Grace in the Overwhelm

“I’m overwhelmed.”

It’s one of the things I love about her. So direct. So to the point. So honest about the overwhelm. In the moments following, I felt every ounce of her overwhelm in my bones. My thoughts raced with a response.

“Me, too.”
“How can I help?”
“What do you need?”
“What can you do about it?”

Luckily, my words behaved differently than my thoughts. I invited her to share more, and together we found a small but helpful solution.

Overwhelm is a completely common experience and at no point are we going to find a magic formula to find this feeling. However, in our day to day life, we do not have to remain beholden to the chaos.

We are too busy. We say yes to everything that comes our way when we want to avoid missing out. But what would we really be missing? There must be a better way for those of us who love the active, engaged, busy lifestyle. We must learn to strike a balance between completely at rest and completely overwhelmed. Finding balance is not about finding a straight line of equal attention between work and play. Balance is learning about what you need more of, and running full tilt in pursuit of what brings you to life.

But it’s not only the extroverted non-stoppers that experience overwhelm. Overwhelm discriminates against no person. The introverted; the overthinkers. At some point, everyone engages overwhelm as if we can truly think our way out of the complexity we’ve found ourselves engulfed within. Overwhelm is not a matter of tasks to accomplish, but of perspective.

When we are overwhelmed, we go into autopilot. We may feel stuck in our roles or decisions, trapped with no way out. We last out at others, apologizing but still feeling the intensity of our reactions. Maybe we shut down and just try to mute the world. This is when the basest version of ourselves leans into self-protection and all the intentional, internal work we’ve done fades away as forgotten.

But did life happen to us? Are we victims of our circumstances or victors? In the middle of all this overwhelm, are we busy attempting to control the world around us or control the quality of our lives, regardless of the world around us?

Even in the pursuit of mental restoration, we can become overwhelmed. At the beginning of 2020 (before the pandemic was a true reality for Americans), I started the year in a pit of despair. My attempts to climb out included multiple self-help guru workbooks, printables, and so damn many lists. As if I could mentally escape by organizing my way through. But in overwhelm, we typically can’t organize our way out of a mowed-down corn maze. Because the overwhelm is not about the jobs we must accomplish.

Tackling the overwhelm is always going to include some mitigation of the task list. One of my favorite ways to do this is to look at my schedule on Sunday evenings and start slashing away. If I don’t see enough margin in the week ahead, I know I will be an unbearable monster to my family and others. Trust me: It is better for me to reschedule our consultation than be unable to focus during our conversation.

The other tools to combat overwhelm include simplifying the amount of noise in your day. If you’re a podcast listener, maybe only pick one or two a day. Are you a writer? Create more content than you consume. If you’re a parent… good luck. I’m with you, and it’s almost always overwhelming. But it’s equal parts incredible as well, so I think it’s a fair trade.

But my absolute favorite tool to combat the overwhelm is not external. Eliminating that locked-in-your-chest feeling of breath means engaging your inner child. Not in a woo-woo way. But from the perspective of one looking for a friend. Overwhelm is not bad – it’s just information. Like smoke leads us to the source of the fire, overwhelm informs our brain that our lives are acting a little too much like kindling.

What if you dropped the ball? What if you cancelled the meeting? Sometimes I’ve followed through on events or jobs I resented because I believed without my commitment, they would fall to pieces. Fun fact: Very few of us are actually that “important” to the minutiae. In the most loving way possible, we must embrace the idea that the world will continue when we stop engaging with it. Does that mean we’re not important as humans? Of course not. But we have an inflated sense of ego that often disallows us from acting from a position of humility first. If we become obsessed with disappointing others or identifying as a lynchpin, we won’t notice the seeds of overwhelm taking root at our feet.

I find the seasons of overwhelm in my life to be the most prominent when I am living outside of my values. The vision I have for my life should be the reason I commit to anything: Careers, volunteering, having more children. We have a responsibility first to honor our vision by weighing the Yes and No responses with equanimity. If we can practice approaching each opportunity with humility and vision for what may come, we can refrain from exerting control and instead allow transformation to occur. Our lives are transformed not only by what we do, but also by what we do not do.

