Feeling Lost or Overwhelmed?

Feeling ‘lost’ is more common than you think. 90% of the women who have come to me for help over the years have used this word. They say “I feel lost”, “overwhelmed” or “I need some direction in my life”.

Whether it’s feeling totally demotivated and depressed; unsure of what to do with your time (but feeling like you should be spending your time better) or flitting about in different directions (often common with entrepreneurial creator minds). Feeling lost is a really frustrating position to be in. It’s often why people say they feel ‘lost’ and ‘depressed’ yet ‘overwhelmed’ at the same time. It’s unfulfilling, confusing, yet difficult and exhausting at the same time.

Have you ever noticed how in previous times in your life you were 10 x busier, fitted more in to your schedule, yet felt more energetic, alive and satisfied? Unfortunately the events of the last year, and lockdowns, legislations and fear have left people facing major changes in their life regarding how they spend their time. Some have more time on furlough (but maybe faced with not really knowing what to do with yourself) and others may have spent the last year trying to juggle a job or business with home-school, as well as entertaining and caring for a family and now find themselves now school has gone back, feeling somewhat shell-shocked and completely depleted.

The Lost Mums

I understand feeling lost. I understand each one of the states I have described from feeling completely low and demotivated, to totally overwhelmed in terms of fitting everything in to each 24 hour period. To finding myself at home alone for a couple of hours and feeling like I should be ‘doing stuff’ but not knowing what to do first because everything feels so urgent and important and I only have 2 hours left .

Like getting in your car and driving and driving. You’ll get somewhere alright, but you have no idea where. You’re lost and not making proper, impactful life choices.

3 years ago when the girls were turning 4 and 2, I realised I had gotten so ‘used’ to doing everything for everyone, every minute of my waking day that I was completely and utterly drained by it. So drained in fact, that I didn’t have the mental capacity to work out what to do for myself anymore. Many parents I imagine have recently experienced this during the lockdowns.

Everyone had gotten used to me doing everything for them, running a tight ship and assumed of course, that I was fine. But inside I felt quite lifeless. Anything but fine.

I resented that I couldn’t even recognise myself in the mirror anymore – not physically, emotionally or in spirit.  My eyes were empty, my body flabby and my skin was grey. I was just a shell getting shit done, all day long to the point of utter exhaustion. Mamas I know you feel me.

It’s not hard to see how many women can easily spend 20 years doing this without realising that they’ve never put themselves first.  And in doing this, they have completely forgotten who they are. It’s such an easy trap to fall in to.  Days as a Mum – or a working mum – or a working mum to a child with additional needs – are ridiculously jam-packed, and often highly emotional and stressful.  Keep ignoring yourself for a while whilst you tend to everyone and everything else around you, and it’s going to grind you down in body, mind and spirit. That’s where I was. Maybe that’s where you are today?

Signs of Burnout

Burnout is when you have been living in a state of feeling lost for such a long time, and not addressing what is making you so deeply unhappy, that it affects your physical health.

I was sleeping with fists clenched and jaw grinding (to the point I whittled down a tooth!) or not sleeping at all.  Some nights I would lie awake ALL night.   I would find myself holding my breath – literally.  My chest hurt.  I was tired CONSTANTLY – even if I did get sleep.  I ached.  My back hurt.  I overate or ate nothing.  I was angry.  I was sad.  I was depressed.

But I felt I had NO CHOICE but to keep going….This was my big mistake. You always have a choice. But at the time looking back….

Running a household, kids, a business, fighting for educational rights for our child, day to day routines, learning to be a good parent to 2 very different little girls with very different needs, trying to understand Autism so we could better understand and communicate with our daughter – being mummy, wife, chef, daughter, sister, lover, friend, therapist, boss, social organiser…. and a woman in there too…..

I wasn’t actually doing anything very well.  I wasn’t doing anything with energy, with passion, love or gusto.  I was just in survival mode.  I smiled when I needed to on the outside, to appear normal, but inside I felt nothing.

