Are you feeling overwhelmed?
Are you sure you know what overwhelm really is?
And do you have an effective way of coping?
Personally, I have been overwhelmed with work responsibilities, relationship stressors, and health concerns.
When I am in that overwhelmed state of mind initially nothing helps me. I have to wallow in it for a bit. Then I pull myself together, find out the cause of it, take a deep breath and see what I can change.
Webster’s simplistic verb definition of overwhelm is
To affect (someone) very strongly
Overwhelm most commonly means to cause to be overcome with emotion as a result of an amount of something (work, stress, etc.) that’s just too much to handle. Although overwhelmed isn’t always about stress or other negative emotions.
Other reasons for overwhelm
When are you most likely to feel overwhelmed?
Don’t be surprised if the answer is simple, yet surprising. If you are like most people, you feel overwhelmed anytime you are faced with multiple tasks to complete. This can occur during normal work hours or in your personal life. It’s not uncommon for people to have more things to do than they have time for in a day. We naturally overestimate how much time we have and underestimate how much time it takes to get things done, the result being feeling overwhelmed by what needs to be completed in a given day, week, or month.
You can also feel overwhelmed when there is too much information to process.
For example, both bloggers and readers can become overwhelmed with websites, content creation, social media, reading, reading lists and so on. There is so much available it’s difficult to stay up-to-date on topics of interest. If you keep up with the news, you’ll sometimes find yourself feeling overloaded with information. This is normal, but even for those who follow the news obsessively, there will be times when they feel bogged down by too much information.
It’s difficult to turn off either the flow of information or our attempt to absorb it all.
It’s more than just taking some deep breaths and finding a quiet place—though that can be part of it. Overwhelm can seem like an intangible, all-encompassing feeling of anxiety and distress that we struggle to pinpoint the cause of. There is no easy way to overcome such an overabundance of emotion, but utilizing coping mechanisms and making changes within your lifestyle (characterized by high stress levels and poor health) can help get you there.
My approach to concurring overwhelm is to write things down that I am able to change and a list of action items to outline how I will go about changing those things. This is a great help to me.
The next time you feel the familiar overwhelm, try some of these tips:
- Identify What Is Within Your Control to Change
- Take a deep breath and step away. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, a quick way to begin to alleviate those feelings is by doing breathing exercises.
- Write it out. Write down what troubles you, what overwhelms you.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Ask for help from a loved one (see more below).
The simplest approach and a good first step
There is no mechanic for our emotional engine.
But as a good first step, just talking about it can help. Even just speaking about your feelings out loud to another person can help comfort you and help you leave the situation feeling better than when you first got there.
The last thing you want to do when your car breaks down is spend hours alone stewing over it. Eventually, you make it to a mechanic to fix the issue and you are off and running again.
With emotional overwhelm, you feel powerless, frustrated, and worst of all, hyper-emotional.
But why does talking about it actually help? It feels like that would be the last helpful thing to do, right?
As it turns out, talking helps both body and brain.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that sounds the alarms when stimuli comes in that triggers fear, aggression or anxiety. It sounds the alarm not just to your conscious mind but to other parts of your body via hormones and other chemical messengers. When that happens, blood pressure rises, heart rate goes up, breathing changes, energy is diverted away from non-critical systems like digestion and immune function and focused instead on preparing you either to fight or flee the imagined threat.
None of that is to say that talking about your problems, or even talk therapy with a licensed therapist, will automatically fix everything and immediately make you happy and healthy. But, like eating better and exercising, it can contribute to overall improvement in your well-being.
You’re not alone when you feel overwhelmed,
I am not a licensed therapist, but have walked in your shoes and through my life experiences I have helped several clients get unstuck in that overwhelmed state to move forward and get back on track with their careers.