What to Do When You Are Overwhelmed By Your Own Intense Drive to Create, Question, and Know

When you have a rainforest mind, you have an extraordinarily active thinking, feeling, imagining, designing, questioning, intuiting, seeking, wondering, worrying personhood. This rainforest (gifted!) phenomenon is not only a mind-thinking thing. It includes all of who you are.

(If it had not been too cumbersome, I would have called it rainforest mind-heart-body-spirit-soul.)

(photo by engin akyurt, Unspash)

Many of my clients tell me they feel overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of thoughts and feelings. The constant intense drive to create, to question, to understand. The constant highest standards and raising of the bar. For many, it can feel like mania or obsession with no end in sight.

This can be disconcerting, disheartening, and discombobulating. Right? (Not to mention exhausting…but I could not think of a ‘dis’ word for exhausting…)

If you are a parent of one of these children, well, you know what I am talking about. But this does not end when you turn 21. You are rainforest-minded for life.

That is the good news although on some days it may feel like the bad news.

How, then, do you cope? How do you manage such intensity, especially during such tumultuous times? How do you explain to friends and family that you are not able to simmer down, or relax, or slow down, or chill in the typical ways that muggles most people do.

Well. Here are some ideas.

First of all, understand that this level of intense personhood is normal for you. Self-understanding and self-acceptance form the foundation of managing your multitudes.

Then, you will need to find your unique techniques for soothing yourself, for calming your mind-body when it goes into a worry-overdrive or when you step over a line into a self-critical having-to-prove-your-worth zone. Or even just when you need some down time because your body can not handle what your mind wants to produce.

Make a list. It might include: Being aware of what foods rev you up or calm you down. Cuddling with your pup or kitty. Deep breathing. Time in nature. Herbal remedies. Essential oils. Talking to a friend who gets you. Dancing/Exercising. Therapy. Accupuncture. Naturopathy. Baking bread. Playing music. Listening to music. Draw/paint. Journal. Warm baths. Tea. An emotional support sweater. Reiki or other energy work. Singing. Spiritual practices, rituals, and ceremonies. Meditation. Tapping. Reading. Healing touch. Screaming expletives in your car.

What else might you add to the list? Your list may need to be very long. You may need to work with several practitioners for different needs.

How do you explain this to friends and family? Other than explaining the rainforest mind concept (show them the quiz?), you can reflect their concerns back to them in your typically empathetic way and then let them know you have a particularly active and complex brain-body and a uniquely wired nervous system. You tell them you know it can be overwhelming for them, as it can be for you. But, you are gaining greater self-understanding so that you might know your most effective paths to inner peace and well-being while also giving yourself permission to be as creative, curious, and expressive as you need to be.

If this does not work, find them a good therapist. Seriously, in some cases, they may not get it or get you. It may mean you have to decide how much time and energy to put into the relationship. (This is a complicated topic and requires its own post.)

And, yes, there are people who are twice-exceptional and who do have ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, and other learning differences, plus giftedness. So, you may need to explore what 2e is if you are worried that your overwhelm is even beyond the normal gifted range and if the tools on your list never seem to be enough.

In my experience, though, your disconcerting, disheartening, exhausted discombobulation is more likely to come from the misunderstanding of your true nature and from not having the tools to manage and navigate in your extraordinary rainforest body-mind-heart-spirit-soul.

Know that you can find your way to less overwhelm and more combobulation. You can gain a more grounded inner peace while still passionately following your dreams. And, on those more difficult days, I will be right there with you, screaming expletives in my car.


To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences of overwhelm and how you handle them. Sending you so much love and appreciation.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

21 responses to “What to Do When You Are Overwhelmed By Your Own Intense Drive to Create, Question, and Know”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Me Avatar

    Thanks for this post Paula.
    I never knew I had a list LOL! I always thought I am doing these things at random with no relation to anything.
    Well, how wrong I was…. Still learning so much about my RFM.

  2. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    Just a note, everyone. My laptop is acting strange and probably needs a tune up. Not sure when I can make that happen so if my response to comments slows down, you’ll know why!

  3. Kim P Avatar
    Kim P

    I’m so glad for this post. I said yes deliberately to many things, and I mostly have the creative, intuitive, spiritual, writing, researching, teaching, dog-walking, loving life that I really want. AND, I’m just now starting to recover from hitting the wall. At least I can remove the “It’s all my fault for overcommitting” self-talk — sounds like many of us do this. Thanks for helping me be gentle with myself.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You are welcome, Kim. Gentle, yes!

  4. itssue42 Avatar

    Great list of self-soothing activities, have used them all and more over the years (67 chronologically) 😀
    It’s been a long road but for me the biggest breakthrough was finding this site and realizing that I’m not alone and there’s nothing “broken” or “wrong” with me. We’re all OK just the way we are. In fact, if I could be a boring, non-thinking schmoo…. that sounds like death to me. So I’d much rather be me, even though it does drive me bonkers…. a lot. 😀 Even though I’ve been thru a whole lot of unnecessary emotional pain & trauma in my life.