Even when somebody gave me a few hours to just ‘relax’ – I couldn’t!!! I would do chores, tidy, go and run errands.  It’s then I realised….

I’d totally become incapable of just BEING for a second.

I had become a human doing.

The disconnect between body and spirit was so large now, that I literally felt empty. You can read about the First Step I took on the road to recovery from Burnout here.

Feeling ‘lost’ on the left and getting my ‘mojo’ back on the right

The Joy Of Life

When I felt lost I was struggling to feel any positive emotions day to day.  This was honestly the scariest place I have EVER been in my life.  Depression is so terrifying. One part of my brain was saying ‘you can change this’ but the minute my day didn’t go to plan, I fell apart and gave up. I hated myself for that.

As a ‘human doing’ you find it pretty much impossible to enjoy life anymore.  It’s a horrible place to be.  However you are drowning in so many to dos, and your energy levels are at 0, and you’re too drained to see a way out. You don’t have the energy to even fight for a way out.

I felt totally under-appreciated, misunderstood and alone.  I couldn’t see my own worth anymore as an individual.  I was just a machine doing, doing, doing.

You can imagine what this was doing to my relationships, my energy, our finances, our progress and joy as a family.  Mummy’s depression was seeping in to every single area of our lives – I HAD to get this sorted.

I needed to reconnect with myself and recharge.  The things I had been trying to cram in to my day – exercise, meditation, counselling appointments with a therapist, time with friends – only served to make me more stressed!  More things to do!!! ARGGHHH!

Too Much Choice

Then there was of course the overwhelming choice of WHAT should I do to fix things.

There was a time for example, where if you wanted to lose weight you had a few options. Go out for a run or get more active. Reduce your calorie intake, or maybe join a gym and get a Personal Trainer.

Now where do you start? Online or in-person? A gym, a bootcamp, a fitness class? Where? What type of class or workout? 20 minutes or 1 hour? What diet? Keto, Paleo, Low Carb, Carb Cycling? Add this level of decision making, and then to find childcare, or take the actions needed to get organised to actually then DO some of them. THIS IS WHY MOST PEOPLE DON’T GET STARTED. IT’S TOO OVERWHELMING.

Where a Change of Direction Starts

Usually when clients come to me, it’s because something something has happened that either forces change upon them; or when they decide to create positive change for themselves.

This can be anything from recently getting divorced, to finding they can’t fit in to their ‘big jeans’, or often when young kids start school or leave the nest at 16-18. These life stages or situations are often a time to make you reflect. Either when you have a bit more time or space, or when something really unpleasant can’t be ignored for any longer. Whilst it feels at the time, hugely overwhelming at the start of this journey towards massive change, it also sparks a little tiny fire. Passion. Excitement. Adventure. Challenge. Growth. These are all the ingredients you need for a life of fulfilment, and they are waiting for you in this VERY MOMENT.

Sometimes change can creep up on us, like age, weight gain or sometimes the overwhelm of becoming a mum for example. Other times through a challenge we have faced, we realise we aspire to be different in some way than we are now. Change begins when a person realises who they WANT to be, doesn’t reflect how they feel, or who they see in the mirror each morning. There’s a disconnect between body, mind and spirit.

Just becoming aware of that, is the first step on the road to positive change. Acceptance, that you need a new direction.

The Reason You Get Stuck in Bad Habits Despite Wanting to Change

However the big problem is you KNOW you want to change, but somehow you are unable to stick to doing what you need to do in order to change!

Have you just scoffed another piece of cake, even though you promised yourself you’d be good today? Maybe you said you’d get up early to work on something important, but found yourself hitting snooze again? You promised yourself you’d take action on something, but didn’t…. again?!

Repeated patterns of behaviour become habits – good or bad. Habits turn in to your life story. Habits create who you are today. So if you want to lose weight for example, you need to understand the massive impact that stacking up small daily habits can have over time instead of making the challenge SO BIG in your mind, that it’s off-putting. It is consistent daily habits that create results that last as opposed to grand ideas that set you up to fail because they are too unrealistic. So forget the 30 day detox that feels like torture, and instead look at long lasting changes you can make that feel good.

