Things To Do When Youre Stressed And Overwhelmed
Are you starting to burn out from how overwhelmed you feel?
Life is a lot to handle even when you’re in the right mindset. And if you’re struggling to keep a positive outlook on life then being overwhelmed can be the tipping point.
Whether it’s from trying to get good grades in school, do a good job at work, or just having enough energy to get by every day. Being overwhelmed can lead to a lot of other feelings, like anxiety and depression.
You start to easily get down on yourself for not accomplishing enough and it feels like everything around you is crumbling apart. And yet you’re overworking yourself and barely have enough time to get a good night’s sleep.
Something’s gotta give, right?
The good news is it’s possible to live a hectic life without feeling totally and completely overwhelmed. It just takes some focus and determination on your part.
Finding what really matters to you and letting all the other crap go. If you’re trying to do a million things at once and only care about a quarter of those things, you’ll easily become burnt-out.
It will even make you hate doing the things you actually enjoy doing. So, let’s talk about some ways you can stop feeling so overwhelmed starting right now.
Why Do I Feel Overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed often starts when we have a big event in our future. Planning a wedding, preparing for a pitch at work, helping the kids apply to college or other big changes make us feel like theres no room for anything else. Feeling overwhelmed can also be the result of a buildup of small things: Maybe your spouse is working a lot, but you need more help around the house. Or changes at work have left you with more responsibilities.
Feeling overwhelmed can create a cycle of negativity: You get overwhelmed when you are not managing your state. You feel stressed and anxious, which makes small things feel bigger than they are. This causes you to feel even more overwhelmed, and the cycle continues. To break the cycle, you need to take a step back and learn how to deal with feeling overwhelmed in a productive way.
Calm The Nervous System With A Physiological Sigh
When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you need to do is calm your nervous system.
When your body goes into stress-response, you want to activate the neutralizing parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for reducing stress.
You can do that with a little trick called the physiological sigh.
The physiological sigh is like a lever to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It helps in the heat of the moment, reducing panic and providing a real-time calming effect.
When stressed, follow this pattern of breathing with two inhales through the nose, followed by an extended exhale through the mouth. The double inhale and the longer exhale also rids the body of carbon dioxide, which relaxes us very quickly.
One or two physiological sighs are enough to calm down fast and to stop feeling overwhelmed, and its backed by science. When you activate the parasympathetic nervous system with the psychological sigh, you free up more brain space for creativity in deciding what to do next.
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Practice Your Acceptance Skills With Healthy Self
The best self-talk helps you feel calmer and in control. It combines self-compassion and appropriate responsibility-taking . Feeling excessively responsible is associated with a vulnerability to worry. Experiment with different types of self-talk and see what works best for you. As a kickoff, you might try:
- Even though I have many things to do, I can only focus on the one thing Im doing right now. Ill feel better if I do that.
- I would prefer to be able to get more done in a day, but Im going to accept what Im realistically able to do. .
- I like the mantra Whats the best action to take right now? to remind me that ruminating about the past or worrying about the future interferes with optimal focusing and prioritizing.
- I enjoy my work so I like to be busy. Its natural that Im going to feel overwhelmed sometimes. I can handle those emotions and make adjustments as needed.
Spend 10 Minutes Prioritizing
In addition to writing down all that’s on your mind, spend 10 minutes prioritizing your tasks. What’s the most urgent? What can wait for a week? Is there anything you can eliminate altogether? Doing this will allow you to spend your time working on what’s most important.
When we have so much on our to-do lists, it’s often easiest to pick the simplest tasks or the ones we want to do the most. While that knocks something off, it’s not always the right thing. You can end up spending hours working on items you don’t even need until next week and neglecting things needed today. By prioritizing, you’ll help yourself focus on those of utmost importance.
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How To Take Care Of Yourself When Youre Feeling Overwhelmed
Looking back at the beginning of 2020, I remember feeling a sense of hope for a year that would bring clarity and growth. Little did I know there was something else in the cards and this year would become a rollercoaster ride of uncertainty. If youve been feeling more overwhelmed than usual and your regular toolbox of self-care practices arent working, I can assure you that youre not alone.
It may feel impossible to step out of the storm of overwhelm when you feel constantly inundated by uncertainty and stress, but there are ways you can find calm and comfort and create a sense of soothing predictability. Here are five of my favorite ways to do so in the storm of overwhelm.
