I am standing in the kitchen, trying to work out what to cook for dinner when it hits me like a tidal wave.
The stack of bills clipped to the fridge glare at me, while my phone dings with yet another notification. My looming work deadlines tugs at my consciousness.
The two older kids are fighting nearby as the youngest clings to my leg begging for yet another snack.
The TV is blaring and the dog is barking.
In that moment I can’t decided whether I want to run away or just sit down in midst of it all and cry.
The feeling that hit me like a wave is overwhelm.
Being overwhelmed is an all to familiar feeling for most modern day parents who are trying to do it all and be everything to everyone.
On top of the never-ending demands of children (seriously, does it ever end??), we have jobs, family, friends and other responsibilities all competing for our time and attention. We have endless to-do lists and decisions to make.
Then there is the enormous information overload we experience daily through television, radio, internet and social media, where we have to process not only what is going on in our corner of the world, but globally.
Throw in an environment full of sensory stimuli and stuff – it is small wonder we are feeling overwhelmed.
“We are treating our brain like a computer it was never designed to be,” explains Neurologic Music Therapist and Brain Care Specialist, Allison Davies.
Our brain has not had the opportunity to evolve yet into the machine it needs to be to be able to handle all the information we are giving it.”
Of course, overload and anxiety are tightly linked. That is why when we feel overwhelmed, we often feel our hearts start to race, we breathe faster and we hit the fight, flight or freeze zone. Hence my conflict about running away or sitting and crying in my kitchen!
Obviously, some people deal with anxiety and overwhelm better than others. People are also triggered by different things. For me, auditory stimuli often pushes me to the brink – an unfortunate circumstance living in a chaotic household with 3 rambunctious kids!
However, knowing what triggers me also enables me to help manage that feeling of overwhelm. Reducing background noise as much as possible (noise cancelling headphones are the best) makes an amazing difference to my ability to calm down and focus. Turning my phone to silent and having a break from social media also helps me regain clarity.
Allison also recommends creating an environment that reduces overwhelm by minimising clutter and stimuli.
“We live in an lifestyle crammed with abundance,” she points out. “Managing the sensory environment is a really good way of helping our brain out, so that this enormous job our brain has becomes easier.”
Obviously our environment isn’t something we always have control of but certainly in our homes it is.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, take stock of what’s happening for you and around you. Work out what it pushing you under that wave of overwhelm and put measures in place that can help you keep your head above water.