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Causes of Overwhelm - Name Them to Tame Them!



Overwhelm is a big theme in my work, as well as a personal gremlin of mine. So when I came across a chapter in a book recently on calming mind and mood, my radar lit up! The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, by Aviva Romm, MD. identifies various sources of overwhelm. If you, like me:

  • are often stressed out

  • continually find yourself with too much on your plate and

  • seldom have time for yourself,

then it may be time to investigate if it’s one of the following beliefs, patterns and personal stories that are the cause.

“Name it to tame it” means identifying your source of overwhelm and exposing it to the light of day as the first step in dealing with it.

The following behaviors are not inherently harmful, but when motivated by fear rather than passion or enjoyment; they can switch from being your servant to being your master.


PATTERN #1 - Perfectionism

Says Aviva Romm, “...if there’s anything we women have in common, it’s the feeling that we’re never enough … thin enough, perfect enough, detoxed enough, good enough mothers…”

While there is an aspect to perfectionism and striving for better that is worthwhile, when it keeps you from thriving, it becomes maladaptive.

Symptoms of perfectionism include:

  • Always feeling that there's something more you can be doing/should have done by now

  • Always feeling un/under-prepared (for presentations, papers, tests)

  • Always thinking you can do better?

  • Often comparing yourself to others?

  • Black/white thinking - you're either a success or a failure.


PATTERN #2 - Stress Addiction

Growing up in a stressful environment can unconsciously make stress feel like a familiar emotional default. Overworking, over-scheduling and over-committing are socially acceptable; but they take their toll on both our emotional and physical well-being.

PATTERN #3 - Approval Addiction

“Good Girl Syndrome” (“…be polite, don’t interrupt, be good, don’t make waves, don’t be bossy, be pleasant, be seen and not heard…”) has been instilled in us from our earliest years. If you:

  • Exhaust yourself to please others

  • Take responsibility for keeping the peace

  • Struggle to tell the truth for fear of hurting others'feelings

  • Always volunteer, even when you don't have the time

  • Fear that in saying no, you will not be liked/loved,

then being the “good girl” can be a big source of stress and overwhelm for you.


PATTERN #4 - Worry, FOMO and other Scarcity Thinking

“What if” thinking can arise from a history of loss, trauma or inadequate resources. FOMO (fear of missing out) and scarcity thinking (fear that there is not enough money/time/love) can make us hyper-vigilant and always on the lookout for danger or even a catastrophe. However, no amount of external security can change the feeling, so you never feel like you have enough. If you:

  • Fear there is not enough time or money or “room at the top”

  • Are always worrying when the other shoe is going to drop

  • Overwork to make sure there’s enough

  • Say yes when you really want to say no

Then this could be one of your thinking patterns.

Romm goes on to provide strategies for consciously breaking free of these patterns to get more enjoyment out of life.

This chapter from her book was such an eye-opener for me. I hope it sheds light on your sources overwhelm too. Go ahead: NAME THEM TO TAME THEM!




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