We often aren’t even aware that we are making the same (unhelpful) decisions over and over again, and because we don’t recognise the negative cycle we are caught in, it is impossible to make a change.  Jill Bolte[1] Taylor, a Brain Scientist, describes it best in her book My Stroke of Insight:

Our left hemisphere creates what I call “loops of thought patterns” that it uses to rapidly interpret large volumes of incoming stimulation with minimal attention and calculation. Because our left brain is filled with these ingrained programs of recognition, it is superb at predicting what we will think, how we will act, or what we will feel in the future – based on our past experience. I, personally, love the color red and am inclined to collect a bunch of red things – I drive a red car and wear red clothes. I like red because there’s a circuit in my brain that get’s very excited when anything red comes my way. From a purely neurological perspective, I like red because the cells in my brain tell me I like red.

When it comes to behaviour relating to your health, relationships, career, or life choices – anything about how you behave, you can see how you may have developed habits or ‘ruts’ in how you actually get or maintain results. I am talking about the way you shop, what you buy, how you spend your time, how you reward or comfort yourself, the people you spend time with, the way you dress….They are often all habits.

For example when you go to the supermarket, do you park your car in the same place and walk the aisles in the same order / direction? Do you buy the same foods all the time and cook the same meals?

Is there a certain time of the day or evening where you know you overeat? Are there certain justifications you use for eating rubbish or not working out when you feel like a day off?  These are all shopping habits or as Bolte-Taylor puts is “loops of thought patterns” that have gotten you now stuck in a rut. These repetitive behaviours are now defining you.

When you feel overwhelmed with any kind of negative emotion (which lets face it, happens often in life! A busy day, or a demanding child) you slip subconsciously into your ‘loops of thought patterns’ so you can handle ‘large volumes of incoming stimulation with minimal attention’ or indeed, effort. 

In other words, it’s easier to stay the same and do what you always do. In other words, in times of stress for example putting on your PJs and comfort eating is easier than going for a workout. You know it’s bad for you, but its the easiest short term instant remedy to get you in a different state.

The cycle is repeated. Yo yo dieting is often the easiest example people relate to.

comfort eating
Have you developed a comfort eating habit?

So Where DO You Start? Mummy Time

You firstly need to stop thinking of a bit of ‘Mummy Time’ as a brew and piece of cake. Yes I’m all for this ‘self love’ and ‘self care’ – it’s really important you care for your body and mind. If your idea of self care though is having a cup of tea and watching trash TV for half an hour whilst the kids have a nap, that’s fine, but don’t expect to change your life.

However what would happen if INSTEAD you took that same 30 minutes each day to a simple workout? Or to prep healthy salads for the week? Or researching that course you always wanted to do? Or ringing a personal trainer? Or working on something that was actually deeply important to you?

People who succeed COMMIT. They decide and COMMIT. They commit some time every day or week to work on something, and they remain focused on their outcome.

Because they are so focused, they get started. Because they are so focused they find the time in their day to work on what they want, because it’s now a PRIORITY. And what you prioritise happens.

If You Could Wave a Magic Wand

  • How would you look?
  • How would you act and behave?
  • What emotions would you experience each day?
  • What would you spend your time doing in the week / weekend?
  • Who with?
  • Where would you go?
  • What have you done in the past / where have you been / who were you with when you felt really joyful, proud, happy, content, relaxed, or ‘in the zone’.  The feeling is that you lose all track of time because you’re just so involved with what you are doing.  It shouldn’t involve copious amounts of gin!
  • Whats on your bucket list?
  • What HAS TO HAPPEN to make sure you start living a fulfilling life again?

Still Struggling? Start With Meaning

When you are drained and exhausted, it can be really hard to get out of overwhelm and sort your head out.

You can’t get happier, if you don’t truly understand the things that actually make you happy.  Happiness usually comes from activities that give meaning to our life.

