Hiding from the world
Self-employed overwhelm: A building pressure on my chest, a sick feeling in my stomach, a feeling of mental paralysis, all I want to do is hide from the world and I can’t see a way forward because my mind is either racing and confused or too cloudy to decipher where to start or what to do.
This is me, Claire Paul aka The Flo Coach, yes you read that right, I am ironically a wellbeing coach and I have struggled from overwhelm on and off for years; my mask is off!..…..How am I doing at describing your overwhelm?
Effects of overwhelm
This is only scratching the surface too, other effects of overwhelm include anxiety, overt emotions, crying, overthinking, feeling stuck, faffing, unproductiveness, poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, not able to perform daily tasks, impaired immune system, exhaustion, overreactions, forgetfulness and physical illness.
It’s all part of being human, isn’t it? What is our mind doing to us?
For me, being self-employed and all that brings is the culprit for this overwhelm. In my business, I’m dealing with: too few clients, doing all the research and marketing, creating my website and learning how to work with all the integrations, writing courses, creating The Flo Club content, including videos, audios and trainings with downloadable pdf worksheets, all communication, SEO, building an email list, creating online communities. Plus, showing up on social media as much as I can stand, trying to crack the unhelpful algorithms whilst only getting one engagement and that was a friend, going to network meetings to connect with real live people and on and on. Before you think why doesn’t she outsource, I would if I had a budget! Plus, at the moment I’m also working for a higher education college two days a week and add to that bringing up a teenager on my own….I know, poor me, right!
Overwhelm can be split into two categories:
- Too much too fast – You get hit with an intense situation too quickly for your system to process and your system goes into shock and overwhelm, repeat, repeat, repeat.
- Too little for too long – You’re hanging on for too long, it’s not been too much, it’s just been too hard for too long and your body gives up. If one more thing gets added, your system goes into shock and overwhelm.
Both of these elicit the same response from our brains, that is protection mode from the perceived threat. We switch into survival response, creating the above reactions in our minds and bodies. Our brain is doing what it thinks is best for us.
I think that I have suffered from both categories in varying degrees over my 20 years of being self-employed, it resonates doesn’t it? Seeing it written like that helps me to understand what’s been going on, ‘too little too long’ – brilliant, lightbulb moment!
What are these mechanisms and why do they kick in?
This is a classic case of the stress response taking over; our fight, flight, freeze, fawn response activated via our brain perceiving psychological or physical threats. This then switches on our sympathetic nervous system and loads our body with the stress hormones needed to fight or flee or freeze or roll over and agree.
This is all necessary of course when we’re faced with real danger and can be helpful in some situations. The problems arise when our mind is constantly bombarded with perceived threats i.e. too much too soon or too little for too long and doesn’t get any respite to recover from the sympathetic nervous response. The stress hormones stay at a heightened level in our body causing our symptoms of overwhelm, as above.
Being self-employed, (of course anyone experiences overwhelm regardless of their working status, it’s just that self-employment and wellbeing is my specialty) can bring extra pressures, responsibilities, instability, financial feasts and famines, mindset challenges. It’s obviously not all difficult though, otherwise there wouldn’t be over 5 million self-employed workers in the UK. There are amazing gains to be had being self-employed, such as more fulfillment, a higher sense of purpose, more autonomy, flexibility in working hours, type of work, higher pay, feeling like you’re contributing in a meaningful way and doing what you love and getting paid for it.
Connection to others
Opportunities to connect with other workers can be limited, especially if you’re working from home most of the time. There are online and offline co-working spaces which are excellent to tap into. When you’re suffering from overwhelm though, it’s hard to step outside and connect with others. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with my work, the last thing I feel like doing is co-working. My response is to isolate myself and hide away, can you relate to this feeling of wanting to hide?
So what can we do about self-employed overwhelm?
I’m not going to preach about all the things you can do to help yourself, that might be considered dull reading and you may have your ‘go to’ activities that support you already. There are many things you can try though, so if you do want support, please get in touch; I’m happy to help. Instead I’m going to highlight what has specifically helped me in my self-employed journey.
First of all we need to understand that we have to calm down our nervous system; it’s a body thing and we can control it. The relaxation response or the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is paramount in soothing our high alert body and mind. Here’s my list of how I do this:
- Checking in with myself regularly, acknowledging how I’m feeling; asking ‘how do I feel, what do I need?’
- Having a bath with Epsom salts to relax my cells.
- Breath practices, belly breathing in particular helps the vagus nerve signal to the brain that all is ok.
- Going for a walk and focusing on my senses, this is one of my favorites if I can stand to go out in public!
- Emotional freedom technique or tapping, ask me if you want more details.
- Meditating which I could not live without.
- Taking the next tiny action in my business without thinking ahead, one tiny action, then another and another.
- Having a coach, finding someone to inspire and support me and to check in with.
- Talking to other people who are self-employed, connection is key, even when I don’t feel like it and want to hide.
- Resting, take breaks, get restorative sleep.
Cut yourself some slack
What I know will help that I’m not very good at, is cutting myself some slack and not beating myself up if I don’t get much done. This also relates to feeling guilty if I give myself permission to do something other than work related activities. Allowing yourself to do this can be really helpful in distracting your mind and having a brain break can change your perception and tap into your creativity. These are the mindset issues that I’m working on, creating new habits takes time but acknowledging your feelings and what needs to change is a great start and can actually help to reduce the overwhelm.
I’d love to hear your experiences of feeling overwhelmed. If you need support with managing how overwhelm affects you, please reach out, don’t suffer in silence, you’re not the only one. We all have our areas of expertise and this is my contribution, so comment, subscribe at The Flo Coach, follow on social @theflocoach or email me for a chat on how I can help ease the burden of overwhelm and the effects it has on your business and other areas of your life. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org