Being in the ‘the thick of it’ – the periphery of your wellbeing – by Dr Dee Gray

Hello everyone,

I hope this finds you well. I was moved to write this following deep conversations I am having with all sorts of people. I hope you find it helpful.

In the thick of it…in the thick of what? An increasing workload? A workload that includes more stuff that you are not qualified for or interested in? A workload that is more emotionally loaded than before so that you feel desperate about all the things you are not doing that you should be, and guilty about all the things you are not doing well, and sad too because you feel you have to hold all this in because if you don’t….well….everyone is relying on you.

How are you holding all of this together? By working longer days? By working more days? By not talking about how you feel about all of this? By ranting at family and/or close friends, then feeling bad because you are worried you will lose their love and friendship?

What is driving this for you, and what do we mean by ‘thick’? There will be the usual suspects such as fear, fear of letting others down, fear of being unemployed, fear of being bankrupt, fear of being homeless. Perhaps the biggest fear though is reserved for fear of the pandemic, fear that you will catch Covid, fear that you will spread Covid, fear that Covid will take those you love away from you.

You may also be feeling a sense of grief for the things that now feel beyond your reach, things you had mapped your life out doing…like travelling, buying a house, getting your dream job, taking time out to have children, expanding your business, supporting your family, retiring so you can plant trees, learn new languages, write that book, read that book…..These things that are part of your life map, seemingly removed, so how do you feel now….lost? Has your sense of purpose evaporated?

Let’s think about ‘thick’, we often use this word to describe a situation where there is a lot going on, and you are right at the heart of it. Up to a point this is exciting, and you will be experiencing eustress which is the positive stress experience. There is a tipping point however where this shifts into distress, and the ‘thickness’ of events close in on you, here it feels as though despite your best efforts, you are running to standstill …..and then you hit overwhelm.

So let’s think about overwhelm; what do we mean by overwhelm? In this context we can describe it as being the effect of strong forces, causing intense emotional responses (or paradoxically flattening appropriate emotional responses), which brings you to a point of exhaustion and defeat. If the context in which you are living is one which brings about overwhelm what can you do?

Firstly acknowledge these are unusual times. But also check out the bigger picture, history isn’t something that happens to other people, big events happen to you in your lifetime too. Then remember how your life has been a series of ups and downs, you have survived them all. You have had good experiences of adapting, changing, and enduring. You know, that you have always done your best, and that isn’t going to change now. But before you launch yourself back into stuff, you need to step back from the ‘thick’ and make some decisions that will help you, and not waste your energy.

If you are close to overwhelm, you have got to take time out to rest or you will be overwhelmed. This is non-negotiable. If you have already tipped into overwhelm you have now got to let go of the fear of being in this space because you are already here, and guess what, you are ok.

It will take some time for you to move out of this space, accept this is where you are and draw on that amazing resourcefulness you have to help your ‘self’.  Your ‘self’ is now your priority, because all of those things that you do, all of the things you take responsibility for, and all of the things that you plan to do need the secret ingredient of you.

Start with your ‘self’ and the thickness of overwhelm becomes less viscous, and step by step you will be able to create new paths to walk down.

Take care everyone and stay safe.   Dee