Sunday, March 15, 2009

When We Feel Overwhelmed During a Hypomania

While I rarely post on weekends, today's post is for Wendalyn Love (and if it helps others, that's great too). This morning she wrote a comment about how inspirational yesterday's post about Moses was, and mentioned that she's feeling a little overwhelmed today.

In response to her comment, I began thinking: "How do we define being overwhelmed?" I'm not sure how Wendalyn does, but it means different things to me dependent upon my mood. If I've been going through a high energy period, sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I've emotionally and physically worn myself out.

For me, while having a lot of energy isn't always a hypomania, the summer months usually are. During those times, I often feel "better than good" every day. If I'm blogging, I work that much harder to think about posts that might help others. I ask myself, "What have I done, what do I know, what have I read that might help someone who's feeling depressed feel better?" I make a special effort to respond to comments by providing advice I think might make a difference.

If I'm with people, I feel like I'm giving 110 percent. I'm warm and welcoming to strangers. I'm more thoughtful with friends and family members. I volunteer to do things for strangers. If I am working on a project, I do it to the nth degree. (You get the drift.)

Again, dependent upon my mood, living at 110 percent can last days, weeks, or months. But, sometimes, either at the end of the period or during it, I feel exhausted. It is as if I've given everything I have...and I either need to decompress or replenish myself.

I'm not sure if shifting moods are due to hypomania, energy shifts, personality traits or possibly medication--but they clearly require a periodic adjustment. I've always been more of an "all or nothing" type person. And, for me, feeling overwhelmed is usually a question of pacing. I've learned to ask myself the following questions:

1. Are you beginning to feel depressed or are you truly overwhelmed?

2. If you're overwhelmed, what's causing it? Are you spending too much time with people and do you need some alone time? Are you giving too much of yourself and can you cut back? If you feel like others need to step in and do more of their share, can you ask them to do that?

3. Can you spend time with others and feel less responsible?

4. Are you involved with too many projects? Which ones are truly important? Which ones can wait? Which ones can you eliminate?

5. When you're feeling this way, who can you talk with or spend time with who can help you replenish yourself or can you do this by yourself?

Finally, there are activities that I know do help when I'm overwhelmed. For me, it's spending time alone and playing a musical instrument. It's taking a long bubble bath and reading while I'm in the tub. Sometimes, it's taking off a few hours during the day to watch a DVD that I enjoy. Other times, it's driving to the park and taking a long walk.

If my mind is too active, it's trying to switch from left brain to right brain activities. Again, music does that for me, and so does photography. Being with animals instead of people works as well. Mostly, for me, it means that I need to be alone so that I can relax, regroup, and restore myself.


Carrie said...

Susan, your questions are very insightful. Sometimes the challenge is answering them honestly in the "heat of the moment" where we aren't sure how we are feeling. :-)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Carrie,
I totally agree! I noticed you haven't been blogging lately. Welcome back!


Wendalyn Love said...

What a wonderful post and so helpful! I am going to make a copy of it and put it on my bulletin board by my desk. They are all things I know but forget to do. Right now I know why I am overwhelmed but I don't see any way out of it until certain projects are completed and so... I plug away. Trying to fit in my 'feel well' activities is difficult when I am too busy. But I do appreciate your post so much! I wonder if Moses felt overwhelmed? I am sure he did! I never thought I could identify with Moses until you mentioned him in your quote and now I have some new incites which I will ponder (when I get time!)
The truth is that managing this illness is a full time job in itself and if I commit myself to that I usually do fine, but somehow life has to get lived and so... the challenge!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
So glad it helped. We all forget to do the things we need to when we're overwhelmed, don't we? Yes, I think Moses was overwhelmed!


Emma said...

Dear Susan, Once again your post, and the responses could not have been more helpful and appropriate for my present struggles. A timely reminder that it is journey shared, and also that the insights and experiences of others can give one a little more perspective. So frustrating, but oh so necessary, to move that one small step at a time!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Emma,
I'm so glad it helped. And yes, I agree that it's important to know that others are experiencing what we are, and finding ways to survive.