not here yet. If I don’t get it done now, X, Y, and Z might happen, our minds tell us.
And our activity becomes more and more frantic. We may get something done, maybe a lot of things done — but we don’t feel productive. “To-do-list” brain just keeps churning out more to-do’s.
When I asked myself, “What do you need right now?”, I received a few answers.
• I need to permission to do it all wrong.
• I need permission to not do it all.
• I need to be kinder to myself.
• I need to recognize where my true responsibility lies.
• I need to take a long walk.
I stopped there, lest “what I need” started to sound to me like another “to-do” list.
And I decided to meet two needs — the need to be kinder to myself, and the need for a long walk. My walk turned into what Julia Cameron calls an “Artist’s Date”, where I found myself meandering in my neighborhood, noticing the squirrels leaping around in the unusually warm weather, and I bought myself a new lipstick at Ulta Beauty.
On the way home from the walk, I realized just how much I’d needed that “settling down” time — that bridge between the high, intense activity of stretching myself, and moving back into my regular routine. It just took me a week to give it to myself.
As I write this, I do not feel overwhelmed. I feel present. In fact, after my walk I found myself — quite naturally — doing several things I needed to do, from a settled-down place of peace, of groundedness.
Now, here’s an interesting thing: This whole week, upon my return from my travels, I’ve been taking a morning walk each day, because that’s what I do. That’s part of my morning ritual. But my morning ritual didn’t seem to be “taking hold” as it usually does. I still felt keyed up, worried, anxious.
I see now that it’s because I didn’t ask myself what I needed. I kept taking the actions I usually took, without checking in first to see what was up for me.
The experience I’d had away had shifted my needs. I was needing a different flavor of self-care post-trip that I’d had before I’d left.
But I didn’t know it for almost a week, because I forgot to ask myself what I needed.
Live and learn, my friends. I offer a coaching program on practicing excellent self-care, and yet it took me a week to see how I needed to care for myself. We are always beginners in the ever-changing landscapes of our inner lives.
Are you overwhelmed right now? How does the question “What do I need right now?” sit with you? Is there another question that helps you cut through overwhelm? I’d love to hear from you.
And: I will begin enrolling clients in my one-on-one coaching program, Stellar Self-Care, on March 6, 2017. If your life feels overwhelming and you’re needing support, I encourage you to check it out! I will also be offering a small group version of the program this time around — please contact me for more info if you’re interested in that format. You can also learn about other ways we can work together, here.
Above image © Jose Antonio Sánchez Reyes | Dreamstime Stock Photos
4 thoughts on “The question that cuts through your overwhelm”
Sooo much to resonate with here! I laughed out loud when I read about your list of needs beginning to feel like another TO DO list, and can soooo relate to that feeling of very naturally, gracefully doing some of those tasks with little effort or stress once the self-care need has been met (e.g. taking that walk) Also reminds me of another of your posts, which addressed the issue of down time (I don’t remember if that’s what you called it) and making the point that sometimes that down time needs to be quite conscious and intentional, and not just vegging out on the sofa in front of a box set AND sometimes that’s exactly what it needs to be. All comes back to asking that question, and really listening! Thanks for sharing Jill – very timely reminder for me, as often seems to be the case with your posts! – and I wish you a wonderful week of balanced attending to both your needs and that to do list 🙂 Blessings, Harula xxx
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So good to hear from you, Harula, and I’m glad this post resonated for you! Yes, I remember that other post about the difference between the “vegging out” downtime and the more intentional downtime, and I agree, there’s a connection here. Different needs at different times — both/and! Thank you for the good wishes for a balanced week — and I wish the same for you, my friend! I always love hearing from you. 🙂
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Love it. Yes, needs can turn into a to do list. I needed this today!
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Thank you so much, Joan — glad the post was helpful! 🙂
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