Dealing with Seasonal Overwhelm
The trees are deepening their green every day and the flowers are popping off in full symphonic bursts. The wild roses flutter snowlike down the hillside and between the birds, the bees, the peepers and the neighborhood kids there is music every hour of the day.
It is a complete summer paradise.
And here I am, in the midst of all, feeling completely overwhelmed.
This seems to happen to me every time the wheel turns into a new season (but most especially summer)—the deep thrill of change is almost always accompanied by an unexpected roller-coaster drop of overwhelm. The tip from spring into summer is brilliant – but it’s a frequency upshift that can take a whole lot out of those of us who are sensitive.
Some years ago I found Dr. Elaine Aron’s work on highly sensitive people and it all clicked for me. Turns out, there is a scientifically-distinguishable subsection of the population whose nervous systems are simply more sensitive, and therefore more easily overwhelmed, than the general populous. Highly sensitive people experience things more vividly, feel more deeply, and are affected by subtleties that many others wouldn’t even notice.
It’s a gift to be sensitive. It is what allows the sherbet of a sunset to completely melt you, and a summer thunder storm to rinse you clean with its rain-washed air.
But it also means that, like the sweetest softest mulberries on the vine, we need to learn to take care of ourselves that much more tenderly.
Early summer is overwhelming for about a bazillion reasons. But for highly sensitive people the transition from the permission to be interior that winter gives to the flurry of summer social activities, relationships blossoming, and things coming to a head can feel like too much to handle.
It took me a long time to recognize that my tides of anxiety (the ones that cause those heart palpitations, and emotional freak outs and insomnia) arise almost entirely out of overwhelm. The very nature of overwhelm means that our senses get backlogged— making it difficult for us to get clear enough to understand why we feel so off. For me, one of my first signs of overwhelm is that I have trouble making a decision. When I don’t know whether I should go out or stay in, eat rice or quinoa, watch tv or read a book… I know what I really need to do is address my overwhelm.
Today the river has overflowed its bank after a long week of rain. It has come up to the lowest branches of the box elders on the bank and is threatening to submerge the patches of spiderwort blooming further up on the grass. And yet… when I tune into this rush (which, by all accounts, is the definition of bursting) I don’t get a feeling of overwhelm. Instead, I just feel a fullness. A happiness to be in the rushing life of one’s self.
Summer is a time of growth, expansion and output, to be sure. But I think we humans often interpret this to mean that we need to be responsive to all of the outer demands on our time, space, and energy.
But what if summer was actually inviting us to tend the inner lushness.
The plants and animals that come to life in summer aren’t chained to external dictates for how they should put energy out into the world. They are following the thread of their inner desires to bloom, eat, play, rest, make love. They are spinning out from a center of their own flowering and following the joy of that unfurling.
So instead of demanding that you keep up with the pace of growth around you, what if summer was really asking you…. What inside of you wants more lushness? What aspect of your inner life force is wanting to overflow its banks in a rush of joie de vivre?
Maybe it’s your desire for midnight swims or long afternoons to read. Or more time to play. Or stretch or sketch or sing.
Whatever it is, summer is already saying yes to this inner lushness.
All you have to do is say yes to yourself.
. . .
Keep reading for my three go-to practices for reducing season overwhelm. And remember that your sensitivity is special, and you are so not alone.
3 Ways to Ease Seasonal Overwhelm
1. Go for “Weather Walks”
I find that so much of my overwhelm comes when I feel out-of-step with the world around me. One of the first things I do to address any overwhelm is ask myself— how can I go even deeper into the season itself to absorb its natural medicine?
One of my favorite practices is to go out for weather walks, walks that are very specifically undertaken to get out in the elements and interact with the weather that most people avoid (rain, snow, sun, wind etc.). I walk to let the natural mood of the season touch me completely, and allow it to guide me with its natural flow. Immersing myself with what is actually happening within the land around me never fails to help me re-ground in myself. Plus, it’s a good way to get some outside time with less people around! (always a bonus for us sensitives and introverts).
2. Find a plant who is in their glory right now
Is there plant right now who is truly glowing during this time? An herb that is blooming, setting leaves, soaking it all in, or absolutely slaying during this season of shine? Connect to them. They know exactly how to harness this moment and they will teach you how to ride the wave of this season. One of my favorite ways of working with a plant is to take their flower essence, keeping it on me whenever I need a drop to help me come down off of overwhelm.
3. Weed down your sensory input
This season is often a rush for all the senses. It’s wondrous, but can also tip us over the edge. Reducing the sheer amount of sensory input we receive can do wonders to downgrade an overwhelmed nervous system and help you reset your sensitivity so you can really feel again. Try taking a mandatory evening away from the phone. Or turning off almost all the lights in your room during a storm and just listen to the wind. Close your eyes while you smell a flower or pop in earplugs as you walk down the street. Try picking out your clothes by touch alone or wrap yourself up like a burrito in your blankets and watch the sun go down. Think about letting one of your senses rest at a time, and see if that can help you to refind your roots.
I always have a rough time with seasonal change, even as a child. I too am highly sensitive. There are times when it feels like a curse. I have learned over the years that overstimulation can drain me quicker than anything. I did read that book and felt such a relief afterward. I have been an herbalist for over 40 years and I know the power of scent. I love your blog, posts and pictures. When I was young I took a class from an herbalist/nurse. She hand wrote all her recipes for me. I know she has since passed on but I shall never forget the gift she gave me.
Thanks for sharing here Susan, and I love remembering how powerful scent is. Sometimes I need to remember to just close my eyes and take a deep breath. Big love to you.