UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Learning from Overwhelm

The past month has been incredibly challenging as the feeling of overwhelming stress crashed upon me. There were physical manifestations and mental lows.

Many of my friends seem to suffer from this especially during the fall. The days get shorter, the temperature chillier, and for those of us who do not love winter, the season of mush and sleet looms drearily ahead. Aches and pains get worse, fatigue sets in, and the day after a night where sleep is allusive, mini despair and spiraling start: I am tired. Why am I always tired? I didn’t get {such and such} done. I should have gotten it done. Why didn’t {so and so} do it? They don’t care about me. My back is sore. I want to nap. I really shouldn’t nap. I should doing {this and that}. Oh look at how together that person looks. I’m such a loser. I can’t make my life work. And so on.

The slide is a steep ride right down to: I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like where this is going. If I get any more anxious or depressed, I’m going to end up at that horrible moment at the (mental) cliff, the precipice, that line I really, really don’t want to cross.

So we try all sorts of things:

  • meditation (can’t because brain is chaotically in madness and won’t quiet down)
  • distraction (helps a bit, but is only temporary)
  • eating (helps a lot, but also temporary and has side effects that have to be undone at a later date)
  • yelling (sort of a distraction and valve to let off steam, but temporary too and hurts relationships)

The only way past it is through it. I hear that a lot, but didn’t really know what it meant. So many things just start sounding like clich├ęs and sound bites. But today, I had an ah ha moment. Through it means feeling it, not running away from it. Through it means listening to it, not ignoring it. Through it means experiencing it to learn from it.

Okay then. I asked myself: What does my stress tell me? What are my feelings trying to tell me?

Emotions are what we feel after we compare our Expectations with the Reality. If the outcome is good, we feel positive. If the outcome is bad, we sad or mad.

Then I wondered: WHY do I think my emotions are trying to tell me something? And who is it exactly that is using my emotions to talk to me? Is it their language?

My theory: My body is host to so many ecosystems that make it possible for me to function. And when I feel overwhelmed, it is because what I want to get done is more than what is possible to get done with the systems in place and the resources needed. So the systems start shutting down or slowing down to rest. And the systems that haven’t done so start to bear the burden even more and then they start to shut down or slow down. As different ones respond at different times, different feelings emerge – they are the symptoms of what is happening.

My conscious mind is governed by thoughts that I try to control. And it will say things like: Suck it up. Don’t be such a baby. Just do it. You can do this. Don’t be lazy. You can’t afford to stop.

My subconscious mind is the one who is listening to the systems and making sense of it all. It knows when it’s time to stop, secure and start. It can sense when a system is breaking down. It can see when a system is slowing down.

If I listen carefully when I’m overwhelmed, I think I hear:

  • Rest and retreat
  • Recover and repair
  • Reflect and remember
  • Restart

It certainly feels a bit counterintuitive to slow down when everything in my conscious mind is screaming DO MORE! GET IT DONE! HURRY UP! But, when I do, I realize that my subconscious has been working on a solution that may be more creative, efficient or enjoyable. Or it’s trying to warn me of potential roadblocks ahead that need to be considered.

In any case, I’m learning not to panic now when I feel overwhelmed. I’m learning to just stop and let the chaos run its course, come apart and then come together again. It’s very hard and I’ve only tried this a couple of times, but inevitably after I emerge from the overwhelm with some energy or headspace to productively handle something that has been bothering me.

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW

A Chin-dian Parent in Singapore

Visit the Learning Parent SG Facebook page, check out Chapter Zero, and listen to our interview below.

Joline Lim comes from both a Chinese and Indian background (Chin-dian!). Living in Singapore, which is a very competitive environment with a huge focus on academic achievement, Joline has embraced Gentle Parenting, but felt that there is much to learn from a variety of experts and approaches. As she embarked on her learning journey to be the kind of parent she wants to be for her kids, she launched The Learning Parent SG to advocate for respectful parenting with a Singaporean representation! She is also an active volunteer for Chapter Zero in Singapore, a social enterprise promoting mindful parenting in Singapore.

The Learning Parent SG with Joline Lim

I had the joy of chatting with Joline and learning more about her very cool background and what brought her to setting up The Learning Parent SG (Facebook Community Page and Instagram). She was a delight to converse with and I know I’m going to have more conversations with her as I continue to learn more about how I can be better parent, more in tune with what my kids need to grow up with resilience and patience. Her intention to share resources, inspiration, comfort and encouragement is a beautiful light, especially during difficult times in the world nowadays.

She recently joined social enterprise Chapter Zero, running their social media, because she benefited from their workshops and now wants to help the outreach to help other Singaporean parents. This is an exciting organization doing important work in Singapore. The future of our children depend on this kind of support for parents.

In our podcast, Jolene touches on numerous topics:

  • Growing up with intense pressure to conform to social expectations, like each generation improving achieving more success over previous generations, can create a lot of anger, shame, guilt, and fear in our lives.
  • Expectations vs Reality! Parenting is like a test, but we really have no idea what it is and what we are doing! Prior to doing it, we may have preconceived notions that get tossed out as we deal with challenges we never knew we would have to deal with!
  • That ‘ah ha’ moment when we know that what we are doing just isn’t working. And it’s not about ‘controlling behaviour’ anymore but meeting the emotional needs of children.
  • A gradual implementation of respectful parenting changed everything. The more she connected with her child through understanding underlying reasons for his behaviours, the more he was willing to cooperate.
  • Parenting, and respectful parenting in particular, is playing the long game. It’s like running a marathon – it can be overwhelming so we need to be kind to ourselves and take care of ourselves so we can do the important work. They then can see what it looks like to value ourselves, so that it becomes the norm that they should value themselves.

Her Key Message: Parenting is hard. Respectful parenting is especially hard because of the all the unlearning we have to do. It is both a privilege and a huge responsibility to break the cycle of behaviour.