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S2 EP191 – Overwhelmed and Frazzled

Episode Summary

Do you get overwhelmed when too much is coming at you at once? When you feel overwhelmed, do you believe that it is about external circumstances? Do you often feel overwhelmed with demands, tasks, and life in general? Do you ever feel stressed that there will never be enough time to get everything done? Learn how to love yourself in the face of overwhelming and challenging situations. 


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. In our fast-paced and busy culture, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and this is the topic I want to address today.

I often hear from my clients that they feel overwhelmed. Generally, feeling overwhelmed means a few different things:

  • Overwhelmed by your feelings
  • Overwhelmed by time pressures to get things done
  • Overwhelmed by how to do things ‘right’
  • Overwhelmed by too much happening at once
  • Overwhelmed by painful life situations

Are you aware that the feeling of overwhelm is often caused by how you are treating yourself and what you are telling yourself?

In my Skype session with my client Peter, he told me at the beginning of the session that he felt overwhelmed.

“Peter, please breathe into your feeling of overwhelm and get present with it…….Now, do you want responsibility for being the one causing this feeling?”

“Yes,” he said, “but I don’t think I’m the cause. I think it’s because I have so much to do and I don’t have the time to get everything done.”

“Is this what you are telling yourself that is causing you to feel overwhelmed?”

“Yes, but it’s true.”

“Peter, let’s go a little deeper with what you are telling yourself. What are you telling yourself will happen if you don’t get everything done?”

“People will be upset with me.”

“And what does it mean if they are upset with you?” I asked him.

“It means that I’m not good enough.”

“How do you think your children would feel if you said to them, “You have all this to do and not enough time to do it, and if you don’t get it done people will be upset with you, and their upset means that you are not good enough, so get to work.”

“I would never say that to my children,” he said to me.

“But this is what you are telling yourself – the little boy within who is your feeling self. So of course he feels overwhelmed, just as your children would feel if you said this to them. Peter, please open to your higher self and ask what the truth is.” Peter had learned in previous sessions and in his Inner Bonding practice to communicate with his higher self.

“……………My higher self is saying that I always manage to get things done and that putting pressure on myself just makes it harder. And he says that I am a loving soul – and that is the basis of my worth, not whether I get things done or whether or not people are upset with me.”

“So,” I said, ‘while it may be true that you have a lot to get done, everything else you have been telling yourself is not true – and this is what is causing your feelings of overwhelm. Ask you higher self what else you can say to yourself that will release the overwhelm.”

“My little boy inside needs to know that I will love him even if we don’t get everything done. I’m telling him that right now, and he feels so much better!”

My client Lora was feeling overwhelmed by her feelings of loneliness and heartbreak after her boyfriend broke up with her; she had been over-eating and eating junk to numb the feelings.

“Lora, breathe into these feelings and see if you can get totally present with them……now focus in your heart and invite into your heart compassion for these feelings – kindness, gentleness, caring. Imagine that you are sitting with your hurting child within, embracing her with deep compassion. Just keep being fully present with these very painful feelings with compassion, until you feel ready to release them to spirit.”

It only took about five minutes before Lora felt ready to let the feelings move through her. Each time the painful feelings came up, Lora embraced them with compassion and allowed them to move through her rather than getting stuck in her. Her desire to over-eat vanished, as she no longer felt overwhelmed.

I hope the next time you feel overwhelmed, you fully embrace this feeling with compassion, so that you can either learn about what the overwhelm might be telling you, or you can manage the underlying painful feelings with deep kindness and compassion toward yourself.

Do you get overwhelmed and frazzled when too much is going on? Does your system feel on overloaded when too much hits you at once?

This is a common experience for many people and especially for introverted and highly sensitive people.

The surprising thing is that this appears to be true from birth. In her book, “Quiet,” Susan Cain describes a long-term research study done by Professor Jerome Kagan at Harvard, with 500 four-month-old babies. Kagan asserted that he could tell which babies were introverts and which were extroverts, based on a forty-five-minute evaluation. The babies were subjected to stimuli such as balloons popping, tape-recorded voices, and the scent of alcohol on cotton swabs. About 20 percent of the babies were what he called “high-reactive” – waving their arms and legs and crying. About 40 percent were quiet and placid – which he called “low-reactive”, and another 40 percent were somewhere in between.

