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  • laurabruton


Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Last week at Kiplin Hall, I came across these peonies in the walled garden.

I was reminded of this article by the fabulous Emma Beddington that I read recently which described the rise and rise of the peony as Instagram's bloom of choice.

On Instagram, the peony is unsurpassed as the flower with the most #hashtags

And yet here, this titan of the flower world, was in a state of (still pretty and blousy) collapse. The rain and wind had been too much for them - the world had become overwhelming.

It's not just peonies that feel this! Sometimes all of us feel overwhelmed. Life gets on top of us - there are too many to-do lists, too much stress and too many things out of our control.

Most of us wouldn't choose feeling overwhelmed, but in short bursts it is manageable and can be part of the ebb and flow of life.

When the feeling of overwhelm, becomes, well, overwhelming, that's when things can feel harder and I wonder if there is something else at play for people who feel like these peonies most or all of the time.

Could this be the impact of Trauma?

You may be aware of the concept of the 'Fight-Flight' response. When under threat our human survival instincts kick in to try and help out, so in difficult situations we might feel the drive to run away or to argue back. However, 'Fight-Flight' isn't the limit of our instinctual survival mechanisms. There are in fact 5 'F' responses linked to traumatic experiences - Fight, Flight, Freeze, Flop and Fawn/Friend.

When thinking about chronic and enduring feelings of overwhelm, I often wonder if people are experiencing the 'Flop' response to trauma. When things become too tricky to manage and there is too much to process, one of the brain's responses is to shut off thinking and cognition and to move into a flop response. This helps protect both the mind and body from pain.

If you have had prolonged experiences of finding it difficult to get out of bed or wanting to collapse on the sofa in front of mind numbing tv or internet scrolling, it's possible your body is in a state of flop.

Our brain is doing the best it can to keep us safe from what it perceives to be a dangerous threat but this is often frustrating when you want to be connected and feel energised by life.

The good news is, the flop response doesn't have to last for ever and there are ways to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Whether that's through increased self-care activities or by understanding more about what your brain is feeling threatened by it is possible to move to a place where sitting on the sofa under a blanket feel like a choice and not the only thing that is possible!

The peonies at Kiplin Hall will rise again. Next year they will have another go at living their best lives and flowering proudly, ready to make it onto some eager Instagrammers feed. We can all stand tall after periods of overwhelm. To do this we need to spend some time hunkering down and resting or giving ourselves the time and conditions we need to become the glossy leaves and blousy blooms of our inner potential!

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