We feel overwhelmed when there is too much on our plate and too little emotional, physical, or mental energy to meet the demands.
We avoid our emotions, memories, and problems in large part because we don’t want to feel overwhelmed. We want to feel strong, capable, and in control. The best way to feel that way and get through problems is to face them, feel them, and move through them. But you need support to do that.
When you don’t have adequate support or resources to work through the feelings and obstacles, sometimes avoidance is the best thing you can do in the moment to cope. And I want you to thank yourself for that. For finding a way to survive and make it through.
Time for a change
At some point, you will find that it’s time to stop avoiding because one or both of the following have happened for you:
- You have access to the resources to work through the painful memories or current overwhelming circumstances.
- The avoidance may have started causing you more problems instead of continuing to helping you.
You may become aware that everything that’s been avoided has been building up inside, no matter how much you try to stuff it down. It’s baggage that you’re still carrying around even if it’s not in your conscious thoughts every day. It doesn’t stay nicely in that locked box forever. It starts leaking out and affecting you in other ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. It affects your self-esteem, your confidence, your belief in yourself. It affects how you relate to others and the choices you make. It takes a lot of work to keep everything locked up in that box. You end up spending a lot of energy trying to avoid, and that becomes draining.
Because it’s still there in the background, you may find it doesn’t take much to get you upset, or shut you down. Your margin of feeling capable has kept shrinking because of all you’ve been through. I want you to have that space back where you feel capable more often, and triggered less frequently.
When it’s time to overcome
You get to clear out all the old baggage so you don’t have to carry it around anymore. You get to name your losses and struggles and know you’re not alone. You get to find support to face current overwhelming circumstances. My job as a therapist is to help you work through it without feeling overwhelmed. I am part of that support to get you through this. I don’t want you to get flooded with all the things you’ve been avoiding. I want you to work through it piece by piece until you are free.
This infographic shows the middle ground where you feel capable and able to address the problems you face, as well as enjoy the great things in your life. Therapists call it the Window of Tolerance. When you come to therapy, one of my goals is to increase your window of tolerance. I also want to keep you in that window of tolerance as much as possible in therapy. If you start feeling flooded or overwhelmed (hyperarousal), I am going to help you regulate and calm down. If you shut down and start feeling numb or zoned out (hypoarousal), I am going to help you be more present in your surroundings.
When you’re ready to face what’s overwhelming you, give me a call. I’ll help you walk through it.