How To Know When 'Doing The Work' Is Actually Working?
You want to notice three markers of progress: intensity, frequency, and recovery time.
What do we know? Chronic overwhelm is costing you money, relationships, and health. We know that that overwhelm has systemic, societal origins. *And* we know that owning how much power you have over your inner experience is a way of taking up space and reclaiming your own aliveness. *And* that owning your personal experience can create ripple effects of change for others' experiences, which can in turn move families and communities worldwide to change broader, systemic structures.
Sometimes, it can be demoralizing to feel like you're doing all the 'right' things and sh*t keeps consistently hitting the fan. What if I told you that there's no way to avoid the fact that "Life is both dreadful and wonderful...", as Thich Nhat Hanh said? What if I shared the crushing truth that dreadful things will continue to happen simply because they sometimes do? What if I also shared the freeing truth that wonderful things will continue to happen simply because they often do?
And. Another truth: your efforts are real. They are adding up in big and small ways every day. The *true* goal is to make your experiences better over time. So, how do you keep up the momentum of the changes you're making?
In order to know if 'doing the work' is *actually* "working", you want to notice three markers of progress:
3. Recovery time
For example, let's say that chronic overwhelm shows up for you by freezing in front of your computer and not knowing where to start.
1. You can begin by noticing the current intensity of that frozen state. Maybe your breath gets shallow, your hands feel clammy, and the usual negative self talk gets very loud or anything like that?
2. You can notice the frequency with which you find yourself in it. Is it most of the time or a few times a week? Simply notice.
3. Finally, how long does it usually take you to recover from it? Does it take 6 hours of talking to yourself in ways you wouldn't talk to another human to finally try to get 8 hours of work in 2 hours? Again, noticing is a profound practice to start with.
With competent support, you can 'do the work' to understand your nervous system responses, unconscious behaviours, desired states, as well as the experiences that you need now to get what you didn't get in the past. The more consistently you 'do the work', the more you'll start to notice how your default state will change over time. Through this deeper work:
1. You'll be able to shift behaviours, belief systems, and conditions of living that can lessen the intensity of this frozen state.
2. You'll find yourself less viscerally frozen less frequently.
3. You'll also notice that, if it used to take you six hours to get out of that panicked state, one day your recovery time might be 3 hours and then it might get be a few minutes, if at all.
Ultimately, the deeper work of breaking the cycle of chronic overwhelm is to increase your capacity to adapt to change mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Neurobiologically and physiologically, you want to increase your nervous system's flexibility. Why? So, that when the dreadful happens (because it sometimes does), you can weather the storm. *And*. So, that when wonderful happens (because it often does), you can bask in it.
As @awakenwithally has shared before, the nervous system responds to familiarity, intensity, and safety. That means that your system might experience discomfort when the dreadful happens due to the intensity. It might also experience discomfort when the wonderful happens due to lack of familiarity. Ultimately, your nervous system is always processing the degree of physiological safety you're in. Whatever the case may be, you want to help your system experience less intense dysregulation, less frequently, and with a shorter recovery time.
For Executive Coaching support with this deeper work, book a Discovery Call with me today. We can get to the other side of chronic overwhelm together.