Like pushing the proverbial stone up the mountain only to have it roll continuously back down, the many details, commitments, and unexpected circumstances that sometimes come my way can bury me in a freezing fog of overwhelm, even when the overwhelm is made up of enjoyable, exciting, or inspiring events and people. So I’ve learned to pay attention when that feeling grabs me and makes me forgetful, hyper, cranky, anxious, or some particularly toxic combination of all four. Then I do my best to re-arrange overwhelm into something more spacious, into what my friend Sowbel calls deep ease.
Some fierce prioritizing can add much needed breathing room—it’s surprising how often what we think is a priority turns out to be just a task, and what we’ve put aside is exactly what we need to focus on.
During periods of overwhelm I give myself permission to rearrange schedules. More active self-care and mindfulness around how I feel physically helps immensely. As Thich Nhat Hanh says: “When you feel overwhelmed, you’re trying too hard.”
Then there is beauty, as embodied in the elegantly simple jar pictured above, by the artist Alberto Díaz de Cossío. To dwell in the expansive space that something beautiful invokes is an antidote to overwhelm. Beauty can be something small and close to your heart, or wildly unfamiliar and larger than life—and it’s different for everyone. On seeing the unglazed smoothness of the clay and sumptuous shape of this jar, beauty took me by the hand and said, “Be still. Breathe. Enjoy this.” I stood still, took long calming breaths, and felt deep ease.