This idea has many shapes: Choice Overload, Post Event Collapse Syndrome, Analysis Paralysis, and Information Overload but they all have this in common: more of something than one can effectively handle. I just got back from an Alaskan cruise. Never wanted to go on a cruise but the chance to see a glacier was too good to miss. But the buffet! Honestly, there must have been at least 300 feet of choices: eggs 5 ways, 12 fruits, at least 25 assorted pastries, 20 cooked and cold cereals, and every meat you can imagine and some you probably don’t want to. I want breakfast to be relaxing. This wasn’t.
I remember taking the grandkids to a movie a few summers back. We stopped by the neighborhood grocery store for treats-at-a-reasonable-price (sorry, Mr. Harkins). Though the candy aisle was all too familiar to me, I realized that the kids had never stood before one. What began in happy excitement quickly deteriorated into irritability and tantrums from the younger ones. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I realized that there were just too many choices, all novel with no historic frame of reference. This was an excellent example of Choice Overload.
You observe Post Event Collapse Syndrome often. When you are surprised that you didn’t get a call from the principal but find the child who kept it together all day shows up at home a messy pile of emotions and attitude, you are seeing it in spades. When you make it through a crisis, high pressure meeting, or even a dreaded social gathering with your coping intact only to get to the end of it and finally give in to feeling overwhelmed and finally collapse (in whatever style collapse you employ: drinking, eating, sleeping, crying, etc.) you have transitioned into post event collapse.
I consider buying a car a purchase worthy of significant research but I’m at risk for Analysis Paralysis if I go too deep down that rabbit hole. Struggling to prioritize my needs and wants gets in the way of efficient decision making.
Finally, Information Overload as reflected in the music of Duran Duran and The Police has some of us taking news holidays. It happens when we hear of the tragedies all around the world or the views of the politicians we are electing. Our power is limited. How do we find space to grieve the suffering of others but not take responsibility to relieve all of it? No single source of information or relief is perfect; we just have to determine a few trusted sources and the issues in which we really want to engage. Our responsibility as citizens requires this of us. Our empathy demands we come to terms with it.
As the parents of children with a variety of trauma histories and medical complications you have clearly established priorities for the application of your empathy. I encourage you to also examine the various sources of overload in your life and to learn to recognize the signs of overload in yourself and your children. It isn’t just people with trauma histories who experience overload, it is all of us. The day I spent trying to get on board that enormous cruise ship left me absolutely numb from overload. As my friend said, “I just didn’t have the bandwidth for anymore decisions or adaptations.”
Self-Care, self-awareness, and a support system are what it takes to avoid/manage overload of any kind. Here are some tips for you and your children:
- Protect time for routine self-care, for those practices that replenish you.
- Say NO when you know you should. Don’t be guilt tripped!
- Set your priorities and respect them; but rethink your to-do list daily.
- Take vacations, even if only for 30 minutes.
- Declutter your home.
- Use respite, tap out with your partner, connect with others.
- Know your strengths and play to them.
- Other folks’ opinion of you is none of your business.
- Delegation breeds agency. Do it more.
- Practice gratitude.
- Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar.
- Our Friday night Happy Hour and Tuesday afternoon Coffee Chat continue. Some find me and a single other participant; others find a conversation among 4 to 6 people. The topics range from the silly to what hobbies have us in their grip to what life has thrown in our path. If you ever find yourself wanting a bit of grown-up conversation, consider joining us (check your email for the unchanging link).
- Registration is also open for our regional Circles of Supportive Families. Reach out to find another parent who understands.
- I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://www.pcaaz.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/B21-Insightful-Caregiving-Intimacy.pdf and at https://www.neurosequential.com/covid-19-resources
Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.