Overwhelmed by Overwhelm

Do you realise you are overwhelmed by overwhelm?

The feeling of overwhelm is one all of us experience to some degree throughout our lives. Many of us experience it on a daily basis but in a low key manageable way. That feeling of having too much to do, but not enough time to do it. Too many competing priorities at work or too many people making demands on our time, feeling pulled in all directions.

With this type of overwhelm we are usually very aware of the causes.  But it has not got to the stage where we feel compelled to make changes. Changes like saying no more often. Saying yes less often. Making time for ourselves without feeling selfish.

drowning with overwhelm

You can’t say no

But you know someone don’t you? Someone who has a life similar to yours in many respects, except for the overwhelm bit.

They can say no. And they don’t offer their time if they haven’t got it. In addition they feel quite comfortable explaining they can’t meet that deadline  but they can get to it next week.

And here is the thing. Eveveryone accepts them.  Accepts the way they are. No-one thinks any the worse of them for saying no.

In fact, in all honesty, we are probably a tiny bit envious of people who have the confidence to be this way.

Why can others say no?

What is it about them that allows them to feel so comfortable in their own skin? Whilst others agonise about how they will let someone down gently? Or take on more and a bigger workload because they can’t bring themselves to say no or take a stand?

The key is that those who don’t experience overwhelm are in control of their own lives. They have not got a compelling reason to do something which is detrimental to them.
Something which ultimately affects their health, their relationships, their lives.

And make no mistake, overwhelm in your life affects all of those thing eventually.

So what does that mean? – a compelling reason? Why on earth would anyone do something that was detrimental to them, that caused a problem in their lives? That doesn’t make sense does it?

Of course it doesn’t, not any logical kind of sense anyway. But when people are unable to say no, or are taking on more responsibility than they have the capacity for, they are not behaving in a logical way.

Let’s say you are paid to work an 8 hour day but are being asked to do work which will take you 10 hours on a regular basis.  You know on a conscious level that this is not achievable or sustainable in the long term. Why then is it so difficult to say that and feel perfectly comfortable doing so?

overwhelmed under the surface

It’s all going on underneath the surface

It is because we are all operating and responding from a deeper and often more illogical level than we realise. The way we respond to any given situation is formed by previous experiences. By our view of the world and our expectations about how we think others perceive us. We operate from a platform of what we believe to be true about ourselves.

Someone who doesn’t believe they are good at their job may hold a belief that saying no proves they can’t cope with whatever is thrown at them.  No matter how unreasonable the request. And they may hold this deep seated belief that they are not good at what they do in spite of the results or feedback they get.

They won’t know on a conscious level that this belief (called a limiting belief because it gets in the way) is operating in the background. On a conscious level they may just feel uncomfortable at the thought of saying no. But that discomfort is driven, caused by, this underlying belief.

And that belief is likely to have been formed at a very early age. It have been caused by a big event or by a seemingly throwaway comment that lodged deep in their subconscious. Whatever the cause, the result is experiencing that uncomfortable feeling whenever a similar situation arises.

In effect a loop is created that keeps replaying over and over again.

Limiting Beliefs keep you stuck in overwhelm

The important thing is, that at some point, they have learnt to believe that something which is not true – is true. Such as they are not good enough. Or people who say no are negative. Or more fundamentally, it is not safe to say no (because they may lose their job for example).

This is what I mean by having a compelling reason to continue with a behaviour that is not helpful and might in fact be damaging. Those who experience overwhelm because they can’t say no are actually taking action to ensure that the belief they have doesn’t come true!

‘If I don’t say no to working an extra 3 hours every day for a month with no extra pay, no one can prove that I can’t cope’.

That is a compelling reason to keep piling on the work and accepting more and more responsibility.

Those others, the ones who are comfortable in their own skin and can say no without the worry, doubt or anxiety – they had a different experience and simply don’t have that same compelling reason to ‘keep themselves safe’.


Of course there are many and varied reasons why people get into a state of overwhelm and it can be very difficult to work out for yourself where it is coming from. Until you understand what it is that drives you to be the way you are Working with an EFT practitioner to peel back those layers and identify the drivers can be the first step in overcoming overwhelm.

Once you understand where your own subconscious is coming from you can take steps to challenge and eliminate those feelings that get in the way of a rational and reasonable response to unreasonable requests or demands.


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