Overwhelmed by the news? Or just stressed?

Image of pages from Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown, showing highlighting of key themes.

So much bad news over the past month! I have been overwhelmed.

As you have noted by now, I monitor emergency preparedness news all the time. TV, other writers’ blogs, and LinkedIn posts from professional emergency managers are some of my sources. I’m always on the lookout for ideas for Advisories. This past month, thought has been so full of emotional incidents that’s I’ve actually been overwhelmed by the news.

At the same time, add in stresses at the personal level.

I just had cataract surgery. Nothing life-threatening, but . . . fasting for an early morning appointment, being hooked up to an IV, knowing I’m “under the knife.” There’s no way to pretend that’s not stressful. And, of course, with only one eye to work with, my usual reading and writing habits are affected. (In my case, so I could plug into Audible books and iTunes podcasts, I had to conquer air pod technology. That in itself was a huge frustration!)

Have you been overwhelmed yourself by these same stories and developments?

Some of my friends have!

Late last month a long-time friend from college phoned me, and we spent a good 15 minutes trying to pinpoint exactly how we were feeling. It was a back-and-forth conversation, as we tried out and then discarded different descriptions.

Then, just 4 days later, my neighbor Carol and I were having pretty much the same conversation, standing on the sidewalk as she watered her roses. Again, a back and forth about how overwhelmed we were by the news. But it didn’t take long before Carol turned off her hose and ran into her house. Out she came with a new book all about emotions and the fine distinctions between them.

Oh, I love words. I love their history and nuances. I was smitten and promptly ordered my own copy!

So, my neighbor Carol’s recommendation became the source for this week’s Advisory!

Brené Brown is the author of Atlas of the Heart. You may already know her work, or have heard her well-known TEDx talk from 2010.

In this recent book, she lists and looks carefully at 87 different human emotions. Her theory, if I may sum it up, is that you can’t really experience life if you can’t describe it. Moreover, if you can’t describe life, you are pretty much lost when it comes to charting a new path forward.

The sobering reality, according to Brown, is that most people can only come up with about 3 emotions: “happy,” “sad,” and “angry” are the most common. How can ANY three words help me manage how I am reacting these days to surgery, gun violence, political upheaval, and natural disasters?! 

Are you, too, experiencing stress or overwhelm, or uncertainty or dread, or some other hard-to-pin emotion? Are you looking for some help in coping? Please consider getting your hands on this resource.

Yet another important book for this summer. I am so happy to have found it and to be able to share.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S.  As a taste of how Brown helps distinguish between different emotions, here’s the very first of the 13 lists she introduces. Are you feeling any of these? And are you sure of the differences between them?

  • Stress
  • Overwhelm
  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Avoidance
  • Excitement
  • Dread
  • Fear
  • Vulnerability

Brown adds another list of 7 more emotions that fit into this discussion of troubled times. Which of these might be an exact fit for what YOU are experiencing?

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  1. clare zall