    U just gotta keep remembering all the up-sides of having a brain like this.
    And they are many. And once you start to understand yourself, and accept yourself, and harness it so you can work with it, in whatever way works for you…. well….. Just wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad to have helped you accept your rainforest-y self, Sue!

  5. meximinnesotana Avatar

    This is so relatable. Right now I’m struggling with my husband and MIL who are pressuring me to get a “real job” (their words) because my business seems to have rather wild ups and downs. I feel like I’m right on the edge of having some major breakthroughs with it, so I don’t want to give up on it. But employers seem to be very “all or nothing” when it comes to full time or part time work, so it’s been hard for me to find something 20-30 hours a week (which I would love) to give me the structure that could make my business work.

    Big sigh. Some part of me knows they are right, that I need a more regular income source to keep my creative dreams alive. And another part of me is determined to resist that. So I haven’t bothered to get a resume ready or make inquiries to people in my network.

    Probably time for some marital therapy, I realize. This probably isn’t going to work if we can’t find a way through this…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It can be so hard to find how to manage this “real job” dilemma. Marital therapy sounds like a good option, though, meximinnesotana!

  6. Robin Heinen Avatar
    Robin Heinen

    Thanks for this post Paula, I totally recognized myself in every word. I’m so overwhelmed most of the time. But it’s a totally self-imposed overwhelm. I don’t say no to things. I find too many things interesting. But as a result my mind is always, always, always running on full steam. It’s sometimes tough to find the self time I need, especially with two young kids. Although these two are work overwhelm destressors in their own ways, too. Sometimes I wonder if I should just quit academia and see if things get different then, but I suppose my mind will find something else.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Robin. Adding two young kids into the mix would certainly add to the intensity!!

  7. clignett Avatar

    Oh yes! Screaming in my car! Getting it all out of my system! Way back when I was an accountmanager, I was on the road most days. I’d have a pull-out microphone for my mobile car telephone (I’m sure it has an extraordinary name, which I can’t for the life of me remember now). So, I’d pull out the microphone towards me as if I was on the phone, but in reality I was screaming! (I learned that with the microphone people would pay less attention to you than without)

    And the overwhelm with worry. The song from Kate Bush immediately comes to mind with “you worry too much”! But in stressful I can’t help myself.
    So, what I do now , and thankfully people respond very kindly to it, is to just be honest about my worries. Tell them what I’m worried about and if they can help me relieve (some) of the worrying thoughts.

    Especially now, I only have 1 day left before the move.. another song comes to mind – “I’m going crazy” (Gnarls Barkley).. which by the way is a great song about losing your mind (“there was something so pleasant about that place, even your emotions had to let go, and so much space”!) Different subject, my mind goes to such stretches these days!
    Anyway, it sets off a whole set of emotions that I’m so familiar with, and not good ones. My mind in overdrive, my body aching and tired, but my mind pushes me to do everything anyway.
    So, I called the moving company and explained my worries. It payed off! Less on my list, more on theirs 😁🙏! Still, tomorrow will be a busy day, driving back and forth between the old address and the new with stuff I just can’t trust them with. And I mean literally can’t. My issue, not theirs. My jungle, for example, they’re precious. So tomorrow the last plant (hope it fits in my car!!), the lamps with shades, all the vulnerable stuff.. and the bags and boxes I need to have handy and not look for them in a panic rage.. ok, still panic about tomorrow and especially Thursday (= moving day).. control freak?? Me?? Noooo… or am I? 😅🤪

    About educating family members about RFM, sending them to therapy.. I’m having the biggest smile on my face if I imagine how that would go.. disbelief, unable to see me like that, unable to understand, and finally just putting it out of their minds as “not important enough”.. no, that wouldn’t go well.. 🙄😵‍💫

    Adding to the list: a weighted blanket. I’m currently on my second, a heavier one. The first one was 9kg, now I have 15kg. It helps! And I don’t care that the “official” weight limit has something else to say, this is good for me, it works.

    Also adding to the list: talking to yourself. No matter where you are, how people stare or think you’re coo-coo, it helps! To remind me of things to do, to just make a decision about wether “this product is better than the other”, anything applies.

    Also adding to the list: make things easier for yourself. I needed a new phone case (because I keep dropping everything out of my hands), and I ordered a pop socket to fit the new case. Never knew it existed, let alone what it was called, so I just asked a total stranger for it because she had one on her phone. Just an example..

    I read the blog you referred to! What a great one! I’m one of the people who have a hard time saying “no”.. getting better at it, much better! But still with a guilty feeling.
    So, I’m looking forward to the sequel “For the more advanced course, look for You Have a Right to Say F*ck No, coming soon.”. Or is it already on the site and I just didn’t find it?

