By Pippa Best
I’m stuck in a busy arcade filled with noise and neon and calls to find joy in all the wrong places – unable to find a way out. My mind is an arcade penny pusher game, my thoughts and emotions heaps of coins continuously shoved over and against each other. As the tray rolls incessantly in and out, more coins crash out, falling beyond my grasp.
This is what overwhelm feels like.
That paralysing sense of overwhelm builds up within us when we attempt to do, be, feel and take in too much. When there are too many needs to meet, too many causes to fight, too many draws on our energy and attention. It’s no wonder that many of us are experiencing overwhelm right now.
Reliant on the high-speed device in our pocket, connected to ‘more’ in an instant, taught that constant updates are the path to happiness. We’re worried about the future – and to compound our sense of impotence, terrified that much of the power lies in the hands of people we don’t trust. As we struggle to make sense of it all and make a difference, new challenges pop up daily in our personal, local and global lives.
Feeling overwhelmed is a natural human response to all of this. The antidote is self-compassion, simplification and time in nature.
Overwhelm doesn’t mean that we’re incapable of coping, or of changing the world for the better. Instead, it’s a useful reminder to pause. To come into the present moment. To focus on our breath, our bodies, and how we are truly feeling.
Our overwhelm is internal encouragement to notice what we really need to strengthen us – not what society tells us, but what we instinctively know – a glass of water, a full-body stretch, a connection with a loved one, a different pace. It’s a reminder to let go of unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, and seek a kinder way to live.
Much has felt overwhelming in lockdown, especially for those juggling work, caring responsibilities and illness. Still, this time has also been an opportunity to practice simplification in many ways – an appreciation of staying local, of reducing our expectations and our circle of engagement and focusing on the simplest of pleasures.
Simplification means turning away from the “urgent” notifications, emails, and “high achiever’s” to-do list for a while and making space in our minds to see clearly so that we can prioritise when we start again. Nature offers that space in abundance.
For me, time in the sea will always wash the overwhelm away, but even if all you can do is look up at the birds in the trees, the patterns and sounds of nature have a unique ability to soothe our brains and calm our nervous system. The natural world reminds us to stop pushing, and simply be here now. It reminds us that everything is connected – and rather than attempting to do everything, we simply need to do our part as best we can.
Getting out into nature is a powerful medicine for the stresses of modern life. Next time you feel the overwhelm rising, stop hustling. Speak kindly to yourself and head outside, away from your devices – and attend to your body’s call to slow down, listen and start afresh.
Pippa Best is the founder of Sea Soul Blessings. By creating simple transformative tools that combine self-compassion, mindfulness and the power of nature, Sea Soul Blessings provides resources to change our own lives, and the world around us, for the better. Find out more at seasoulblessings.com