In my work championing wellbeing for the naturally more sensitive, I particularly enjoy helping people with challenges that come up to do with work.
Anna (not her real name) is beautifully sensitive which makes her a wonderful performer and teacher.
When she reached out for support, she had got sick during an assignment for a client and couldn’t complete it. When her physical health started recovering, Anna found herself in overwhelm, shocked by as she put it “how mean and out of control her thoughts became”.
Alarmed, she was planning to go to the doctor’s to get a referral for counselling. But first, she reached out to me because we’d met and she was feeling safe to ask for advice.
After we spoke, Anna decided to have a series of three mentoring sessions and in the end she saw no need to go to the doctor’s.
It’s understandable though that she considered that avenue.
After all, intense thoughts and feelings are very uncomfortable. It’s easy to conclude that (altogether now):
Our thoughts go there first because in the general culture we grew up in, it seems normal (and even responsible) to follow discomfort with diagnosis.
When there’s pain, we ask and expect to find “what’s wrong”.
Except that when your very issue is the worry that there’s something wrong with you, diagnosis is like locking a prison door and throwing out the key.
The way out of prison
An alternative way to respond to discomfort is to get interested in what it means you NEED.
What are you needing when your thoughts are screaming scary self-diagnosis at you?
What were you needing and perhaps not tracking just before the uncomfortable thinking began?
In Anna’s case, there was a need for kind and constructive understanding of what works for her and what doesn’t.
As we looked to identify and acknowledge her needs, Anna quickly realised that certain volume of busyness and change is just too overstimulating for her system and so it gets clogged up.
She needed to respect how her system works so that it worked with her.
She also wanted to trust herself to take care of her livelihood and to grow professionally.
Almost as soon as Anna connected with those needs, she visibly relaxed and began seeing and telling me about what she wanted to do in her business.
I witnessed the journey with fascination as Anna turned things around with little tweaks, no need for big treatment in sight.
She tweaked the size and composition of the groups she was teaching.
She slightly adjusted her prices.
She started paying attention to stimulation levels and doing things in more doable chunks.
Her classes filled up and her eyes were full of what she called “creative excitement”.
Reclaiming the wellbeing in overwhelm
I don’t think we’ve disappeared Anna’s overwhelm.
She will likely have work wobbles again.
As any living, working creature does.
But that part is healthy.
Overwhelm or any other uncomfortable emotion is not a symptom.
It’s a vital, helpful signal.
In the moment of overstimulation, we’d all want to cure ourselves of it.
But would you really want to suppress overwhelm given that you’d also lose your ability to be shown and notice when something important is needed inside you?
Yes, sensitive, imaginative minds can easily run away with worry about what overwhelm or discomfort means.
But we don’t have to get imprisoned by those worries.
As for Anna, not Anna, she continues innovating and enjoying her projects. Except that now she’s factoring feedback from overwhelm into her business flow.
Do you know someone who suffers from overwhelm and should read this article?
(This client story appears here with her permission)