Feeling Overwhelmed? Yeah, It Happens

So you may have wondered–or maybe not–why haven’t  I written a blog post in over a month?

I was wondering the same thing.

First, I ruled out causes and excuses. I haven’t been any busier during the past several weeks than usual. In fact if anything, now that business at the marina has slowed down to a mere trickle, I’ve actually had more free time than I had during the summer months.

I briefly considered attributing my creative inertia to writer’s block, but that just sounded so lame,  and in fact was not true. I have thought about lots of things I could write about, as life certainly provides a never-ending stream of raw material. Nope, I haven’t felt blocked at all.

And it’s not like I don’t crack open my notebook or laptop at least several times a day. I certainly found time to scroll through Facebook, read my email, play Words with Friends, look up articles and blog posts on all sorts of topics, print off Betty Crocker and Pillsbury recipes, troll YouTube and frequent Netflix–anything to avoid going to Google docs, the tool I now use for my writing. I just couldn’t get my brain to get my fingers to go there.

I haven’t been ill either. In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good. A little tired sometimes, but I chalk that up to the change of seasons and the shrinking hours of daylight. Certainly I had enough energy to put in at least a few minutes a day at the keyboard. I just didn’t.

Then I started tuning into that nonstop chatter in my head. You know, that mental cacophony I wrote about a couple of months ago that so many of us live with. And here’s what’s been going on there…

Need to balance my checkbook haven’t cleaned the upstairs bathroom in weeks really should be exercising every day my house is a mess why don’t I make time to meditate in the morning I really should get rid of those clothes I never wear but what if I lose 30 pounds and can wear them again the property taxes are due this month gotta stop putting off filling out my healthcare proxy and living will speaking of wills I don’t have one yet I’m tired of all the clutter in my house but don’t know where to start getting low on toilet paper have to get up earlier for a work meeting tomorrow really need to clean out the refrigerator make sure I get my bills paid on time my house is a mess and I need to balance my checkbook man the upstairs bathroom really needs cleaning…

In other words, I had succumbed to a full-blown, paralytic state of overwhelm. Small wonder all I wanted to do was play, watch music videos, read, and sleep. Writing a blog post just seemed like one more thing to add to my overflowing, never-ending to do list.

Once I realized what the problem was,  I suddenly felt so much better. I hadn’t morphed into a lazy slug after all, or had begun to “feel my age”; I’d simply been like a deer in the headlights, trapped and mesmerized by the sheer magnitude of things clamoring for my attention and demanding action, most of which I found completely uninspiring.

Oh, I could do things I absolutely had to do. Laundry. Getting myself to work each day and actually getting work done once I got there. Putting gas in the car. Grocery shopping. But the house remained messy, I didn’t exercise or meditate, my checkbook remained unbalanced…and I didn’t write one single, solitary word for my blog.

Overwhelm had literally sucked the life out of me.

And really, who doesn’t get overwhelmed at least once in awhile these days? We are continuously bombarded with incoming data that floods our senses, and it comes at us from all directions. From television to social media, from billboards to email, from phone calls to text and instant messages, we are besieged by messaging in ways and at a frequency no other generation before us has had to deal with. And most of us don’t know when or how to turn that barrage off. We bring our work home and our home lives to work.

Plus, we’ve held onto many of the traditions and obligations we inherited from previous generations. Remembering birthdays and observing holidays. Celebrating some of the milestones in each other’s lives, and mourning others. Spring cleaning and fall raking.

Not to mention trying to carve out time for family and friends, setting up doctor and dentist visits, getting the car inspected (by the way, it’s due for an oil change) and maybe, just maybe, grabbing some sleep every night.

So sure, a lot of us surrender to it all sometimes. We just don’t have enough energy left to raise the white flag.

As with so many things, simply recognizing the source of my lethargy turned out to be the first step in treating it. Not that the same treatment works every time, though. You just have to pick something and go with it.

I decided to pick something simple and mindless to disperse this most recent bout of inertia. I began to dust the furniture in my dining room…then in my living room…then I mopped the kitchen floor…

I sorted through a pile of mail like a postal worker on steroids. I shelved books like a hopped up librarian, bagged up some old clothes for the Rescue Mission, and cleared what my mother used to call Irish lace from a few ceiling corners.

And then–totally invigorated–I sat down at my keyboard and began to write.

It’s physics, pure and simple. A body in motion stays in motion.

Have I gotten to everything on my overwhelm list? Good heavens, no. First of all, that list never ends anyway. It’s like plucking gray hairs–get one task accomplished and five more spring up in its place

But my house looks a little cleaner, I feel a tad more accomplished, and I’m writing again. So yay.

My point here, now that I’m actually blogging again, is that we need to cut ourselves some slack during those times when our energy levels run low. The onslaught of things we could, should, want and have to do can understandably overpower even the most hardy of souls. When we can’t get to all of them or don’t know where to start, it’s not that we’re weak. Or lazy. Or making excuses.

We’re human. And even when we think we’re not, we’re actually doing the best we can.

I have other remedies for the sluggishness that accompanies having too much to do, think about and remember, besides picking up a Swiffer and going to town on end tables and TV screens. But most of those prescriptions do involve some sort of physical activity. I’d be open to other anti-overwhelm suggestions if you have any you’d like to share.

In the meantime, I plan to keep the duster handy.


Writer, serial blogger and small business marketing consultant Mary Anne Hahn believes that there’s a reason old dreams don’t want to die. They want you to pursue them…make them real. They are what you are here to do. Mary Anne resides in Syracuse, New York and maintains websites at http://writesuccess.com , http://thewordgenie.com andhttp://boomerswhomeanbusiness.com .

2 responses to “Feeling Overwhelmed? Yeah, It Happens

  1. Jolene Nonemaker

    Thank you for this post. Of all weeks, this was one I really needed to read it. It is amazing how easily our outlook changes with even just a little bit of accomplishment.

    • Thanks, Jolene. I figured some people would relate. I can’t tell you how good it felt to click the “Publish” button on this one.

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