Overwhelmed. I have lived in that space many times, waking up with a sense of dread, not being sure what my day holds, and feeling the strain of many responsibilities. As mothers, we all know this word rather intimately, don’t we?
We have days and maybe even years living in a chronic place of feeling overwhelmed. Many factors may contribute to those feelings like sleep deprivation, hormones, health issues, perfectionistic personality, lack of boundaries, strained relationships, frustrating finances, and fear. Our response to overwhelming situations tends to be either anger and control, becoming a drill sergeant to try to quell the anxiety storm, or shutting down to deny that our challenging situations exist and we turn to escapism with our phones, the internet, manic cleaning, mindless shopping, and overeating.
There is another kind of overwhelm that most of us live with that we don’t realize. It’s the mind that is constantly humming with ideas, to-do lists, and a vague sense that we are forgetting important things. We feel consistently scattered and distracted, balls drop, and we never feel fully present to the ones we love. Our brains are on overdrive and we can’t seem to remember why we walked into the next room or what we were about to ask someone. We are overloaded.
How do we want to live in the dailiness with our families and friends? Present, engaged, peaceful, creative, and proactive. Living with an overwhelmed mind keeps us from these things. But I have found a simple solution that helps bring us back closer to where we want to be.
This summer I read the book Getting Things Done. The author David Allen teaches that our mind continues to work on anything that is an undecided state. Our brain thinks that when it knows we are to do something that it needs to remind us of it all the time until it’s completed. Our minds are made for having ideas, not for holding them. They were designed to be a focusing tool, not an organizational system, “brilliant at recognition and terrible at recall.” He says that to get clear on your life and work towards getting current and creative, your mind has to be freed from all the lists and ideas so that it can live in the present moment, aware, open and creative.
“The bottom line is that when you use your memory as your organizing system, your mind will effectively become overwhelmed and incompetent, because you are demanding of it intense work for which it is not well equipped.”
The best solution for overwhelm is to get everything out of your mind and onto paper. A good old fashioned brain dump. Everything from problems you see in the house, to things you know you need to order, to projects, ideas, birthday or holiday brainstorming. Anything and everything that is clogging up your amazing mind.
A brain dump doesn’t require any fancy tools. A pen and a spiral notebook will do. It may take you a few minutes or a few hours, and you might return to it over several days. Your brain now feels so happy that it can rest, receive new thoughts, think clearly, and engage well! The point right now isn’t to process the list or make decisions, but to get all the mental clutter out.
I have a busy little brain. It has always believed it can do more and keep up with more than it really can. It’s freeing to find simple solutions to help it rest, get clarity, and work the way it was made to with receptivity, creativity, and engagement. Building a routine of getting everything down on paper has made me feel more relaxed, present, and free.
If you would like to hear my broader thoughts on this topic and more practical ideas for facing the truth of your day and what to do next after your brain dump, come listen to the Facebook Live I did this week on “How to Deal with Overwhelm in Your Everyday Life”. I believe that God is inviting us to learn about how He created our brains so that we can live well within their design. And when we live well, we have the opportunity to love well. And that’s ultimately what life is all about.