Overwhelm is NOT (always) a choice

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Today, in our house at least, was the first day back at school following the Easter school holiday.  Before Louis was even out of the door I sat on the stairs and felt a tightening in my chest and throat.  I was feeling overwhelmed.  This is not usually how people feel after a break?

I am in what I consider to be the very fortunate situation of working for myself.  I focus most on my work during term-time and during the school holiday I cut right back.  I immerse myself in “fun”.  I don’t even do anything beyond the bare minimum of housework.

So this morning as I sat on the stairs I was feeling overwhelmed as I needed to clean the house, do some preparation for some clients I have booked in, complete some coursework for some CPD (continued professional development) courses I have done and then there’s a bunch of other “background” stuff I need to do…. 

Last night I saw a meet-up happening today with some other women I know who run their own businesses.  I’ve not met-up with them for ages, so I decided I’d make time to go.  But this morning I felt overwhelmed and that I shouldn’t go.

But I didn’t cancel to focus on the “more important” stuff.  Because these women are part of my tribe.  And this morning I needed some time with my tribe, connecting with them, talking about how I was feeling and chatting through some business stuff with them and, actually, connecting with myself.  I remembered that this forms part of my self-care, and as someone whose work involves caring for others it is vital that I am always “topped up”.

As I drove home from seeing my tribe, I was thinking about a phrase that pisses me off.  Have you ever been told “overwhelm is a choice”?  The reason why it pisses me off is it is quite often said with nothing else behind it.  Like…. You can wake up and look at everything you need to do and just choose to not feel overwhelmed.  For me, that doesn’t make any of that stuff go away.  The overwhelm remains, but I seek ways of avoiding the overwhelm instead (anyone for burying their head in social media to ignore the chores here?).

It made me think about how life with a new baby can be overwhelming.  It’s all new.  Suddenly you have this little person to care for and they are entirely dependent on you, you have a home to run and you haven’t had a moment alone with your thoughts since…. Before the baby arrived actually!  In your mind you dreamed maternity leave involving yoga while the baby sleeps, a perfect home, the laundry always done and away, freshly baked bread, dinner on the table for your partner when they get home each evening (or maybe that was just me). 

Then reality hits.  Your new baby arrives and you can just about navigate this new life when within 2 weeks paternity leave is over and BAM, your partner is back to work for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week and you’re home alone.  Just you and this baby who refuses to be put down.  You’re more tired than you even knew possible, the house is a mess and there’s laundry piled up all over the place, you’ve barely had time to shower or eat lunch, never mind prepare an evening meal. 

When I was there I didn’t even know there was such a thing a postnatal doula.  Someone who not only can help you to get on top of everything when it all feels so overwhelming, but who can also help you with feeding and sleep (both for you and your baby), suggest ways you can implement some self-care and to help you find your tribe.  Someone who will build you and your confidence, ready for you to do this on your own.  Well, not completely alone, you’ll have the tribe she helped you to find.  Plus your doula is always on the end of the phone.   

You don’t have to have had a doula support you in birth to work with one postnatally.  Many doulas only work as a postnatal doula in the same was as many doulas only work as birth doulas.  I am one of the many doulas who work as both a birth and a postnatal doula.  I do work with families I have not supported through birth postnatally.  Each family’s needs are different.

For me, my overwhelm today was temporary. It was just a feeling of it all being “too much” on day one of getting back to adulting (as I like to call it). Once I get back into the swing of things I’ll be fully back to me again (mostly, I think we all have the odd crazy day), and my tribe are there to catch me, this means I am able to catch you too.

If you think I may be able to help you, do get in touch for a chat.  I’d love to hear from you.

Helen Discombe