The pressures of time and our belief that we need to make the most of it to be successful can lead to what HeartMath calls the “throes of overwhelm.” The Empowering Team believes the research and recommendations by this esteemed institute can give everyone the tools to move through life with more grace and ease.

What Is Overwhelm?

In this fast-paced age of the Internet we hear that every minute counts and speed and efficiency are critical. Day after day, week after week, year after year, all this pressure to succeed, achieve, meet goals, and make a contribution begins to build up inside of us until one day we are locked in the throes of overwhelm, numb to its debilitating effects on our bodies and quality of life. Information overload—from the media, our jobs, Madison Avenue, junk mail, e-mail, the telephone, political campaigns, charity campaigns, religious campaigns and so much more—often jumbles our thoughts, makes us forgetful, and frays our nerves. “Overcare,” the sense that you have to take care of everyone because no one else will or can, ambition that leads many to burn the candle at both ends, and performance anxiety stemming from the fear that not doing more will cost you your job, are but a few of the byproducts of overwhelm.

Many people experience relentless overwhelm every day and fret over how they can get though everything they have to do. They trudge on because they believe they must and that things will never change. Chronic overwhelm is one of the major causes of anxiety and anxiety disorders. When you’re overwhelmed, your mind overloads with all that’s going on. It takes a toll on your nervous, immune, and hormonal systems, and left unattended likely will produce cycles of anxiety, fatigue, and temporary despair. People on this kind of overload are more susceptible to disease and they age faster. (See Heartmath’s Recommendations)

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  —Henry David Thoreau

A chief contributor to overwhelm is “project identity,” when you invest a great deal of mental energy into a project and often, without realizing it, a lot of emotional energy. All that energy can create tunnel vision, leaving you unable to see or appreciate other important things in your life. When someone or something interferes with that focus, the result frequently is irritation, anxiousness, and frustration, especially when deadlines must be met. You push people away or neglect other areas of your life, but still press on until eventually you lapse into overwhelm, a kind of emotional chaos. In the end, overwhelm can seriously damage your relationships and quality of life—and even that project in which you buried yourself to the exclusion of all else.

Another hallmark of overwhelm in today’s world, particularly in affluent nations such as the United States, is “stimulation overload.” You see this in adults and children who constantly move from one form of stimulation to another: coffee, soda, food, shopping, the Internet, movies, TV, computer games, and more. It’s true that Madison Avenue knows the precise buttons to push to keep you hooked, but your intelligent heart knows when enough stimulation is enough and you need to chill out and re-energize. Unfortunately, your mind can easily override these warning signals until you spiral down into overwhelm.

Whether you’re on the treadmill of stimulation overload, working at a job where the pace is unbearable and you can’t see a way out, or you simply want to rein in your emotions before overwhelm can take hold, you can rest assured knowing help is within reach. The Institute of HeartMath has been devoted for 21 years to helping people around the world manage their stress and emotions and live healthier, happier lives with easy-to-learn tools practiced minutes a day.

Recognizing Overwhelm

  • Always rushed, too much to do, not enough time.
  • Mentally scattered, not feeling in control.
  • Tunnel vision: irritation at anyone or anything that breaks your focus.
  • Internal pressure: raw or gnawing feeling in your gut, knot in your stomach.
  • Impatience: lack of compassion for self and others, judgmental thinking.
  • Feeling a constant slow burn inside.
  • Low-grade shock and strain.
  • Zombielike numbness: no feelings, positive or negative; mental or emotional paralysis.
  • Feeling disconnected from life.
  • Decreased enjoyment of projects, relationships, or life in general.
  • Feeling all-consuming alarm and dread.

The Pressures of Time

Who hasn’t reached some milestone such as a birthday or anniversary, graduation, or retirement, or the passing of a loved one and paused to reflect on the relentless passage of time? There’s no stopping it, and the more time that passes, the more complex our existence seems to become, and, wouldn’t you know it, all that complexity demands even more of our time. A common lament in the business world, at school, and around the house is: “If only I had more time.” We’re afraid to step back, even for a moment, out of fear of falling further behind. It can safely be argued that collectively we are overwhelmed by the pressures of time now more than at any other point in history. The sense that there’s never enough time is a major energy drain and can leave us feeling inadequate, nervous and hopeless, adversely affecting our health and well-being. Will the wheels of time simply roll on until we are so far behind we can never catch up?

One tip: When you start feeling overwhelm or time pressure, take a few minutes to try these simple steps adapted from the HeartMath Attitude Breathing® tool.

  • Focus on your heart as you breathe in. Focus on your solar plexus as you breathe out.
  • Concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude as you breathe.
  • Lock in this feeling.
  • As you become adept at this technique, select new feelings and attitudes.

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Article by Heartmath

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