Overwhelmed and Overinformed - How I educated myself into a breakdown

Read this book, listen to this TED talk, watch this video, read this article, listen to this podcast, go to this conference, take this class.  Pat your head, rub your tummy, bite you elbow, hop on one leg.  

I basically went from super enthused about educating myself on some topics (specifically about self-care and development, career motivation, finding passion/purpose... you know, basically everything.... and then sprinkle in some parenting books on how not to screw up your kids) to a complete and utter breakdown.  Like, smoke billowing from the top of my head, eyes bulging from their sockets while crumbling on to the floor in a hot mess of hysterical sobbing.  

Information is great.  It's helpful, motivating, and can offer a kick in the pants.  However, it wasn't until I had this breakdown that I realized where I had taken a wrong turn.  

I had over-stimulated my brain on all this new information and I was not able to fully process or execute on any of it.  It had nowhere to go, so it fizzled out and took my soul with it.  

All this lovely, exciting, useful information was giving me aspirations and setting me on fire to achieve something big, and great!  But it also had me thinking about how I'm not moving fast enough, working hard enough, or thinking broad enough to get those big and great things to come to fruition.  I became very aware of the rising anxiety.  And I couldn't shut my brain off from thinking about how I was highly motivated while highly UN-motivated.  Such a weird place to sit in.  Being completely torn between the desire for MORE and the disappointing need for complacency.  It's like the unsettling nausea caused by the fear and adrenaline on a roller coaster.  

I just wanted to get off the ride.....

When my husband told me I seemed sort of vacant and not myself recently, my response announced itself before I had a chance to think it over.  "I'm broken", I said confidently.  Oh my gosh, I really am feeling broken.  Strangely, it felt invigorating to say!  As if the idea of "fixing" myself was this opportunity to get back to the root of who I truly am and to let go of all the expectations I had put on myself.  But this response saddened my concerned husband and he was eager to help me understand why I was feeling.... "broken".  

Not broken.... Disconnected.  Just a little interrupted from my typical self.  And frankly, it was okay.  Why?  Because in those moments where we admit we feel disconnected or short circuited is also where we start to form some meaning and develop the WHY behind the running mind and anxiety.  So, WHY had I been feeling this way so often?  What was I searching for?

All these grand, big ideas were so alluring while swallowing all this knowledge, but I hadn't formed any sort of conclusion on where I was headed next or how I would get there.  No buckets to empty these ideas in to, no calendars, charts, graphs, or plans.  No steps to take to achieve the 548 goals I began carving lightly at like a paper clip chipping away at a block of wood.  Naturally, a short-circuit took place and it came out in the form of an overwhelming breakdown.  

I had to break down the breakdown.  

  1. I have flooded my brain with so much information in such a short period of time, as it pertained to very delicate subjects.  
  2. I began to overthink and analyze all.the.things in life.   
  3. I have been working for the same company for nearly 16 years.  Doing, for the most part, the same type of job for about 20 years.  Values and priorities shift organically over time.  So, here I sit in a "shift" while letting all this new knowledge wash over me.  You can imagine how the now 37 year old relates to the once 21 year old career starter. 
  4. My children are watching intently.  What am I showing them?  Am I showing them that I try my hardest, while living life with intention and confidence, or do they see a mother who's never satisfied and constantly grasping for something?
  5. Society keeps telling us to HUSTLE HARDER and be a #BOSSBABE.  Frankly, can I just say I'm so exhausted by these terms?  Hustling isn't my game and bossbabe isn't my name.  You can call me friend, leader, faithful encourager of women.  
  6. All the books, podcasts, articles, and TEDs were inspiring me in TOO MANY directions.  No clear focus. 

WHAT A MESS.

So I put all my books back on the book shelves, quit updating my podcasts list and sat down with pen, paper and these thoughts.

  1. What are my values and priorities - how did they shift from 15+ years ago?
  2. What makes me THRIVE in life and what do I find JOY in?
  3. What are my strengths and what skills do I excel at?
  4. Stress and anxiety are caused by ______.  (unfortunately this list was long)
  5. How can I reduce the list that causes stress and anxiety - what is controllable and what is not! 
  6. In a perfect world, what would be my ideal day-to-day? 
  7. From all this information I've collected, what excites me the most or is something I should/could proceed with spending more time on?
  8. How am I filling my buckets?  (Jonathan Field's book How to Live a Good Life - note and link at bottom of post) - Yes, I held on to ONE book for reference!

Then I drew in a big deep breath, pushed it all out and said to myself "Stop. Forcing. It".  Stop forcing something to happen that may or may not be what's planned for me.  Yes!  There is a plan for me!  Can we all just agree that patience is literally the worst?  I think I used to have some and then I had kids and I have no idea where it actually went.  And then we added a dog.... so, it's basically non-existent (btw, he just crop dusted me as I'm writing this - jerk).  

So, here's what I'm saying.  If you're in a season or place where you're seeking something to challenge and reignite your stagnant day-to-day, do a little prep work ahead of time.  Define a clear focus, determine your resources, and have specific goals or desired result.  If none of these things are in place, you will overwhelm yourself with too much information and, like me, combust.  

Someone else's successes and skills are most likely not the same as yours, so do not let the comparison be a deal breaker on what you are trying to achieve.  They may be looking at you through their handheld back-lit rectangle of doom with the same feelings of "I wish I could" or "I wish I had".  What you can offer to society, to your family, friends, and our future generations is unique and something only you can give.  I'm slowly learning that all the information and education I'm consuming is someone else's story of success, and it doesn't mean that if we apply their how-to's that our life will turn out the same.  We each have our own story and there is a personalized plan for us!    

Identifying a focus up front can help narrow down the content you're consuming and avoid an overwhelming flood of information coming at you with all its tentacles.  

I've learned so much about myself during the course of this season.  I don't regret, I just wish I would have taken a moment to really clue in to THE WHY.  I'm still unpacking my WHY and defining my focuses.  Lesson learned and tucked under my belt of life.      

Have you experienced this before?  What steps did you take to reel yourself back in and gain a focus or goal?  join the conversation below in the comments!   

 

Jonathan Field's book How to Live a Good Life speaks on the 3-bucket system:  Vitality, Connection, Contribution.  Download the 27 page excerpt, for FREE via the link, which includes the 3-bucket system challenge.