Why It’s Time For Women To Start Noticing The Words They Use Daily
“I’m SO overwhelmed”.
These three words dominated my vocabulary for at least the first 40 years of my life.
They were about as over-used as the ratty Lulu-Lemon yoga pants I (along with every stressed out, strung out, and emotionally stripped-down woman on the planet) religiously lived in, much to our romantic partner’s delight.
4pm on the dot. Stretchy Pants. Poured Glass. Couch. Instagram Scroll.
In that order. Unless your kid ruins the order by saying, “I’m hungry. Can I have a snack.”
Can I have a Snack?
I don’t need to explain the blood-curling impact this question has on Mothers.
Rewind to 2020. Ask anyone who knew me for more than two hot minutes, if you chirpily asked me, “Teresa, how’s it going”, my reply — without a moment of hesitation, would go something like this:
(Insert loud and dramatic out-breath).
“I’m so overwhelmed”.
Which lets face it, in the era of pandemic parenting, feels justified.
Here’s a few other popular replies I became legendary for repeating.
“I’m so tired”. (Emphasis on so)
“I’m so exhausted”. (Emphasis on so)
“I’m so busy” (emphasis on so)
Beautiful women, let’s link arms for a moment together, shall we?
I’m commiserating with you. And if there’s one thing we women stand united on, it’s the delicious, almost salacious, act of trading war stories.
Am I right?
The past 2 years have felt heavy. I’m not talking the kind of heavy where you accidentally pick up a 10 pound free weight rather than a 5.
I’m talking heavy like “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” heavy.
The elephant on your chest type of heavy.
The crushing weight of responsibility kind of heavy.
The kind of heavy Mothers and Wives and Daughters and Grandmothers and Nurses and Doctors and Caregivers see as their new normal.
The Weary in Your Bones kind of heavy.
I don’t think I’ve ever fantasized more about moving to a reclusive hut on a remote island in Costa Rica more than I have in the last two years. Okay, maybe the past 5 years and always with Matthew McConaughey.
Now, even the sultry Texan holds zero appeal. He’s just another person I would feel obligated to dazzle and impress with my heroic efforts at “balancing it all”.
No. Now, I fantasize about endless upon endless days of alone-ness.
Me and me.
Then, just as quickly as that fantasy takes hold, much like the first sip of a slightly chilled Chardonnay, guilt makes its stealthy entrance and kills the buzz.
“Teresa, you should be grateful”.
One more thing to add to my overflowing Should-Shed.
In response to the incoming guilt traffic, I start “looking on the bright side” and high-fiving myself in the mirror, which only works when you remember to high five yourself in the mirror.
Sorry, Mel Robbins. I trust your science is gold and your book is on my self help shelf, but not right now, okay?
I’m too tired. (Emphasis on too)
I’m too overwhelmed. (Emphasis on too)
I’m too busy. (Emphasis on….)
I’m not going to bother repeating what every reasonably educated, decently well-read and ambitious career woman, mom, and superhero already knows too well.
The reasons women are overwhelmed matter and the reasons for our collective misery remain the same — “the burnout epidemic”, the rise of mental health concerns, and “the great resignation” or great re-evaluation or the great pause or the great rise of alcoholism among women.
Let’s just call it The Great ClusterF*** and call it a day.
We know, okay?
We know that women don’t feel “good enough”
We know that we should learn to “love ourselves” more
We know that the key to a happy life is joining the 5am club with The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.
We know that we need to “dress to impress, dress for success, dress for us”.
But knowing and doing are two completely different things. I would add that we are missing a step in between the infamous Knowing and Doing Gap.
We need to add the middle step of Noticing.
As an Executive Coach, and a former C-Level high achiever anxiety ridden perfectionist in semi-recovery, I’m more interested in what Tara Brach has to say about women’s interconnected overwhelm.
Rather than “do more” to combat the draining energy of overwhelm, (which sounds incredibly tiring) how about “attending and befriending” the more primitive parts of our psyche?
Adding more “judgement “and “should’s” to our already well-conditioned and faultless reflexive responses only serves to perpetuate the challenging energies we face as women, especially over the last two years.
Here’s the thing.