When you are drained and tired, the only way to start to insert more energy, passion and happiness back in to your life is by proactively inserting more meaningful opportunities in to your week.  Literally scheduling them in.

  1. First make a list of all the things that would create more meaning in your life.  It could be abstract things like ‘relationships’ ‘financial freedom’ or ‘being creative’.  Or it could be actual activities that make you feel more present and grounded or happier like ‘walking in nature’ ‘gardening’ ‘dancing’ or ‘being present with my children
  2. If you are struggling to know what these are, try listing 5 times in your life when you were doing an activity and you felt totally yourself and it felt SOOOO good.
    For me, it’s moving my body (exercise), public speaking, writing, being in nature on a sunny day, looking at a beautiful view of the ocean, trying new food in a restaurant with my husband (specifically enjoying that experience with him), and deeply connecting with my children, my husband, my family and friends in the moment.  It’s fundamental to my soul I have time alone to be with my thoughts and recharge – I am a monster without regular solitude. It heals me.
  3. Next schedule up a week that includes your duties and chores, but also adds in some time every day for your meaningful opportunities.  It doesn’t have to be all of them.  It could just be ‘a walk in nature’ one evening. But try to do one each day. Even if it’s 5 minutes.

Be Real

So for example, I have children, a family, house and pets to care for. They make mess (which unless I want to feel crazed, someone (me) needs to clean up) I know I have to drop off and pick up the girls every weekday.  I have work every day.  No magic wand is solving this.

However I also have friends who I want to spend time with, exercise I want to do, and I love writing as my creative outlet. I feel full of love when I sit down and spend quality time with each child.  I love to sit and eat with my children and my husband.  I feel excited when we plan activities for the weekend, make a date night. 

When I started to make time for all these things in my week.  EVERY week.  It changed my life.  Sounds simple when you say it out loud, but I just couldn’t see the wood for the trees when I was drained with a foggy brain.

Now at some stage, my schedule or ‘to do’ list starts calling me.  It makes me feel under pressure to put my ‘to do’s’ first over all the things that make me feel wonderful and give passion, energy and meaning to my life.

Some times the ‘to dos’ are urgent, and we have to make sacrifices of course, like a sick child or a relative who’s having a hard time.

However commit to adding meaningful opportunities to your week 80% of the time, and I guarantee you will start to feel happier.  You’ll know when you let it slip because you will start to feel crappy again – tired, resentful, a bit angry, lost, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed.

So ask yourself are you Prioritising your Schedule?  Or Scheduling your Priority?

The truth is it’s easy to NOT make progress on the things that REALLY matter to you, when you are in the habit of always justifying waiting for Monday OR putting your schedule ahead of your priorities.  You HAVE to make time in there for what really matters to you – for the things that will transform your life.

These are the things that are rarely a 5 minute job.  They usually require dedication, time, attention, courage, commitment and at some point, probably a bit of a sick feeling in your stomach.  In other words, they feel a bit difficult for one reason or another (short term pain).

However it is these things, when you make them a priority – the things that are uncomfortable – that end up producing the most satisfying, and even life-changing and long lasting rewards (long term pleasure).

The One Thing You Need to Know To Stop Procrastinating on the Things You Want

YOU’RE PROBABLY NEVER GOING TO FEEL LIKE IT!!!!!!

If you’re waiting until ***insert excuse*** then it really means you’re waiting until you feel like taking action.  You’re waiting until you feel like being uncomfortable.

You’re never going to feel like it because your brain and body like to be on auto-pilot.  They don’t like change too much – it’s too hard.  Brains like the familiar – they like comfort and habits. Your normal habits and routines are way easier.  Staying the same is easier – less scary, less visible, less risky – after all what if I fail???? But if your world has grown smaller over this last year, and your comfort zone is where you are well and truly fixed (even if it is painful to be in that comfort zone) you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable to get out of the situation you find yourself in.