    Sending much love and hugs from both of us! In a heatwave that we in Europe are not equipped for.. especially when my mobile airconditioners are already at the new place 🙈.. Indie sleeps, walks to his cooling mat, sleeps some more, comes to lay next to me on the sofa, sighs a couple of times, jumps back off and then sleeps with his head on my feet.. not warm at all 😆
    Hopefully tomorrow it will be cooler. Bit more appropriate for the time of year here.. We’ll see. For now, it’s setting the alarms for 6am, walking around 7.30am and then do a quick P&P round of 10-15 minutes around 17u, and then waiting until the temperature is a bit cooled off so we can walk a normal round again.. which now, time here, almost 1am, and still 27 degrees Celsius outside.. hm.. going to dance like crazy in the rain if it comes!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for all of the ideas here, clignett. And I haven’t written the part two f*ck no post yet! 🙂 I’ve heard about the heat wave in Europe. Also here. Will humans wake up to the climate crisis now? I hope so! Take care of yourself.

      1. itssue42 Avatar

        Have hope. Humans are waking up. Not so much in the U.S. because no democracy and apparently a senile president but many countries, even small, less affluent ones, are taking amazing steps. Innovation and drive are everywhere. The snowball is rolling downhill slowly but it is headed in the right direction. 🙂

      2. clignett Avatar

        Probably not, Paula, at least not here. They’re trying to change things, but in my opinion it’s the wrong thing to do.. more electric cars, electric bikes, bright led lights for everything (I’m blinded every time I go out at night with Indie and a car/bike/scooter drives by. Not to mention the traffic lights, my god, can they be any brighter?? You can probably see them from outer space!).
        Just a few weeks ago, they decided that we, The Netherlands, need to reduce the produce of ammonia in the air, so most of the cows have to go.. really?? Take away farming?? Of course all the farmers protested and blocked highways and secondary roads.. and then they are the problem? Seriously?
        The next plan will be to build houses on their properties of course. Because we have a shortage of houses and apartments.

        So you take away nature, put in more towns/buildings and concrete, and thát will solve the problem??

        I don’t know who/what is thinking this bull**** up, but what about less people in a tiny country? I mean, The Netherlands ís tiny!! And here we are, within a decade maybe 3 million people more in this tiny stretch of land..

        Sorry, frustration speaking here. Pain from taking away more nature and pastures and green..

        Looking forward to the sequel 😅!

        Thank you! It’s been a rough ride, but tomorrow (eh.. in 4,5 hours) I’ll need to get up and running again. This time because the movers will actually be at my door around 07.30 and I still have a million things to do.. mainly packing the last things, feeding Indie and walking him (yawning and everything 😵‍💫🙈), but he will have to. Harness stays on after that (he doesn’t wear a collar, scratches it until it falls off, so I gave up on that).
        At least he’s asleep now 🤣😴😴

  8. thespians1 Avatar

    My son has a RFM and when I was in therapy with you told me there is usually someone nearby who is also RFM, ie: Me. I am now recently retired and the responsibilities of the RFM are somewhat dissipated for me, yet I watch my son try to navigate his own days, with also the diagnosis of ADHD.
    Each morning, my husband and I start our day with a reading of a passage from “Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy”. Today’s passage was about Pursuits that bring Comfort and the message that resonated with me is “put yourself on your own list of priorities, not necessarily first, just on the list.” My immediate thought was that I wish I had learned to do that so much earlier in life, because now in retirement I find it is so valuable. I still struggle with the guilt that is coming with allowing myself to indulge in activities that are not for the purpose of serving others and I am getting better at finding joy rather than guilt.
    I am teaching my self to draw, spend many hours playing in the garden and relishing in once again using my pro camera to capture all of it. I didn’t allow myself much time for any of that until now.
    So you are so right Paula, finding ways to sooth myself would have relieved me of the worry, anger and unnecessary drama I brought into my life because I never pursued the peace and joy I am finding today by adjusting my priorities. I hope all of your readers today will follow your suggestions, because as a 74 year old who earned a paycheck for 60 years, I will attest that finding “permission to be creative…” will allow other priorities to flourish.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, thespians1. There is often guilt with this. Even you are using the word “indulge” which implies it is not really OK. Right? We are all works in progress! Appreciate your sharing.

      1. thespians1 Avatar

        Wow, thank you for that insight! Yes, more work to be done.

  9. Carol Avatar

    LOL! You were in my car with me yesterday, weren’t you? 😄 I love your posts, Paula. It feels good to know that someone gets us. Thank you for your words! 💖

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yup. In the car, Carol! 🙂

  10. Josué Vargas Avatar
    Josué Vargas

    Thanks, Paula, you’re a beacon! My solution to this so far has been a hybrid approach of self-knowledge/acceptance, and the decision to create a highly customized system of personal development tailored to my own needs, I’m currently designing it, wish me success.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Success to you, Josué! That’s it! Let us know a bit about what you come up with.