The nature and urgency of the tasks and responsibilities we have to manage can generate a level of overwhelm that slowly envelops us. However, much of our overwhelm do not rise up from the responsibilities and commitments themselves. Often, overwhelm stems from the pressure of –
1. Expecting too much of ourselves.
Because we don’t want to stumble, fail or disappoint people who depend on us, we may envision and set lofty expectations of ourselves. As we face our personal limitations that prevent us from fulfilling our expectations, we become overwhelmed. Sadly, we tend to throw the blame on other people and unfortunate circumstances. It makes more sense to own up to the reality that we are not perfect and that even our expectations can be faulty.
It is commendable to stretch ourselves and expand our borders. Yet, we must be careful not to harbour unrealistic expectations of ourselves. For, when our limitations lead to insurmountable challenges, we have to deal with overwhelm that may cast us into despair. And in that state of despair, we are blind to our true strengths and potential. Until we can tap into more realistic expectations, we could lower the bar of those we now hold, which will minimize overwhelm. In time, we will gain experience and grow more confident and we will be able to raise the bar of expectations of ourselves.
We could ask:
(a) Am I being too hard on myself? Do I have the ability, skills and experience for this task or commitment?
(b) Where can I find help?
(c) To whom can I delegate certain responsibilities or aspects of this project?
2. Expecting too much of others.
When we expect too much of others and they can’t deliver on those expectations, they may accuse us of being unreasonable or unrealistic. In turn, we may resent the idea that we have to work at achieving the outcomes we want. This builds overwhelm and strains relationships. It doesn’t take much to analyse the expectations we have of others.
We could ask:
(a) Are my expectations reasonable?
(b) What issues might hinder them from fulfilling these expectations?
(c) How can I help them build the strengths, assertiveness and confidence necessary to achieve my expectations of them?
3. Expecting too much from a simple situation.
Something happens and we are facing a particular situation, which may be neither complex nor complicated. Because we don’t understand it, its origin, its direction, its purpose, its benefits, we direct our attention inward.
We berate ourselves for being where we are and what is happening to us or around us. We create an emotional tsunami of could-have and should-have. We devise frightening scenarios and doomsday theories. Before we realize it, we are drowning in overwhelm. Even with encouragement and advice from people around us, we cling to our expectations, which may be disproportionate to the situation and overwhelm swallows us. We whine and bemoan how the existing situation is affecting our lives negatively, when the truth is, we are expecting too much from a simple situation. What’s worse, the situation may not be ours to handle, manage or solve.
We could ask:
(a) What is the true nature of this situation?
(b) Is it worth the time and attention I am giving to it or is it someone else’s drama?
(c) If I must deal with this, what beliefs, values and practices could I apply to manage this situation effectively and keep overwhelm at bay?
Are you engulfed in overwhelm? The questions above can help you overcome the overwhelm caused by unreasonable, unrealistic and unfulfilled expectations.
(Published in the Womanwise Magazine, Sunday 7th April. 2013.)