Feeling Overwhelmed vs. Being Overloaded

by | Feb 7, 2018 | Love Your Body Love Your Life


I was listening to a podcast today where the guest was Michael Neill, who’s just written recently written a book called Creating the Impossible. I’ve linked to the podcast down below because I want to cite where I got the inspiration for today’s conversation. In that conversation, about at the 25-minute mark, Michael Neill points out the difference between overwhelm and overload, and I found that so useful and immediately was paying attention, as I daily get into conversations with myself and with clients around this experience of overload, and our calendars, and stress.

So, overwhelm is being in a mental space such that it causes stress where you’re more engaged with the future of your to-do list—the pressure of all that you have out there in the future to do—such that it robs you of your ability to focus on the task that’s in front of you. Then there is this experience of overload. I see this happen often—I’m guilty of it myself—where you’ve said yes to too many things and not managed your boundaries around what is going to create ease, what’s going to be easy, what’s going to be possible for you to actually execute on and enjoy yourself at the same time, and you manage each one of these distinctions very differently. Managing overwhelm is more of a mental discipline and a mental exercise of being mindful and staying in the present moment. We can only effectively do (and do something well) one thing at a time, so any thoughts that you have about a to-do list won’t serve you. Maybe you have got 20 things that you’ve got to get to that day, but you can only do the one thing in front of you, so it’s choosing to stay with that one thing that you’re doing and make all thoughts about the next thing completely irrelevant and unimportant. When you’re done with this one thing you move on to the next thing, one thing at a time, and that will tend to that that experience of overwhelm as you begin to execute one thing at a time in the present moment, staying in the focus of the one thing.

Tending to overload can be a little bit more complicated, because it tends to get uncomfortable. It’s having boundaries around your calendar. It typically means saying “no,” so that you protect your creative energy, you protect your ability to relax and feel some ease. I heard it mentioned as leaving space in your calendar for miracles. Do you have space where you can just be still and contemplate, or are you back-to-back with one activity going to the next, to the next, to the next thing? It is possible to experience too many things in your calendar beyond human capacity, and I see many people doing it as we try and run our families, we get to run our professional lives, and maintain relationships, and friendships. You have to get really clear about what’s important to you, then say yes to those things that are going to give you energy and create space in your calendar, and be willing to go through the discomfort of saying “no” simply because you need to leave space in your calendar for ease.

I thought it was very interesting. I loved the distinction between overwhelm and overload. Take a look at what you have going on and see which category your calendar and your experience is falling into, and just make some decisions to do a little bit to tend to either one.

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