Kagan predicted that the high-reactive group would turn out to be introverts, and that the low-reactive group would be extroverts, with the other 40% going back and forth between introversion and extroversion, and this is exactly what happened. Highly sensitive introverts comprise about 20 percent of the population, which is what Elaine Aron, Ph.D., discovered in her research and wrote about in “The Highly Sensitive Person” and other books. 

Highly sensitive introverts have a nervous system, from birth, that is more reactive to stimuli.

Being more reactive, highly sensitive introverts tend to be quiet and to need time alone to regenerate, while more extroverted people regenerate around people. The 40% of people who have both qualities are now called ambiverts.

This is important for all of us to understand. Our U.S. society is primarily extroverted and ambiverted, and many introverted people have grown up thinking there is something wrong with them. Both Aron and Cain do a great job of helping sensitive introverted people value their special gifts, and Cain helps more extroverted people to value what sensitive introverts have to offer.

But now, back to being overwhelmed and frazzled…

This is a very personal issue for me, as I am a highly sensitive introvert and my nervous system gets frazzled when a lot comes at me at once. This is the main reason I learned to be so organized in my life – so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by too much stimuli coming at me all at the same time. Of course, even the best organizing can’t predict how many emails I will need to answer or deal with immediately, or what else may come up on a day, requiring immediate attention, so sometimes I still get frazzled. My insides actually start to vibrate. My wounded self used to say to me, “What’s wrong with you that you get so frazzled and agitated when a lot is happening? Why don’t you just roll with it like so many others?”

Now that I understand that I was born a fairly extreme introvert, with a very highly sensitive nervous system, I can see why I was such a tense child. My household was often chaotic, with my mother yelling at me much of the time – which made my stomach hurt – so I learned to stay outside a lot.

As an adult, I no longer allow my wounded self to judge me for getting frazzled and overwhelmed. Now I stop, breathe, acknowledge to my little girl that this is too much for my system to handle right now, and move into compassion for myself. While this does not stop my system from vibrating, I feel much better with compassion than with judgment. Now I can take some loving action for myself – such as doing EFT (The Emotional Freedom Technique), walking outside in nature, crying to release the overwhelm, doing the vagal breathing of three breaths in and six breaths out, or hugging my animals.

I hope that, if you are a highly sensitive introvert, you will read these books and start to value who you are; and if you are an extrovert with an introverted partner, I hope you also read these books and open to understanding your partner’s way of being in the world. It is vital that you both understand what’s happening when one of you gets overwhelmed.

Most of us lead very busy lives and it is easy to become overwhelmed with all we need to do. Because it’s so easy for me to feel overwhelmed, I have learned some powerful tools for managing overwhelm that I will share with you as I answer questions about overwhelm that people have asked me.

Leslie asked:

“I feel overwhelmed when I have many things to do and they all seem equally important. How do I decide where to start without feeling that perhaps I need to be doing one of the other things instead?”

I have an easy way of dealing with this issue.

  1. First, I write down everything I need to do.
  2. Then I let go of trying to figure out with my thinking mind what to do first. My left-brain logical mind rarely knows what’s right for me.
  3. Then I open to my right-brain inner guidance – my intuition, my feelings, my inner knowing, and I simply ask, “What should I do first?” and trust whatever pops into my mind. Then I write (1) by the first to-do item.
  4. I do the same with the rest of the items – letting the schedule pop into my mind without thinking about it.

It may take some time to trust what pops into your mind, but I assure you that you will relax and get things done if you list them like this. I’ve done this for years and it always works!

Sonia asked:

“How can I set healthy boundaries with people in order to avoid being overwhelmed by work and tasks?”

