Overwhelm and holidays

Before we went on holiday last month I was exhausted. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up work-wise, writing-wise, art-wise and the inevitable huge list of chores to do before we were suitably ready to finally leave the house…

I was very ready for a holiday. I took my laptop with me so that I could write but in the end I never even opened it. Getting away from home was good for me, and good for us as a family. I had a few very early nights, falling asleep when the kids went to sleep, and a few nights I stayed awake long enough to have a cup of decaf tea and to chat with my husband. We took our time to get ready in the mornings, spent most of the days at the beach (one day at a dinosaur-themed park) and also visited a castle. The only ‘officially’ creative thing I did was to sketch. Spare moments (mostly on the loo!) were spent reading.


Sketch of shell, by Marija Smits, August 2014
Sketch of shell, by Marija Smits (August 2014)


Sketch of view from Coppett Hall beach, by Marija Smits (August 2014)
Sketch of view from Coppett Hall beach, by Marija Smits (August 2014)




A lot of the time I find myself just about ‘holding things together’ and I (mostly) fool myself into thinking that it’s manageable. This is probably because it is difficult to admit to being overwhelmed by looking after two children, running a household, trying to keep a small press afloat and maintaining enriching relationships with members of my family (and myself!). It is the age-old issue of pressure: pressure on oneself to be more than human and (perceived) pressure from society to be super-human.

From the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, I remembered reading about ‘chronic overarousal’ (or chronic overwhelm). This is when stress/anxiety levels have remained high for a long enough period to turn the highly sensitive person into a gibbering wreck. It also makes the person even more sensitive to stimulation, so that a small issue immediately becomes huge, so the whole thing feeds itself, becoming a cycle of overwhelming anxiety that is hard to break.

I think that before our holiday I had got to this state of chronic overwhelm. So reducing the amount I had to do, getting more sleep and more time out in nature all helped to put me on a more even keel.

Now that my eldest has been at school for more than a week I am getting back into the swing of things, and I am trying to remember the importance of keeping chronic overwhelm at bay, to keep going at a pace that isn’t too frantic…

There is a nip in the air; the soil is dry and tree leaves are beginning to turn red, gold, brown… I lament the loss of the summer, the passing of another season and a season so full of light, energy, things to do… Yet, autumn is a reminder that nature, itself, slows down. I would do well to heed that message.

8 thoughts on “Overwhelm and holidays”

  1. I’m very glad that you’ve been able to take a break – you’ve been managing so much that even Superwoman would get exhausted. I admire your awareness of the issue, too. With any luck things’ll be a bit quieter now – until the chaos of Christmas, of course!
    Ilove the delicacy of your sketches.

    1. Many thanks for your kind words Cathy. I think that being aware of the issue is definitely key to keeping the overwhelm at bay. Glad you like the sketches. Just something fun to do! 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by Ellie and I’m glad the sketches appeal to you 🙂

      Haven’t you got sharp eyes re: the location of the beach sketch?! I would definitely recommend that area of Wales. It was beautiful. Hope you get a chance to go there one day.

  2. Oh, bless you, such wonderful honestly and beautifully expressed as always. This is continuing the theme of your post on choosing which projects to direct your energy to, isn’t it? Finding that you can’t actually do an infinite number of things, and something sometimes has to give – but it shouldn’t be your (physical or emotional) health.
    We need more people sharing things like this, though, especially those who look like superwoman from the outside – you know I ache with envy about how much you get done, all this creative work, and your business, and making time for your family….you seem to be to be doing an amazing job, and to have earned a rest!

    1. Many thanks Helen for your kind words. Yes, I think it’s important to share how we, as individuals, react to overwhelm. And it’s nearly always a useful reminder to know that someone whom one considers to be ‘Superwoman’ is in fact ‘just’ a woman, which is, quite frankly, super enough 🙂

      I also wanted to say that I’ve been very much enjoying reading your recent blog posts. Take care xxx

  3. Oh, that feeling of being overwhelmed, it is so dreadful, but know you are not alone. The seaside is always a tonic and yes let’s listen to nature and maybe slow down a little…I know I need to! Your sketches are wonderful : ))

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