Being overwhelmed, we all have this feeling at some point or another. But this is specifically aimed at change workers, help workers, doctors, nurses, clinicians, coaches, and anyone that’s out there helping other people. 

Forgive me if I’ve missed anyone else out there. 

One of the greatest challenges that most of us coaches, therapists, and general people face is the feeling of being overwhelmed.

I see this among my own students, my own coaches, my colleagues, and my peers.

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People are constantly in overdrive. They find themselves being overwhelmed because of that, which then leads to being frustrated, feeling on edge, being stressed out, and even feeling burnt out. 

Struggling to balance personal and professional life becomes a daily battle.

Then we go out in the world, trying to find ways of creating balance.

What happens to us when we get into this overdrive mode? Think about this word for a second. Overdrive.

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Who’s driving you? 

The question is really important because we feel like it’s the circumstances that drive us. Or maybe it’s the demands on us, that drive us.

It’s my clients, my patients, or all my students that drive me, as I have to deliver on my commitments. 

Or maybe it’s even my financial circumstances that drive me. 

For some of us, it’s the goals that we have, that image of the six-figure big business or whatever it is that you’ve set yourself as a goal. 

In many cases and what’s common for most of us is that it’s a sense of duty. 

A sense of giving back that drives you and that’s totally understandable because you’re in the field of helping people. 

That’s a heart-centered profession. Alhamdulillah. 

So, it’s down to those feelings of stress that accompany the overwhelm that causes the imbalance in life.

Most of the time, we don’t think we can actually do anything about it. We feel stuck in a catch-22.

It’s like a problem of how am I going to fulfil my responsibilities and at the same time, not feel overwhelmed. 

My to-do list is never-ending, my list of people I need to see and help is never-ending. 

There’s always something that we can create in our minds for why we’re feeling what we’re feeling. 

The other challenge that comes as a result of being overwhelmed is that you can start to lose your compassion for the very people that you’re serving. 

This happens when you’re constantly stressed out and on the edge. If you’re on edge, you’re going to feel less and less compassion.

I have the most wonderful experience in helping my clients and my students, when I’m most centred, when I’m balanced and grounded. 

But I’ve had to learn that the hard way because this whole balance thing comes with more things to do. 

We try time management and different life hacks.

We try the very techniques that we’ve learned along the way, in psychology even, to create a sense of balance. 

How many of you actually spend time journaling? Or writing down what you’re feeling? Just so that you can analyse what’s going on.

How much time do you spend on positive thinking? Some of us might even do positive affirmations.

People do this to keep themselves balanced and grounded. 

Also, as a parent, this whole overwhelm can totally take a toll on your role in your home as well. 

It affects your relationships at times because after a long, stressful day of being compassionate and empathetic and serving and helping others. 

After those deep conversations and the critical analysis of your client’s situation, you find yourself being very short in mental energy. 

Have you ever felt a little short in empathy? And definitely, you just want some downtime without the need to speak. This has been my experience at times.

It’s the feeling when you get back from work, or when you clock out. Your family knows that’s when you stop working. 

Then all of a sudden, your kids are like, “Hey Mom, or Hey Dad, you’ve been working all day, give me some of your time now. Give me my time.”

“You’re giving your time to everyone else. What about my time?” 

They don’t say it in those words. But we interpret it like this. 

How many times have you said to yourself, they can never get enough of me? It’s like I can never do enough.

Have you ever felt like you’re going from a job to another job? 

Your daytime job to your nighttime weekend job. Me too. I’ve felt that one. 

But let me get to the point about the whole being overwhelmed thing.

It’s created. 

Where is all of this overwhelm, this stress, this overload, the burnout feeling, where’s it all coming from? 

There is no Burden You can’t Handle

Allah (swt) says in the Quran,

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ

Allah will not charge you, or burden you, except for what you have the capability to deal with. It’s never going to be beyond your ability. 

We’ve heard this verse many times.

As interesting as that is, here’s little old me feeling pretty burdened. I feel like I’m way overloaded. I feel like a donkey carrying a load on my back and my legs are just wobbling, about to give way. 

Do you know that feeling? 

Obviously, it’s the world on your back that you’re feeling.

It’s that feeling of being overwhelmed, by all those responsibilities. And maybe the donkey analogy is not quite befitting, especially since you’re in a heart-centred profession. 

