It’s not an overstatement to say that this last year (or more) has felt deeply overwhelming at times. And if you’ve felt this, you’re far from alone. One of the major effects of the pandemic—and one that I think contributes to our sense of overwhelm enormously—is being physically isolated from our loved ones and the people who used to form our safety net.
In that long-term isolation due to physical distance from so many loved ones, one of the things that has created a lot of overwhelm is the fact that we have been trying to do it all, all by ourselves.
If you are a people-pleaser by nature or prone to taking the weight of the world on your shoulders, this may be doubly true for you.
You may know, intellectually, that you’re trying to do more than ever before, and you may understand theoretically that you can’t rescue everyone. But if your pattern is to try anyway, it can feel totally overwhelming—and it may be time to ask for help.
Notice how even the thought of asking for help feels. Scary? Sad? Impossible? Like you’re letting others down?
Observe what it’s like to admit that maybe you can’t keep doing it all yourself and that it’s time to talk to the people around you and maybe even call in reinforcements. Maybe that looks like delegating tasks, asking others to step up, or outsourcing some of what you do. It might also look like simply asking for a safe space to vent or let it all out.
At this stage of trying to hold the world up by yourself, you might be feeling not just overwhelmed, but resentful of others. When you take that first step to tell just one person how you’re feeling (to start), some of that resentment might start to fade.
Just by getting your feelings of overwhelm off your chest, you can begin to dissolve them.
This could be a co-worker, a family member or friend. Ask permission first. Just asking, “Do you have energy to hear me out for a few minutes?” works well. And then once you’re done venting, you can switch.
You might be pleasantly surprised. Maybe they have an insight or idea you hadn’t thought of. Maybe they’ll help you pick up some of your extra work. Or maybe just venting and being heard helps you sort out your own feelings and feel like there’s someone who’s on your team. Often just being able to say what you’re feeling out loud can help to ease the burden you’ve been carrying.
And if you’re willing to play that same role for someone else, it can grant others permission to reach out for help or let their feelings out. One of the things that’s been so difficult with our distanced year is not knowing whether we’re alone in our feelings—the sense that we’re the only one, and that everyone else is doing fine.
But the truth is that you’re never alone. All of us could probably use some help at this point, and that first step toward connection can be a beautiful one—even if it’s a little scary at first to admit. Our society is not set up for that interconnection, but we can choose to forge it anyway.
Christy Tending is an activist, educator, and writer. She teaches online courses about sustainable self-care to students all over the world, and hosts the podcast Tending Your Life. She lives on occupied Ohlone territory (Oakland, CA) with her family. You can learn more about her work at www.christytending.com.
Image courtesy of Gustavo Fring.