Just do a Google Search and type in the word “Overwhelm”. Instantly, women are inundated with well-meaning solutions, hacks, and pro-tips from influencers and celebrities across the globe.
Here’s a few that come to mind:
· Schedule more time for self-care — wake up earlier, journal, meditate, listen to podcasts, light candles, go for walks, breathe.
· Learn how to say No — create boundaries, know your limits, own your time, you do you, say I love you in the mirror.
· Be present and practise mindfulness every damn minute of the day. Act as if your last day on earth was today, which for a woman on the edge…
Do you know what reading this incites to the high achieving woman who is already unrelentingly self-critical?
To the woman whose mental health already feels like a brittle tree branch?
Even though we intellectually understand that judging or shaming ourselves doesn’t heal, it’s too late.
The limbic hijack has taken over.
We are hooked.
We have succumbed to identifying ourselves as the challenging energy we wish to avoid.
I’m so overwhelmed.
I’m so exhausted.
I’m so busy.
I’m so tired.
I’m so angry.
Oh wait? I just need to write down how grateful I am. That’s the ticket!
Let me preface my obviously irreverent and pointed cheekiness by making it clear that all of these suggestions are absolutely wonderful. I journal, meditate everyday, I’m a proud member of the mostly 5am club, and I have had a kick-ass Coach for over a year.
However, these measures came after, not before.
I noticed first and then decided to incorporate the practises afterward.
On their own, tips and tricks are simply that…
A method of the masses that sells.
A temporary band-aid.
An easily digestible 2 minute read. (Or 7 minutes. Brevity isn’t my strong suit).
Nothing transformational will be required. You won’t be asked to notice. You will be armed with knowledge and then instructed to go out there and do…
Act Now! The time is now! Be Your Best Self! You do You.
Sorry. True transformation comes after a personal reckoning within yourself. First, you have to notice.
Rather than working with these challenging disturbances, we continue to suffer because we cover them up with a quick tip, hack, spa-day or hot bath. It They take over. Once they dominate our psyches, our lives become organized and identified with them and they become, like the infamous Dexter Morgan, our dark passengers.
Here’s what I suggest as a starting point with my clients. I have coined it the N.I.C.E. Method.
Seriously, just take out a note pad. This will take 5 minutes and it’s simply an exercise in noticing, awareness and attention.
1. Notice your feelings. Name the depleting emotion and how often you feel it. Write them all down.
2. Inquire within. What do you want to be feeling? At the end of the day, what are the feelings you really desire? Just RIFF it and let the list of feeling words grow.
3. Choose 5 core desired feeling words that most closely resonate with you. Be creative. Rather than say, “I want to feel confident”, juice it up. Try on “I want to feel electric”. The whole point is about evoking an emotional response inside you.
4. Emulate others. Think of the most positive person you know. Someone you admire. Not the Yummy Mummy who is well-cared for by her Investment Banker husband. I mean, someone you deeply respect who befriends her challenging energies in an admirable way. (If that’s the Yummy Mummy, go for it!). Notice what she pays attention to. How she talks about her challenges. What does she do differently?
Be NICE to yourself, warriors.
Cheesy acronym aside, once I made the decision to break up with my high-pressure self, I literally found ecstasy on the other side.
No, not with Matthew. He was “too busy”, for some reason.
No, I found the ecstasy of finally feeling pure alignment with my truest self, the self that radiates an attitude of well-being and joy, a woman who knows where she is going, what impact she wants to make on the world, on her daughter, and for women everywhere.
Allow me a moment of neuroscience nerd talk.
Our conscious mind will either accept or reject what we tell ourselves.
If what we tell ourselves, ie. “I am so overwhelmed” becomes a habitual way of relating to ourselves and others, it will influence our mental and emotional state, and therefore the results of our lives’.
So, there’s merit in changing the script. However, let’s agree to start small, shall we?
Start by noticing instead and lock the door of the “Should-Shed”.
Practise “catching” the harsh self-criticism, the “I’m so overwhelmed” and the “I’m so busy” tape that runs in the background of your mind on repeat.
Instead, substitute it with quiet, self-compassionate and gentle inquiry.
Replace it with a response that points to a more loving and accepting state of your being.
As trite as it sounds, we need to start playing NICE with ourselves.
I can help, if you’re ready.