But ask yourself. 

If the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, Allah Azzawajal is saying that he would never give you more than you can handle.

Then who’s burdening you then? Who’s the one that’s given you all of this burden, this heavy load?

Where’s it coming from?

Because the One who gives us everything that we need is telling us that He’s never going to give us more than we can handle. 

It seems like I’m actually burdening myself then. 

What do you think? Are we burdening ourselves?

That feeling of I must do this or I should do this or I should do that. 

Have you ever done that and kept on saying that to yourself, until you worked yourself up in a flurry of over-commitment?

Over-commitment has become an issue for many of us. 

Whereas on the other hand, you’ve got a bunch of under-committed people as well. The nature of people is that we either overcommit or undercommit.

For sure, it’s better to overcommit than it is to undercommit. 

However, in the long run, the level of commitment is detrimental to your own well-being. 

The level of commitment that we actually give things is what creates a lot of our problems. So balance is the key. 

How do we create this balance?

The Source of Your Imbalance

To create a balance, you need to understand where the imbalance is coming from. There are three different places that it could possibly be coming from. 

I suggest you think about it, and just reflect on which one is affecting you. 

Number one. You’re the sort of person who’s talking about what you’re going to be doing. 

But you’re not actually doing anything. That’s the under-committed level. 

You can be the person that is totally committed to having great ideas, and coming up with all these great plans for what you’re going to do. 

You talk about it repeatedly and you start to overanalyse everything.

You look at all the risks, you start weighing up the pros and the cons and the cons seem to scare you. Maybe that’s one group of people. 

The second place that imbalance comes from is that you’re taking action, but it’s way too much action, and it’s with so many different things. 

You’re spreading yourself so thin that you can’t possibly do well, or excel at any one of those things. 

You’ve put your energy on so many different things and that alone is enough to cause you some sort of internal haemorrhage. 

If you’re taking on way too many things, trying to focus on all of them, doing a juggling act, then you’re going to feel that imbalance. 

You’re really going to struggle with the results that you get.

If you don’t get the results that you want in some of those things, you’re going to beat yourself up, call yourself a loser, and think, why can everyone else do it and you can’t do it? 

The third place of imbalance comes from you taking all of your life’s energy, focus, and strength.

All your willpower and everything that you have and you put it into one thing. 

You do it so well and you spend so much time on this that you actually lose sight of your health, your family, your wealth, your kids, your friends, etc. 

So you think excel in this one thing that you get a lot of recognition for, or maybe lots of appreciation, lots of results. And you will exceed your goals and come out on top. 

BUT. There’s a big but.

You do this great work but you absolutely suck in the other areas of your life. 

So all of those other things that you’re not putting your attention into, that you’re not doing much of or you’re putting little attention into, or none at all. 

In those areas, you suck the life and energy out of all those things. And you plough it all into that one thing that you’re focused on. 

Does that sound familiar to you? 

If it does, then you have some great opportunities ahead of you, Insha’Allah. 

You can absolutely balance all of this out.

You can use your great ideas, those things that you’re over analysing and thinking about and you can actually get things done. 

But very importantly, you can do it whilst improving your own life and your own family circumstances. Here’s how to do it. 

Compassion and Self-Care 

First, you have to recognise that the Creator of mercy, the Creator of compassion, would never burden you with more than you can handle. 

If Allah isn’t doing that to you, if He’s not burdening you, then either you’re doing it to yourself or you’re allowing others to do it to you. 

Here’s the solution. It’s absolutely a choice. 

You choose what you do, or what you will allow others to do. So you can choose your health and well-being first. 

In fact, if you can’t be there for yourself, you’ll find it very difficult to truly be there for others. 

There is no such thing as being selfless. Not caring about yourself, and putting the world before yourself. 

Because if you do, this whole process of being selfless will give you those feelings of burnout.

It will lead you to actually resenting the people that you’re helping. 

Have you ever resented the people that you’re actually helping, the ones that you’re serving? 

Maybe they complain a little or they moan and due to that, you feel like your compassion for them is decreasing. 

Well, that’s not a sign of compassion. 

The sign of compassion is to be compassionate to yourself first. So that you can be your best.

The whole heart-centred profession is based on the fact that you’re doing okay yourself. 

And as a result, you can share that okayness with others. 

If you’re doing really badly and you’re always on edge, then that will come through in your work.