1.) Seek Out the Familiar
Even simple tasks such as going to the store or walking outside that used to feel so routine now take a lot of attention. When everything feels different, its important to find ways to invoke a sense of familiarity which can be soothing to your overstimulated nervous system. A fun way to do this is to watch your old favorite movies or shows, listen to music you loved growing up, read books that engage your imagination, go to a favorite park, drink a comforting tea, or rediscover activities you loved as a kid such as puzzles, crafts, or games. Think about whats familiar to all your senses as well as activities and places.
2.) Turn Down the Volume
3.) Say No Most of the Time
4.) Create Predictability Through Routine
5.) Ground Your Bodyand Breathe
How To Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed
When inundated with too many demands on your time and energy, it can become impossible to think clearly and act with purpose. Learning how to deal with feeling overwhelmed will empower you to reclaim a sense of calm and focus, even when nothing seems to go right.
Not all stress is harmful, and sometimes, overwhelm can be a useful challenge to your status quo if you know how to respond.
This article will show you how to deal with feeling overwhelmed so you can manage stress, maintain emotional well-being, and even turn stressful situations into powerful motivators to level up your life.
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Know When Its Good Enough
Perfectionism can come from fear: If what were doing isnt perfect, its wrong. Its a failure and thereforewe are a failure. Competitive people are also often perfectionists. They feel like they can beat everyone else by being perfect. But if youre spending too long on tasks that only have a marginal benefit for you, its time to be done. As Sheryl Sandberg says, Done is better than perfect and the COO of Facebook knows what shes talking about.
Feeling Overwhelmed From Anxiety: Physically
Which brings us to another issue that many people find overwhelming: physical symptoms. Indeed, even though anxiety can essentially take over the mind, often the physical symptoms are the issues that seem the most overwhelming. Severe anxiety is fraught with physical symptoms, and – especially during anxiety attacks – those symptoms start to become more and more intense until they’re the only thing your mind and body can focus on. Examples of these symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
These symptoms seem to be felt in every area of your body, and they also tend to cause severe anxiety on their own and ultimately lead to an anxiety attack. Anxiety genuinely is very physically overwhelming, especially if you’re prone to panic attacks.
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Steer Clear Of Toxic People To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
You might have that happen in person, too. At the grocery store. When youre running errands. Maybe its even in your family. The toxic situation is wearing you down and you wish that you could remove yourself from the negativity.
You can. Make a conscious effort to stop watching the news 24/7. The world is still going to turn without you glued to whats going on. Give yourself a timeout from the news and youll notice that your level of overwhelm and uncertainty goes down.
Youll see that you worry less. Youll see that dont worry about things the way that you did. This will help you realize that what youre allowing into your thoughts is a huge part of the problem, if not the entire problem.
Avoid the toxic people online. Mute them on social media. Or better yet, avoid negative things on social media. If you think you cant do that, then ask yourself if you really want that to be a part of your life.
Its okay to temporarily or permanently deactivate your account. If you have a toxic person in your life, you dont have to listen to what they spew. You can be busy. Too busy to listen. You can walk away.
Digital Detox! Break the addiction. Get More balance.
Insomnia Is A Classic Sign Of Stress & Overwhelm
Insomnia stemming from emotional damage is common. Because you cant sleep, your body will develop physical symptoms. Youll start to notice that your blood pressure readings are high, and they may be consistently high.
Cant sleep? Feel your body relax as you try these products.
This will put you at risk for developing heart disease. You may experience weight gain or weight loss. Youll have trouble concentrating and may have bouts of anger or irritability. Understanding what to do when you feel overwhelmed is the best way to avoid or reverse this trend.
Emotional damage can manifest itself in poor nutrition. Youll start to make more unhealthy eating choices than before. You may not care if what youre eating is good for you or not.
Some people will overeat, while others wont consume enough. Both of these situations put your body at risk to develop complications from poor nutrition. You may discover that youre having gastrointestinal upset due to the emotional damage.
Change Your Biology!
You might have bouts of diarrhea or constipation. People who deal with emotional damage may burst into tears at unexpected moments. You might find that you start crying and it might feel like its for no reason at all.
While you may not be able to put your finger on it at the moment, things are going on below the surface. You may have kept a lid on your emotions and pushed them down, but after awhile, the stress will come out.
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Personal Story: How I Became Overwhelmed
This past year has been a roller coaster of a ride for me, where I was away in India, experiencing pregnancy and pre-term labor, overcoming depression, moving to a new house with a newborn and becoming a full-time mom. I was pretty much offline, and have not actively worked on the demands of this site.
Once, Id adjusted to mommy-hood, and was ready to work again, I was faced with several hundred emails, and a huge list of tasks that needed to get done.
At the sight of so much to do, I dove-in head first, and started tackling the list. Silly me. It didnt take long for me to become completely overwhelmed. There was simply too much to do.
