When too much action becomes overwhelming: Dealing when things backfire

Something unexpected has happened. In the act of throwing myself into action and constantly ‘doing,’ I have become emotionally drained. All of the stimulation of recent experiences has left me feeling saturated with internal responses that I’ve had a difficult time processing.

We get wrapped up in being busy, in filling each time slot with something to do, and sometimes all of this action backfires. In the process of trying to follow the cliché of ‘living life to its fullest,’ we become the complete opposite: unfulfilled.

And, when we start to feel unfulfilled, we search for the source of this feeling, which means we start to question how we are living our lives, our relationships with others, our core values…basically everything.

This disruption can quickly become painful if we don’t react to it with kindness and understanding. Knowing that the change of seasons and the approaching holidays can be difficult for many, I’m going to share some of the steps that I’m taking to ensure that I’m treating this challenge and myself with kindness.

The first thing I’ve done to try to better understand and process what I need right now is unplugging. I have deactivated my facebook account, cancelled outings, turned off my phone for half of the day that I’m awake and have increased the time I spend sitting still.

It has been less than a week and I am already feeling a sense of relief. I no longer feel pressure to solidify social plans for the future, or to maintain a certain level of interaction with people when I know how much I need to spend time with myself.

Unplugging has made me feel less guilty about walking away from invitations and less ashamed for not wanting to participate in other peoples’ lives at the moment. Writing that sentence is challenging because my automatic reaction is to judge myself for how selfish it sounds. We’ve all been here: the place where putting ourselves first makes us feel like we are a bad partner, a crappy friend, an unfit sibling.

But the reality is that without self-care, we are bound to crash. In order to be able to show up for someone else, we first need to show up for ourselves. When something doesn’t feel right in our lives, we have to take a time out to explore what is going on internally.

Increasing my mindfulness meditation practice has helped facilitate some of that internal exploration. Mindfulness meditation is no easy task, but the rewards that it brings are endless.

If you already practice mindfulness meditation, then you know how much it helps us stay in the present moment. While dwelling in the past can easily lead to depression and focusing on the future can trigger anxiety, being in the present helps us focus on what we are experiencing at the moment. It navigates us towards what is happening in live time and gives us a break from the rehashing of past experiences and anxious thoughts that are not based on reality but on a concern for the future.

Maintaining my meditation practice has also made unplugging easier by reinforcing the importance of making time to be still.

Lastly, turning to healthy comfort items during this time has been, well, comforting . Placing all of our focus into discovering what we need will also cause emotional exhaustion. This is why turning to comforting items offers the right balance between internal work and relaxation.

For me, these healthy comfort items include books, paper and pen, and my running shoes. These are all items that I associate with comfort. Reading, writing, and running help me decompress and feel good. They are also things that I can do alone, that don’t require me to interact with others when I’m not in the space to do so.

There are many comfort items that we turn to and don’t even realize we turn to them because they offer comfort (i.e. a yoga mat, ipod, etc.); it’s key to turn to the healthy items and not the toxic ones.

I’m not sure how long this challenge will last, but I am sure of its transient nature. All is temporary, and just like the weather changes, so do the stages of our self-development. So, for those of us who are going through one of these patches, here is to remembering to hang in there, because another phase will soon arrive.

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