It will come through in your family life, and maybe even translate into your financial situation. That would be a really bad place to be.

When you’re in a really bad financial place, you’re not able to be totally there and give to others because, in the background of your mind, there’s always going to be some need that you haven’t tended to. 

So you need to be in a good place. That starts off with you psychologically and mentally being in a good state of affairs. 

That means you need to take care of yourself. If you’re feeling burdened, then you have to recognise or analyse where that burden is coming from.

Remember, Allah wouldn’t burden you more than you can bear. 

The Key to Unwinding 

Number two. You need downtime. That means downtime from work. That means learning to say no.

Peoples’ crises will become your crises. 

If you allow yourself to fall into the hype, the emotions, the roller coaster of feelings and expressions that you’ll see from your clients, from your patients, from your students, it will affect you. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be merciful and compassionate. 

Mercy and compassion are largely why you’re doing this job. 

But you can’t help them unless you are balanced and on firm ground. 

That requires taking time out to relax. Just say no. 

Allah (swt); the Creator of mercy, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, would never expect you to sacrifice your life for others.

In Islam, we are asked to sacrifice ourselves and our desires for the Creator. That is a win-win. That type of sacrifice demands that you look after yourself first. 

You hear the statement that your body is an Amana, your physical body is a trust that God has entrusted you with. That means you need to take care of it. 

So when you sacrifice yourself for God, it means that you have to look after yourself. When you think of it like that, it’s actually a completely different way of thinking. 

If you can take care of yourself, you can absolutely take care of others. But if you don’t, then you’re going to find it difficult to take care of others.

Simply because you’re not going to have what you need to give to others. 

Decide with Clarity 

Make decisions with a clear mind. Not from a place of emotions. That sounds strange and it’s common sense but it’s definitely not common practice. 

You can just step back when you feel a sense of emotions driving you. Especially if those emotions are fear, frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, or any other feeling that you don’t enjoy. 

Making a decision from a clearer mind will help you to realign with what you’re doing to help others in your service. And you’re serving God. 

If you do your service for the sake of Allah, you’ll always make a decision based on what’s good for you and good for others. 

You don’t need to sacrifice yourself for others or sacrifice others for your own needs. It’s neither for you nor them. It’s for Allah. 

A lot of people make decisions based on fear. And that’s really not a good place to make decisions.

Fear has a way of clouding the mind and putting you into this flight or fight mode of thinking. The survival mode. But actually, you are surviving just fine. 

It’s that fear state causing the emotional turbulence in your mind and your body. That’s causing you to feel that you are in survival mode. 

And you probably just need a bit of me time and family time without being on edge.

If you’re able to do these 3 things, it will really help you to redress the balance. 

The last thing is that whatever you’re experiencing in a crisis can be normalised if you normalise your thinking. 

This sounds a bit counterintuitive, but if you’re constantly soaking up news and social media and you’re in a frenzy, then this situation will have an effect on you. 

It may be that you are experiencing this with your clients, your students, or your patients. You’re taking on their anxieties and their fears. 

You’re seeing this all day long and it’s affecting your own emotional stability. 

You may even begin to think that the whole world is experiencing exactly what your clients, patients or students are experiencing. 

We start to generalise whatever we experience throughout the day, then we start to think that everyone is experiencing that. 

Not the case at all.

The people you are helping are experiencing whatever they’re sharing with you. But the rest of the world is fine. 

Everyone is in good stead, albeit they might be bingeing on the news and the social media hype. If that happens, then obviously they’re going to be worked up. 

But if you look at their situation, they’re actually fine. 

By dropping out of the world in crisis thinking, you’ll feel a lot better. 

And don’t forget, it’s the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, that is taking care of His world, and everyone in it when you’re tired and fast asleep. 

We might think at times that the world needs us. 

The world actually just needs us to be good. And in good stead, and not overwhelmed, not stressed, not on edge, because that’s when we are able to serve the most. 

I hope this will help you in some way to redress the balance in your mind, even if it’s not immediately in your physical world.

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About the Author: Abdul Shahid – Master Coach Trainer & Therapist of Professional Life Coaches, pioneering The Science of the Nafs Psychology model for healing, transformation and peak performance. Specialist in Mind health, wealth and mastery using this Quran and sunnah based Spiritual Psychology.