Evaluate the obligations in your story. Are you inline with your values? Do the things that take your time and attention away from the main thing fuel the long term intention of your life? If they all factor in and seem “on brand” for your current mission, are there pieces of the vision that could use a break for a season?

Personally, I have a lot on my plate. I’m an emcee for a women’s group, co-host a podcast, write online for a number of publications, and have a family. That’s leaving out a lot of details, too. But when I get the chance to get my paddle board in the water, I’m layering on the sunblock faster than you can blink. Why? Does paddle boarding fuel the vision for my life or align with my values? Absolutely. In my life, balance looks like seasons. I am fuelled by production, leading, writing, speaking, and more. But paddle boarding is a place where I simply cannot retain anything I produce. I can speak, sing, cry, talk, or lay quietly on the board – and record nothing. Whatever comes of that time is mine. Overwhelm has no place at the table when I’m serving my vision and holding myself in a humble but high regard.

There are a number of ways we can refine our vision, find our values, and give them all names to keep our focus. Rather than spend 3000 words extolling the methodologies that have helped me, I want to empower you to do your own work. Name your values. Name the future you want. Call yourself by the name you want to carry into every interaction. Today, I chose to call myself “sanguine.” It means cheerful, hopeful, confident, and assured. Cheery, even. Is this my constant state? Decidedly not. However, when I recognize the beauty in the word and the alignment with its definition and the values I hold close, I see it is absolutely a name I want for myself.

Do you love your vision – your values? Do you love your future, as it looks right now? Unknown, yes. But with some blurry, lumpy framework ahead. You have an idea of where you’re going, even if it is miniscule and far away. If the ideas and obligations ahead overwhelm you, then it is time for you to take permission to slow down or even stop. Ask some of those “what if” questions to help you determine if something you’ve committed to is ready for a seasonal break (like a podcast) or to be altogether left behind.

Maybe you struggle to determine how you could possibly pull away or retract your commitment. It’s not always about “letting your yes be yes.” I’ve said yes, meant no, followed through, and made sure everyone knew how awful it was to participate. It’s a terrible place to be! If this sounds like you, then grab someone you trust and let them dream on your behalf. I tell you the truth: Through this very action, the greatest dreams and adventures in my life have come from seemingly impossible circumstances. Those close to us should know our hearts, our values, and the purpose with which we are saying yes to our obligations. They can help us uncover any unmade or “mindless” decisions that need to be addressed. Let’s invite their wisdom into the calculation of what brings balance to our lives instead of chasing down more “experts.” After all, the experts only know what worked well for them. And in the meantime, let’s be understanding of our shortcomings. We’re not experts, but we are humans. If we’ve made it through today without biting anyone, then I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job. – Mandy

Catch Episode 13, Grace in the Overwhelm, now!

The Irony of Discomfort

 

It’s Kaylene!

Oh, dear friends. It’s almost time for the release of episode 4, featuring our insightful and hilarious producer Kaylene Brown. As an self-described “extreme introvert,” we were so honored to host a story from her in the first place.

We recorded this episode together nearly a year ago, as with the three previously released episodes. It would be safe to say that we’ve improved as interviewers in the last year, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to say just that!

Listening back to the first four episodes of this podcast a year after recording has been equal parts encouraging and humbling. Recently, I reached out to our dear Kaylene for some personal feedback. Hearing your own voice and methods on the airwaves will trigger insecurities you thought you’d outgrown, and such was the case yet again.

“I think you’re just being really critical of yourself.”

Y’all. Find yourself a Kaylene. If you do not have someone in your storyline willing to point out the dramatic, unkind thoughts you host about yourself from time to time… well. You’re missing out.

Kaylene’s story (brief though it may be) is RICH with the same willingness to offer grace in her own life as well as to mine. Learning to listen and value the voice of others can be the lifeline you need when intrusive thoughts would rather shut you down.

