What really keeps you awake?

The chime of my alarm woke me up; I rolled over, grabbed my phone and hit the stop button. My eyes were sore, not at all ready to open. The soft gray morning light filtering into my room between the trees felt like stadium lights yelling at me.  


I let my eyes snap shut and fell back onto my pillow. My mind started going through my schedule for the day: Work calls, kids’ classes, emails from the day before that I was behind on, farm share to pick up, writing to do, website updates, receipts from last week to enter, newsletter to get out… oh, and it’s my nephew’s birthday… I forgot to send a card. Dammit!

And just like that, before even getting out of bed, I became stranded on the precipice of overwhelm.   

I used to try to talk myself off the precipice, motivational self-talk was my norm, “Come on, you can do it! If you tackle the hard stuff first then you’ll be on your way. You can do a two-hour sprint and see how much you can smash through.”

Sometimes, these little motivational talks worked; but often they didn’t. Then I’d go down the path of “What’s wrong with you, why didn’t you just get it all done? This is easy stuff!” To which I’d reply to myself, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s ok, you’ll do better tomorrow. Let’s plan an action day for tomorrow… you can turn your phone off and just focus on your list.”

My head was a very busy place to be!

And then I realized that overwhelm was simply an emotional state that had very little direct correlation to what I had to get done. Sometimes, I’d have only a few things to do and just couldn’t get going in the direction I thought I should. Other times, I’d have a two-mile long list and not think twice about cranking through it. For example, my business taxes are not that hard to do and often only take me an afternoon to complete; but I like to spend at least a month or two beforehand letting the task grow large, scary, and overwhelming in my mind.

Sometimes, I can see the shadow monster for what it is; sometimes, I can’t. But at least now I don’t get mad at myself for hiding under the covers and I know for certain that at some point, the sun will come up and destroy the shadow without me having to do anything.