According to Merriam-Webster, the word whelm is to turn upside down, to cover or engulf completely like a boat being overwhelmed by a rouge wave. In humanity it can feel like our lives are turned upside down by unexpected situations, or we can simply be overcome by unexpected thoughts or feelings. These may temporarily knock the wheels off the specifically laid tracks of the plans for our lives.
My “re-entry” from Nepal has been challenging in oh so many ways and during one of my doctor visits I found out my blood pressure was high. So I went to my primary care physician in concern - I’ve never had high blood pressure before. After sharing with her all that’s happened in the past 3.5 months along with a very recent unexpected big, big disappointment that has created more chaos in my life, I was officially diagnosed with “overwhelm." Hearing that made me chuckle ~ I didn’t know that was a diagnosis!
And… it actually really helped me. It got me to see a new perspective that I couldn’t see when clinging to the whelm of the moment.
Being in overwhelm simply means caught in a temporary surge. Think of a storm surge ~ a storm by its very nature wants to move on. This moment in time will move on. As long as I don’t cling or attach to the surge (which is the very nature of suffering ~ attachment) with thoughts of blame, anger, or victimhood I can ride through the storm. I’ll cling to the tools I’ve been taught over the years: conscious breathing, meditation, yoga, and the anatomy of life-practices will keep me buoyant, even when I feel I’m being pulled under water. I know this surge, this whelm, has an end and I will be there to recognize and celebrate the end when it arrives.
If you're caught in the midst of some whelm in your life, try not to make it wrong. Allow it and allow your own surge of whelm to release the pressure if need be. Cry! Scream into a pillow! Punch the air! Let the pressure out. Then when the emotional whelm has passed, feel it’s dissipation. Recognize the cycle of the rise and fall, the surge comes and goes. Life comes at us in waves and we get to choose how we want to ride the wave!