I told Sonia that the first thing to do is to start to notice your energy at work. Are you putting out energetically that you are available for their demands? Boundaries are often energetic, and they come from your own intent. If your intent is to please others, then they will see you as available for their demands. If they see you as taking loving care of yourself rather than caretaking them, they are more likely to leave you alone.

Second, you can let the people know that they need to submit their requests to you in writing through email. This way it is easier for you to prioritize than if people are verbally demanding.

Third, learn to say ‘No.’   

Janice asked:

“I have periods of time when I become overwhelmed with certain challenges, such as a death in the family and chronic pain, and I just shut down. When I am like this I tend to procrastinate.”

I said to Janice, “It sounds like you are judging yourself for feeling overwhelmed by these very challenging life situations. The first thing I recommend is that you move into kindness and compassion toward yourself. Death in the family and chronic pain are overwhelming for most people. If you are compassionate and gentle toward yourself, then you won’t need to shut down to manage these emotionally painful feelings. Emotional pain gets stuck when we shut down, but when we are compassionate with ourselves, the feelings are able to move through us. Giving yourself time for the emotional pain to move through will help you to not feel so overwhelmed and not procrastinate. 

Aubrey Asked:

“How can we prevent feeling overwhelmed when we are in a situation that usually causes anxiety, such as paperwork, finances, or applying for a job?”

I told Aubrey that, “The anxiety is not being caused by the situations, but by what you are telling yourself about the situations. When you feel anxious, notice what you are telling yourself that is making you anxious. The feeling of anxiety is likely letting you know that you are telling yourself things that you don’t know to be true.

When you have to do things like this, it’s important to make sure that the loving adult part of you is in charge. The anxiety often comes from a younger part – a child or adolescent – who doesn’t know how to do these things well.

When we feel overwhelmed, the first thing to do is to stop and breathe. Taking a few deep breaths can slow us down and help us focus on what we need to do to take loving care of ourselves.

One of the issues for me that used to trigger me into overwhelm was when I had a lot to do. At those times, my wounded self would take over saying, “There’s too much to do. You’ll never get it all done.” My wounded self would often harp on me about not having enough time.

It’s true that my life is very busy. But every time my wounded self told me that there is too much to do and that I will never get it all done, my body got tense. And, as I well know, tension indicates that I’m telling myself a lie. But what was the lie? There WAS too much to do, and there WASN’T enough time to get it all done.

So I went to my guidance, asking for the truth and what to do about this, and this is what she said to me:

“You are forgetting what is important here. The only thing that is important is your thoughts and your resulting frequency. When you allow your wounded self to tell you that you don’t have enough time, then we (spirit) comply. ‘Okay,’ we say, and we make sure that you never have enough time. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy – the more you say it, the more it is true.”

“So are you saying that it’s not necessarily true?” I asked her. “Then what is true?”

“It is true as long as this is what you believe. And as long as this is what you believe, you will feel tense, which lowers your frequency and makes it impossible for us to help you manifest what you need to get everything done. You slow yourself down by being tense about time. So it is not a thought that is in your highest good. It is a thought that is out of alignment with your true soul, which wants to stay in a high frequency. What thought would make you feel relaxed?” she asked me.

“Well, of course the thought that there is always enough time. But I’ve tried this and it works for the moment and then I get caught up in the time crunch again.”

“That’s because, as I said, you are focusing on the wrong thing. You are focusing on time and getting things done, rather than on what is vitally important, which is keeping your frequency high. You know that being tense about anything lowers your frequency and prevents us from co-creating with you. You need to stay focused on thinking whatever thoughts you need to think to keep your frequency high and you will see that time will be fine.”

“Really?” I said, “You mean I will have enough time if I stop thinking about not having enough time and instead just think the thoughts that keep my frequency high?”

“Yes, really!” she said. “And you know from much experience that the thoughts that keep your frequency high are thoughts of heart-felt gratitude. You KNOW how to do this – you just forget when you have a lot to do. And the other thing to remember is that you actually always do get everything done. You have great organizational skills, and you always check everything off of your to-do list. So remember that what your wounded self is telling isn’t true!”

