A Hurricane of Overwhelm

My heart goes out to the millions of people impacted by recent natural disasters. I used to live in Houston, and I have friends and clients impacted by the devastation in Florida and the Caribbean. Add to that the wildfires burning in the west, and the recent massive earthquake in Mexico, and it’s no wonder many are feeling shell-shocked. And these are just the natural disasters! We have to actively manage focus and language to avoid a steep descent into a state of helplessness and dismay.

Your very natural reaction to all of this is overwhelm. All four of the limiting beliefs are triggered:

  • If I can’t keep up I’ll die: even though intellectually you know you’re not going to die, your over-stimulated nervous system has taken charge.
  • It’s all too much: yes it is! Especially when it all seems to stack – event upon event – in every direction. Overconsuming media – even your facebook news feed! – can add to this.
  • There’s not enough: the next natural belief to follow in this situation is to wonder how all the rebuilding will happen. Where will the resources come from? Where to even begin?

And ultimately, the last limiting belief, is

  • I’m not enough: we’re all inadequate for the monumental demands of the world. Yet we relish the small acts of heroism and contribution we hear about.

What to do when you’re overwhelmed by it all? If you’re not directly affected:

  • Control how much you subject yourself to the news. It doesn’t help anyone to make yourself crazy with worry. Sometimes people feel a version of “survivor’s guilt” – they feel bad that others are suffering so they make themselves suffer too. That’s like trying to save a drowning person by jumping out of the boat and drowning with them. Better to keep yourself as well and resourceful as you can to help in whatever way you can.
  • Focus on what you CAN to do help. We keep our brains in problem solving mode when we focus on what we CAN do rather than what we CAN’T. It’s impossible to be truly resourceful when we are overwhelmed.
  • Think about your strengths and resources. Even if you don’t have construction or medical experience, you can make a difference. Donate to the Red Cross or other organizations that are aiding in disaster relief. What is one some act of caring you can give? For Hurricane Maria specifically, here is an article about some options for giving: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-help-puerto-rico-hurricane-maria-2017-9/#the-center-for-popular-democracy-5
  • Lean into whatever your empowering beliefs are. Prayers, meditation, community. Those who do something will fare better than those who don’t!


It’s totally natural to feel a sense of overwhelm and helplessness in times like these. Yet this is when it’s important to choose a path of empowerment for what you CAN do, whether in your family, your neighborhood, or the world. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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