While I could complain about the discomfort of publishing work I’m less than thrilled about, I can also recognize the beauty of allowing my work to exist, regardless of any perceived lack. Because WE are humans, and we exist, regardless of any perceived lack. Our lack is exactly why the grace of God is so beautiful, inviting, and necessary in our story.

The podcast will never be perfect, because it was never meant to be perfect. It was meant to be uncomfortable.

May we each find a new level of grace in the ironic celebrations of discomfort.

Enjoy the new episode,

Mandy

How You Build Your Story Matters

Three questions from discomfort to spur your growth.

Yesterday, episode three of the Uncomfortable Grace Podcast sailed on the audio waves into homes across the nation. So far my co-host and I have discussed discomfort, tension, and growth: Three topics that will run as undercurrents for every episode to follow. Although we already have a handful of new episodes in the hold, I want to take a moment to refocus and adjust our sails. These are questions we ask ourselves each time we rise, and we invite you to ask yourself the same.

image of sailborders on choppy water, with one tipping over completely in the foreground.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

1. What are you passionate about?

Finding what stirs and ignites your soul matters. What you are building for yourself and your future matters. There is a deeply rooted passion in your spirit; not a calling, not a job, not a career. Finding what thrills can feel daunting and overwhelming. It can take a lifetime, but it doesn’t have to! What you are passionate about is what moves the needle toward wholeness and happiness in your life. Where do you experience the most joy in your daily life? Is it so infrequent that it only happens once in a blue moon? That’s okay! But nail it down. What is the thing that makes your chest feel heavy and light all at the same time?

It’s time for you to admit that you crave purpose, connection, and creation. Your contribution to the world may be the very thing that moves the needle toward wholeness for a stranger across the globe! Take a risk today — observe your story like an outsider, looking in. What do you see in your story that sets your heart on fire?

2. Can you silence/befriend the critics, inside and out?

Sight into your story is one thing. Navigating toward the source without being shot down by the critics is quite another. Many a ship has taken on water, between the crashing waves from our inner critic and from the assumptions we make about the opinion of others.

Confronting the external critics comes easier once you’ve learned to befriend the one inside your heart. We can learn and practice dismissing the opinions from those we would never seek advice. Those critics outside of the stadium get no play on these airwaves. But as a former risk-averse creative paralyzed by fear, I’ve found the one true way to combat my inner critic: Embrace.

My inner critic is still me. Sometimes she runs her mouth, talking a big game but really hiding behind insecurity. She’ll often quote something that sounds like wisdom but feels like frostbite. But when I realized my inner critic was my 10-year-old self, watching the moments of risk with wary eyes because of the potential for pain and failure, I was able to offer her a moment of grace.

My inner critic wants to keep me safe, security, certain, and protected. My inner critic has been with me through the trauma and loss and is too easily rundown by fighting her good fight all on her own. It is my joy to remind her that she fights at my side, covered with the authority I carry through life. She is not alone. And neither are you.

Befriend your inner critic. Treat that child inside as the vulnerable, hopeful, and scared kid. This is intense, difficult work! But you can do hard things well! Not because you are innately talented at hard things, but because you can recognize where you need support, affection, and grace through the challenges.

3. How can you uncover growth through tension?

You have one life. One chance to uncover the richness of your story, your life, and live wildly with a heart on fire. That chance will present itself to you repeatedly until you finally welcome it in the door. Tension shows up, inviting you deeper. Tension is the catalyst for your story bubbling to the surface.

When we embrace our story, we owe it to ourselves (and that inner critic) to accept all sides. No story is without shadows. If you hate the idea of pulling your precious ideals, passions, and story off the pedestal — take heart. You’re not alone in the resistance to such an uncomfortable invitation, but if the promise of peace means anything to you… then this is a beautiful place to start.

Accessing peace is like any other process — start where you are with what you have. There is no magic formula or shortcut to take. Simply acknowledge that tension begets growth. If you want it, you can have it. You just need to be willing to push back. After all, it’s only the wind that moves the sails.

