Overcoming overwhelm

Jun 05, 2020

As if the loss of our person wasn’t enough, widowed people instantly have double the responsibility, twice the tasks, all of the decisions and often half the income. It isn’t surprising that one of the many feelings we experience in our life after loss is overwhelm.

It’s perfectly okay to feel any emotion, including overwhelm. It’s also an interesting emotion to explore further.

Like all feelings, a sense of overwhelm comes from our thoughts: “There is so much to do, I don’t know how to do the tasks my spouse did, I don’t know how to make decisions on my own, I am not sure how to make it on one income, I don’t have any support,” are just a few. Consider what thoughts cause you to feel overwhelmed.

It’s both ironic and common that when we feel overwhelmed, we end up taking no useful action in the areas that need our attention. It’s a paralyzing emotion. As a result of inaction, we stay stuck in overwhelm, and we create more evidence that our thoughts are true. The things that need to be done multiply, and then we feel even more overwhelmed. It’s a spiral.

The grief journey is an uncomfortable one (understatement of the year) and overwhelm is one of many uncomfortable emotions. But taking action in a brand new, unwelcome, difficult chapter of life is also uncomfortable. So ultimately, overwhelm tends to become our preferred version of uncomfortable.  

But the tasks pile up: the bills need to be paid, decisions need to be made, paperwork need to be done, the sink is clogged and clutter is everywhere. Overwhelm isn’t a useful emotion. What to do?

Examine the thoughts that produce a feeling of overwhelm, and ask if they are both true and useful. Ask your brain to come up with alternate thoughts that serve you better, that produce a feeling other than overwhelm; one that will actually inspire action.

“I don’t know how to do this” can become, “I’m learning to do this.” “There is so much to do” can become, “I’m capable of doing a little bit each day.” Those are examples, but it is important for your brain to come up with thoughts that feel true for you.

Try on each thought and ask yourself how it makes you feel. When you find the feeling that makes you want to take action, however small, ask your brain to practice that thought.

Because we are always in control of our thoughts, we can therefore generate any feeling we want to feel. Overcoming overwhelm allows us to take small action which builds our confidence and belief in ourselves. Small actions taken over time create significant results.

Teresa Amaral Beshwate, MPH, The Sudden Widow Coach, helps widows who have experienced the sudden loss of their spouse or significant other learn to live and love their life again. Her coaching program is exclusively for widowed people and offers the perfect mix of private and group coaching along with the most life changing tools for the uniquely challenging widowed journey. 


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