When I was at my lowest point of burn out the thought of doing anything different was petrifying. Even the thought of stopping going to work as a way to ‘take a break’ or to have some ‘me time’ made me freeze. I could conceptualise the reasoning for it. Yes of course it made sense that if I felt stressed then by slowing my life down a little I could rest and recharge. Yes of course it made sense that meditation, exercise, or not working so much would in some way help. Yet every one of the suggestions thrown at me just made me feel more overwhelmed. The beautiful gentle loving souls in my life, hearing me frustrated, highly strung or crying for no reason would offer their words of advice. “You just need to not put in so much effort”. “You just need to start saying no to them”. “You need to just go for a walk every single day”. Their intentions pure and filled with love would only raise my anxiety. I’d feel more and more restricted, like I was failing them in some way to not be able to slow down, or I was failing myself too for remaining stuck.
I’m not even sure I could tell you there was one magic answer. One simple piece of advice that once taken everything else started to fall into place. In fact the truest answer reflecting back would be that it took many, many, pieces of the puzzle. Some bigger than others. Some ever so small they were barely identifiable as shifts at the time.
The one or two days in the beginning where instead of staying back to finish something off I told myself instead it was okay to finish the next day. The numerous times I booked a massage to just fall into the coma state of pure deep relaxation and know that the feeling I received in that hour was enough to melt my entire week’s nerves away. The counselling I Googled online to come across someone whose voice spoke to me louder and clearer, something more dynamic, different, more appealing to my individuality. Energy healing. Tap therapy. Impromptu impulsive flights booked to see family. Wine nights. Cheese nights. Acupuncture. Yoga. Language class to reconnect with my love for the Japanese culture and reignite a spark I once had. All of these, puzzle pieces. Or as I type, more like colours woven into the tapestry of my life.
In Canberra, in Australia’s Parliament House, there is this gorgeous wall to wall, ceiling to floor length tapestry hanging in the Great Hall. Larger than the largest house front you can imagine. Its immense. From a distance you can barely believe it is actually woven. The colours are gentle, enticing, pieces of pure nature. The scene is of the Australian bush, beautiful tall gum trees, and the artist has carefully woven in the odd animal, which only after time do your eyes adjust to take them in. I can still close my eyes right now as I type and picture the cockatoo almost mid-centre pint flapping its wings. With the ever so slightest flash of yellow catching your eye.
There’s a small piece of the tapestry, a sample of the fabric, on display in one of the corridors. So you can have an up close view of the lengths it took to weave the entire piece together. I don’t recall the exact facts, although I do know there were numerous weavers that worked on the piece for weeks on end as part of the commission.
Which is much like life. And much like I feel particularly at those moments I have felt my lowest. That at the time the enormity of that moment was so grand. That feeling like there is no possible way the tapestry will come together or make any sense. I couldn’t see how going for one afternoon walk could actually contribute to the beauty and the colour of the full scene. Yet I stuck with it. I followed through. I took one step at a time. One needle. One thread. And a simple colour change every now and then.
So what I want you to know more than anything, is that those feelings of overwhelm are messages straight to your heart. They are your body and soul’s signals to pause, to reflect, to readjust the needle and thread. You don’t have to finish the tapestry all in one sitting. In fact, once you acknowledge it’s all but impossible to do so, you immediately free yourself from that burden. Overwhelm itself is fear knocking at our doors. It’s a behavioural reaction, sub conscious response, to try and protect ourselves from feelings of not being good enough, not being able to ‘fix things’, to change, to fit in, or that we may be judged if we do.
When you feel yourself trigger into overwhelm, know that this is a sub conscious protection mechanism for your brain. And it’s perfectly okay to reassure it. Say out loud: I am good enough. I am loved. I belong. And give yourself permission to pause. To do just one thing. Not everything. Just one thing. Ask yourself: What one thing could I do right now that would make a difference? Trust that every single time you do just one thing you are weaving more colour into your tapestry. And you will come to see the scene unfold in front of you, exactly as it is meant to be.
If you’ve every felt a little or even a lot overwhelmed, that’s awesome – you’re human! Chances are someone close to you has felt the same, or is feeling a little burnt out right now. This Blog post could be just the thing they need to feel ready to pick up their own beautiful needle and thread and keep weaving their tapestry. Share this with them below.