Big gratitude from me!

Mandy

Into the Atmosphere!

Launch Day! After such a long time wondering if we would ever get this baby into the world, it feels strange to celebrate such a big deal with a simple blog post.

“Start a podcast!” They said. “It is super simple!” They said.

Indeed, the heart behind this cast is simple; creating space for brave souls to share their stories of discomfort, growth, and grace in life. We all need to be reminded that we are living & breathing, capable of taking risks and living to tell the tale. Even finding victims (ahem, episode guests), willing to speak vulnerably about their process and struggles isn’t the hardest part.

In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear writes, “Human behavior follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.” Essentially, make your work easier because at your core, you are lazy. I don’t know if I completely agree with him. My Dad used to say, “Work smart, not hard.” And hard work means something, but when these two perspectives stacked upon one another, I personally spent a very long time trying to work hard enough not to be considered lazy, but to also be very smart about it. That resulted in a LOT of analysis paralysis and slow decision-making (which is the worst, if you ask me).

What we really faced in the two year waiting period for this podcast to explode, was resistance. Resistance is self-sabatoge (thanks Steven Pressfield). As we awakened to the people and writers we want to become for this project, the Resistance reared up, ready to list the litany of distractions that needed attention first. The loudest distraction? Misery.

Podcasting is like this glorious, magical, slightly distant realm of people I never understood, but wanted to join. The interviews, the constant interactions with new people, the creativity… all of it appeals to my creative, extroverted heart in a way that current jobs just weren’t. I didn’t expect, however, for myself to be miserable in the pursuit of trying to figure it out.

Between self-doubt, despair, the incessant vulnerability hangovers, and confusion, I allowed resistance to tell me I deserved to be happy and fully prepared for podcasting when the time finally came. It needed to be perfect, and could be, if only I studied a little more or waited a little longer.

How dismissive of process. And therein lies the irony; I wanted perfection on a podcast about uncomfortably leaning into grace when you need it the most. After all this time, I was in agreement with the resistance. You’d think a rebel leader like myself would feel GREAT about such an alignment, but this resistance is less revolutionary and more dying-a-slow-boring-uncreative-lonely-death.

Thankfully, we had two incredible advisors come alongside our team in this project. As we are celebrating this baby joining the airwaves, we want to thank Tom Boyles, host of the Loot Box Podcast and Danny Hall, of Danny Hall Films for their expertise, encouragement, guidance and website/media hosting help in the face of panic.

Tom Boyles is our web support and long time Rubeus Hagrid impersonator with one of the most generous hearts on the planet. His podcast features friends from across the country, discussing video games, movies, pop culture, and more. Check it out! (https://www.lootboxers.com).

Danny is the photographer for all the beautiful images you see in our marketing, but you should see his drone film work (indeed, you can at https://dannyhallfilms.com/). The man has vision.

Nothing left for you to do but listen to our first episode on Apple podcasts, or wherever you subscribe, and for the LOVE, leave a great review – they are SO HELPFUL. And if you’re really committed, leave us a tip on Buy Me A Coffee! If you opt into a recurring monthly membership, you will receive early access to podcasts (as soon as I figure that out), as well as exclusive Instagram content and swag giveaways (as soon as we figure that out). See? Nothing needs to be perfect. It just needs to get started. Take the risk.

Love y’all!

Mandy

 

Why Uncomfortable Grace?

Admit it! You have uncomfortable storylines in your life! And now, you’re here… exactly where you need to be. Listen as we interview humans with grit, moxie, and grace through every uncomfortable circumstance they encounter. These people understand what it means to find grace in the middle of the mess! We want you to feel emboldened and courageous to face hard things with confidence. Don’t run from discomfort! Join us as we bring those complicated, internal dialogues to the table and press into the awkward and uncomfortable together! You deserve the same relationship with grace because it is so much more than a bible buzzword.

Welcome to Uncomfortable Grace.