On top of the responsibilities of caring for a baby, working strictly from a to-do list without a plan or strategy was a formula for disaster. I was spreading myself too thin.
On the verge of break down, I stopped what I was rushing to get done, and focused on overcoming this feeling of overwhelming anxiety and its associated stress.
Tip #: Try A Grounding Exercise To Connect To The Here And Now
Grounding techniques can help you anchor your mind and body to the present moment, especially when youre feeling overwhelmed. Its about feeling more attached and in tune with your current environment . To ground yourself, try to focus on relaxing your muscles using Kids Help Phones tension release exercise. You can use it anywhere, any time.
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Signs You Are Emotionally Overwhelmed
Emotional overwhelm occurs when the intensity of your feelings outmatches your ability to manage them. An individual is most likely to be overwhelmed by negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or guilt. However, people experiencing mania can be overwhelmed by euphoria.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it may be difficult for you to pinpoint exactly why. Often there are many stressors contributing to emotional overwhelm rather than one particular event. Your emotions may bleed into seemingly unrelated parts of your life.
Here are some common signs that you are being overwhelmed by your emotions:
- You have a disproportionately big reaction to seemingly insignificant situations. For example, you may panic when you cant find your keys.
- You feel physically ill or fatigued without knowing why.
- You have trouble focusing or completing even simple tasks.
- You find yourself withdrawing from friends and family.
- Your emotions color your perception of the world. For example, intense grief may have you feeling sad even during pleasant occasions.
Feeling Overwhelmed From Anxiety: Mentally
Of course, when most people talk about feeling overwhelmed, they’re talking about the way anxiety tends to cause severe stress that affects all of their thoughts. That’s what anxiety does: it makes it very hard to focus on anything other than your anxiety, and the more you focus on that anxiety, the more anxiety you seem to feel.
People talk about anxiety as if it makes it difficult to focus. But that’s not entirely true. Anxiety often makes it easy to focus, but only on your anxiety. Some people experience such a feeling of emotional distress that they may start to cry or feel like they’re about to cry, while others may experience a complete lack of hope as if their anxiety is never going to be treatable.
Those with panic attacks may have other symptoms as well. During panic attacks, that feeling of being overwhelmed may actually be less about the actual overwhelming nature of anxiety and more about a feeling of doom that seems to affect those that are struggling with the attack. This feeling of doom can make you feel like you’re about to suffer from something terrible, and it can cause your entire body to become completely on edge.
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How Therapy Can Help With Emotional Overwhelm
Therapy is often a helpful way to sort through difficult emotions, especially those that occur as a result of stress or trauma. In therapy, you may be able to:
- Understand the roots of your overwhelming emotions
- Explore ways to self-soothe, such as meditation
- Address recurring stressors that contribute to overwhelm, such as marital conflict
- Learn coping skills to deal with any stressors that cannot be prevented
- Treat any mental health issues contributing to overwhelm
With each concern that is resolved, you will likely find that dealing with other stressors becomes easier. Even focusing on one or two issues can significantly reduce your distress. Even if your problems seem endless, know that therapy can help you manage your life one step at a time.
Write Down Everything You Need To Get Out
Take the less than five minutes required to do a mind dump. Get everything bothering you out on paper. Write down what’s stressing you out, all that you have to do and the other thoughts or ideas occupying your mind. This will eliminate the urge to keep everything inside your head. Doing so will immediately lessen your stress levels there will be less to hold onto, and your mind will be free to occupy other tasks and ideas.
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What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed
You cant just ignore stress or wish it away.
But when youre overwhelmed, your decision-making and problem-solving skills are at their worst. Its not a space from which to make big decisions like whether to quit your job or drastically change your life.
When youve regained a sense of calm, you can more effectively access the thinking, creative parts of your brain. Then, you can focus on finding solutions to the challenges and stressful situations in your life.
These strategies will help you not just manage overwhelm, but use it to motivate you in setting goals to create the life you want.
Engage In A Physical Activity
As mentioned in the previous point, regular exercise such as yoga, meditation or running can help improve your sleep, which in turn improves your ability to deal with stress. Physical activity immediately releases endorphins in the brain, helping the muscles to relax and thus reducing the tension in your body.
In fact, according to a study conducted by Peter Strick, professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute, there is a clear connection between parts of the brain controlling physical activity and the ones controlling the endocrine system that regulates stress.
This discovery is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is more than enough to convince skeptics such as the author himself to take up exercising. In short, whether it is yoga, running or swimming, getting regular exercise will help you cope with stress in a constructive manner.