“Thanks! I’m going to just focus on gratitude, not on time and all that I have to do and see what happens.” 

My guidance is so amazing!

It had not occurred to me, when I knew that I had tons to do, to focus on gratitude and keeping my frequency high rather than on all that I had to do.

And, of course, she is right. Since that conversation with her, I’ve been doing exactly that, and the amazing thing is that time seems to have expanded. Suddenly I’m either getting more done in less time, or I seem to have more time to get things done. I often feel joyful all day and by the end of the day, I’m amazed at how great I feel! Tired, of course, but relaxed and peaceful and often joyful.

As I said, in our stressful society, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel inundated with all we need to do, and besieged when too much is coming at us at once.

It’s my experience that overwhelm comes from two different places:

  • One is that if, as I previously said, you are a highly sensitive person it’s fairly easy to feel overwhelmed. High sensitivity is a wonderful gift, but it can also be quite challenging. To learn more about whether you are a highly sensitive person, you might want to read Elaine Aron’s books on high sensitivity, or take her HSP test, which is available on her website.
  • People who are highly sensitive frequently have a very hard time when too much is happening at once. When this is happening for me, even if the things that are happening are wonderful and exciting, my nervous system gets frazzled. I need to stop and breathe and attend to one thing at a time.
  • The second is that if your wounded self is in charge rather than your loving adult, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Our wounded self can’t manage dealing with the stress of life, so without a loving adult in charge, we can feel immobilized by what life throws at us. This would be like expecting a child or adolescent to manage the big challenges of life.

What does your wounded self say to you when a lot is coming at you at once?

  • There’s not enough time – I’ll never get this done.
  • I’ll never get caught up.
  • Why even bother – this is too much for anyone.
  • Why do things always end up being my responsibility?
  • This is making me too tired – I just can’t do it.

And it’s true – the wounded self can’t do it, but the loving adult can.

I cannot manage the stresses of life without being connected with my spiritual guidance. It’s my guidance who helps me to stay calm and centered in the midst of my nervous system feeling overloaded and in the face of the bigger challenges of life.

In order to feel safe, my inner child needs to know that she can count on me as a loving adult to show up in challenging situations. She now knows she can count on me because I’ve practiced and practiced for the many hours it takes to get really good at something!

Loving yourself when feeling overwhelmed takes a lot of practice. The more you practice Inner Bonding and develop the neural pathways for your loving adult, the easier it will be for you to show up as a spiritually connected loving adult in the face of overwhelming and challenging situations.

It is unrealistic to expect yourself to be able to manage the big stresses of life without having developed your spiritually connected loving adult self. Just as a baby or toddler needs a loving parent to help regulate their feelings, so we need our loving adult to regulate ours.

The more you practice Inner Bonding in your everyday life when things are not overwhelming, the easier time you will have managing situations when you feel besieged by life. Maintaining your center and equanimity in the face of stressful situations IS possible, but not without the practice to develop your loving adult who can access spiritual help at the moment you are being challenged.

As you practice Inner Bonding, you will find that it becomes easier and easier to manage the stresses of life without feeling too overwhelmed.

As more information about autism has emerged and we now understand that the nervous systems of people with autism get so overwhelmed that they may flap their hands or turn in circles as ways to release too much stimulation, I’ve come to understand that many of us are neurodiverse in various ways. I used to make fists and move my hands back and forth when feeling overwhelmed in my nervous system, and sometimes I still notice myself doing them when a lot is going on at once. It’s a sign to me that I’m not connecting with the comfort and peace of my higher guidance, and as soon as I notice this, I open to learning with my guidance about what I need to do to take loving care of myself. Instead of judging myself for this unusual behavior, I learn from it about what it is telling me. I encourage you to do the same – to not judge yourself for whatever you do when feeling overwhelmed and instead open to a compassionate intent to learn with your spiritual guidance. Your inner child will thank you for remembering to do this!

I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions, overwhelm, and Relationships.”

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have so much to offer you at our website at

And, if you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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