On Being Completely Overwhelmed: Let’s tackle this together.

Oct 31, 2015 | Mood

Too Much



Make it Stop.

I get this way when I’m overwhelmed. When my calendar gets so tight I can’t find room for lunch with a friend, something has to give.

So I ask myself questions to see if I can find a way out of the madness and into a more reasonable way of life, at least for today.

  1. Can I work less and still cover the basics? Can I say no to opportunity?
  2. Can I stay out of my email for a day or two?
  3. What if I took a day off to hold my kitty? Just cancelled everything and stayed in bed with snacks and hot tea and a good book and this little creature who reminds me to stop and savor the moment?

You know what I’m saying here. We’ve talked about it……

My life is planned to the 15-minute interval.

This schedule is not sustainable.

This is madness and I feel hopeless to make it change.

This is a collective problem. We (and our kids) have too much to do. We feel vaguely depressed and tied-up all the time. We’ve evolved into a global culture of too-much-ness. We expect each other to say yes, do more, respond immediately, stay abreast of all goings-on, make an appearance at every event, and be always reachable. If we let any part of this slip, we run at least a perceived risk of being forgotten or left out of a circle of necessary human support.

So, I propose a collective solution. This cultural disease renders us overscheduled, overstimulated, over-informed, and yet emotionally unavailable (because we’re so tired and distracted with trying to keep up). The root causes of this shared disease have a vast, embedded, history. But if we treat the symptoms of it now, we can change the story for our grandchildren.

  1. I’m overscheduled. Let’s talk to our kids about this. Find out if they feel as crowded as we do. Visit with their friends’ parents about how to lessen all our loads. Can we combine efforts? Rideshare? Rotate child-care duties? Rotate soccer-mom-dad duties? Work out a system that allows each of us to back off from at least one thing and sleep a bit more?
  1. I’m overstimulated. Let’s talk to our partners about turning things OFF. TV, computer, lights. Experiment with using less energy, taking internet holidays, replacing email with a long novel (I recommend Mo Yan and anything by Jonathan Franzen) and a tiny reading lamp.
  1. I’m over-informed. Consider an automatic email reply that says…..

Dear Friend,

I may be slow to respond to this message because I am holding my cat. She doesn’t like sudden movements. If you have an urgent matter, please call me. I may or may not answer the phone.

Let’s talk to our friends and loved ones about slowing it all down. What do they do when they need a break from the firehose of news and volunteer opportunities and advertisements and obligations and invitations and events? From what lists can we unsubscribe? Which news venue can we do without? What kinds of conversations make us feel overwhelmed? Can we back out of those?

Dear Peeps: Please know I may ignore your text messages….But you still matter to me. I just need an information-buffer. This will help me be a better friend/parent/colleague/daughter/son to you in the long run.

I talk a lot about depression and anxiety – and ways to become more calm and centered. This time, I’m saying, Let’s Do This Slowing Down Together. We need each other to create a new context of calm, forgiveness, and self-care.

Let’s forgive each other (and ourselves) for being nonresponsive, out of touch, or absent from something once in a while. An older, wiser part of us knows that all the chatter and clamoring and doing and stressing merely distracts from the reality that we are loved, wholly and completely, just as we are right now.


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