There’s something inside of you – your soul / spirit / the real you – whatever you want to call it, that knows there’s more to you than this.  Your potential is busting to come out.

Creating massive change in your life is simple – just take consistent and massive action.  The kicker is it rarely feels EASY.  So just prepare yourself for that – get a bit of grrrrrrrr about you and as Nike would say, just DO IT.

You have to push through the bit where your brain is slamming on the emergency brake because you’re trying something new and it feels uncomfortable.

Take it from best-selling author and CNN reporter Mel Robbins who wrote the 5 Second Rule.

The rule is simple: The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must act on in it immediately (or within five seconds) — otherwise your brain will start leaning towards procrastination.

Ditch Excuses and Comparing Ourselves with Others (otherwise known as justification…)

Sometimes we see other people who have succeeded in areas where we are not making progress.  We tell ourselves ‘it’s ok for her, because she…: –

  • Doesn’t work
  • Does work
  • Has more time
  • Has no kids
  • Has lots of kids so lots of exercise
  • Has a supportive partner
  • Has no partner so free to do what she pleases
  • Likes exercise more than you do
  • Doesn’t need to exercise because she’s ‘naturally thin’
  • Has the money to spend on a gym membership
  • Blah Blah Blah

The top and bottom of it is, people who succeed in their goals do the things they NEED to do.  Whether they feel like it or not.

Capture Your ‘Activation Energy’

There is something that exists called ‘Activation Energy’.  It means the force that’s required to do something new.  Yep it’s an actual thing.  A chemical reaction.  Who knew I was so ‘science-y’??!

Translated in to terms that I can understand, this means when you have the urge to change….to do something new…..to go after a goal that is important to you…TAKE ACTION IN THAT MOMENT!

To create change requires a physical force.  It’s not enough to just think about it, or say you’ll do it.  When you are thinking of your goal, and planning how you will do it, make sure you finish by actually physically taking action….Now. Yes now. I mean you. The person reading this.

  • Throw all the chocolate in the bin (don’t do the old excuse – When I’ve eaten all the chocolate, THEN I’ll start.  You hear yourself say it and know how stupid this sounds! 
  • Make a commitment to a workout buddy and hold yourselves accountable by setting goals and targets (e.g. if we walk 5km this week, we’ll treat ourselves to a new lipstick)
  • Buy some new trainers
  • Enroll on a course
  • Do some jumping jacks on the spot for 1 minute.
  • COMMIT by physically doing something you wouldn’t normally do!!!

Stop Proacrastination with Quick Action

It doesn’t need to take longer than 60 seconds BUT DO SOMETHING IN THE MOMENT, when that little voice in your head is telling you that you want (or need) to change.

You have about a 5 second window before your brain applies the emergency brake.  That’s it.  5 little seconds where you can say ‘let’s do this!!!’ or ‘oh never mind, I’ll wait until Monday.’  Except Monday isn’t coming.

Nobody ever really feels like doing it. I’d rather eat pan eu chocolate every morning than make scrambled eggs.  I’m not a freak.  However the more I push myself outside of my old bad habits and routines, the more I empower myself to take action on the things that are important to me when it feels really tough.  Like pushing through that final round of burpees before your head blows off.  It feels vile whilst I’m doing it, but afterwards I feel good.   Proud, accomplished, content.  Sometimes even EPIC.

Wouldn’t you rather feel epic NOW than wait until Monday to feel good?

When you live a life where your emergency brake keeps getting pulled, you always feel stuck.  You always have regrets.  You feel like you’re going around and around in circles making no progress.  That’s because you are going in circles.

The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  So…..

If you’ve said you’ll ‘start on Monday’ before, and have never reached your goal, maybe it’s time to try something NEW….like NOW.

START TODAY and take action.

If you need help or are still feeling so overwhelmed, you can book a FREE discovery call with myself on how I help you find direction, get unlost and achieve massive results with the momentum to keep making positive change in just 30 days. Email hello@the-best-self-project.com or message me on 07787 821124.

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