We all experience feeling overwhelmed from time to time. It makes no difference if it’s because of work, school, social obligations, or just the daily grind.
Overwhelm happens when your stress levels punch you in the face and your coping abilities seem to be on vacation.
It’s the agonizing awareness that the weight of the world is pressing in on you. And you’re struggling just to stay afloat.
Life may be filled with ups and downs, turns and twists, and general mayhem. It’s no wonder that feeling overwhelmed has become a pervasive experience for many of us.
In this article, we’ll explore the symptoms and causes of feeling overwhelmed. Then, let’s explore some simple yet effective strategies that will help you navigate through overwhelming moments in your life.
In simple terms, overwhelm is the suffocating feeling of being inundated. It is as if life has piled an insurmountable mountain of tasks, responsibilities, and expectations on your shoulders.
Feeling overwhelmed goes beyond just feeling stressed or busy; it’s a state where the sheer magnitude of everything becomes unbearable. It’s the feeling that, despite your best efforts, you are perpetually suffocating under a sea of responsibilities.
However, you must first identify what is generating the overwhelm so that you may address the root of the problem.
Being overwhelmed is a common feeling that has several underlying causes. By confronting the factors that contribute to overwhelm, you’re empowering yourself to take action and regain a sense of balance.
If you’re living in a fast-paced society that glorifies busyness and productivity, you’ll be no stranger to feeling overwhelmed.
Do you often find yourself trapped in a never-ending cycle of overbooking your calendar? And saying “yes” to every request that comes your way?
Whether it’s work-related obligations, social commitments, or personal projects, taking on too much can quickly become overwhelming.
The truth is, your time and energy are limited resources. If you’re spreading yourself too thin, then that’s a surefire way to drown in overwhelm.
Society bombards you with unrealistic expectations from every angle. You’re told you should excel in your career, maintain perfect relationships, and have a picture-perfect body.
Trying to live up to these impossible standards can leave you feeling like a perpetual failure. It’s time to accept that you can’t do it all and definitely can’t please everyone.
Embrace your imperfections and limitations. Focusing on what truly matters to you is key to overcoming overwhelm.
The digital age has brought an overwhelming influx of information that bombards you from all directions. Social media, news outlets, emails, and notifications all compete for your attention.
It’s like standing in the middle of a chaotic marketplace with everyone vying for your attention. While staying informed is essential, the sheer volume of information to consume and process can leave you mentally exhausted.
Learning to filter and disconnect from the noise is crucial for preserving your mental well-being.
One of the most uncomfortable truths about feeling overwhelmed is that you often bring it on yourself. Boundaries, or the lack thereof, play a significant role in your experience of overwhelm.
Being overwhelmed is a result of saying “yes” when you really want to say “no.” Allowing others to invade your personal space and neglecting your own needs also contribute to feeling overwhelmed.
It’s time to acknowledge that setting firm boundaries is not only about self-care. However, it can also be a useful strategy for taking back control of your life.
One major culprit behind overwhelm is the never-ending demands of the modern work environment. We live in a culture that glorifies hustle and puts productivity on a pedestal.
The pressure to excel, meet deadlines, and juggle multiple responsibilities can quickly push you to the edge. Long hours, challenging projects, and a constant need to prove your worth often leave you feeling overwhelmed and depleted.
Feeling overwhelmed is like a tiny boat tossed in a stormy sea. However, how can you tell when you’ve had enough?
In the 2022 the American Psychological Association surveyed over 3,000 adults, aged 18 and above. Turns out, over half of these young adults are practically drowning in overwhelm on a regular basis.
But that’s not all. A whopping 46% admitted that they’re so stressed up that they can barely even function on most days.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of feeling overwhelmed is the first step towards regaining control and seeking support. Let’s examine what these signs and symptoms are:
Picture this: It’s been a long week at work, and your body feels like it’s been hit by a truck. Your head pounds relentlessly, and your stomach churns with unease.
These physical symptoms, such as fatigue, tension headaches, and digestive issues, are common indicators that you’re overwhelmed. Your body is desperately trying to tell you to slow down and take care of yourself.
Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital commented that:
“Stress can cause body pain in the form of muscle tension, leading to headaches and backaches.”
Have you ever lost your temper without apparent reason? Or did you feel as though the weight of the universe was on your shoulders and it was difficult to breathe?
These emotional symptoms often accompany being overwhelmed. Irritability, anxiety, and constant worry become unwelcome companions.
According to research, when you’re preoccupied with a problem, it’s not just your problem-solving skills that take a nosedive. But your chances of actually taking the necessary action to solve said problem go down the drain as well.
Even if it’s all in your head, just the mere thought of a threat will trigger your body’s defense mechanisms. It’s like your primal instincts kick in and you’re left spinning in an endless loop of inaction.
Imagine standing in the middle of a whirlwind, surrounded by a tornado of thoughts. That’s what being overwhelmed mentally can feel like.
Your mind races, making it impossible to focus on anything. Remembering even the most basic things becomes a challenge. You find yourself paralyzed by indecision, second-guessing every choice, and feeling utterly lost in a haze of mental fatigue.
“When we have too many demands on our thinking over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue can also happen, making us more prone to distractions and our thinking less agile. Any of these effects, alone, can make us less effective and leave us feeling even more overwhelmed.”
Feeling overwhelmed can also manifest in your actions and behaviors. In a study from 2014, it was discovered that 20-25% of adults all across the globe are hardcore, chronic procrastinators.
On the surface, procrastination may seem like it’s serving up some instant gratification. But here’s the kicker: it’s not just a matter of laziness or sheer lack of motivation. Procrastination, when it’s tied to overwhelm, often lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Another behavioral symptom of feeling overwhelmed is withdrawal. When withdrawal creeps in, you start drifting away, creating this chasm between you and the people who care about you.
And when life takes a turn for the worse, you might find yourself swimming in this sea of pessimism. It’s like these dark clouds roll in, casting a shadow over your outlook on everything.
Suddenly, anger, irritability, and anxiety enter your emotional space, ready to knock you off-balance at the first sign of trouble.
If you’re struggling with procrastination, try this.
Do you feel sucked into a never-ending spiral of overwhelm? If so, try some of these strategies to pick yourself back up and get back in the game:
Making sleep a priority is one of the best strategies to deal with chaos when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Although it can seem paradoxical, it really does work.
Make sleep a priority in your life. Create a consistent sleep schedule that allows you to get the rest your body craves.
Never overlook the impact of a restful night’s sleep. It’s like hitting the reset button for your entire system. Your body and mind will function more effectively when both are well-rested.
If you have trouble sleeping, this might help.
It has long been understood that regular exercise lowers stress and improves health. Make it a priority to incorporate regular exercise into your daily schedule.
You can go for a brisk walk, hit the gym, or get your downward dog on with a yoga session. Find something that gets your body moving and makes you feel alive.
When you engage in physical activity, those little happiness-inducing chemicals called Endorphins get released into your bloodstream. After a good workout, they will give you a natural high, and make you feel like a million bucks.
In the midst of chaos, finding moments of calm and clarity is crucial. Cultivate mindfulness through practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or simply taking mindful pauses throughout the day.
These practices anchor you to the present moment, quieting the noise in your mind and helping you regain perspective. Mindfulness meditation is not all about sitting cross-legged on a mountain for hours on end.
Although if you’re the adventurous sort, there are a whole bunch of mindfulness retreats out there just waiting for you.
Just locate a quiet area, shut your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. Let those thoughts come and go without getting caught up in them.
It’s like pressing the pause button on the chaotic movie of your mind.
If you’re keen to learn more about mindfulness, try this.
One of the most empowering acts of self-care is learning to say “no” when necessary. Understand your limits and prioritize your well-being by declining commitments that exceed your capacity.
Saying “no” doesn’t make you selfish; it’s a vital step towards protecting your time and energy. Life is a limited resource, and you’ve got to allocate it wisely.
When you decline commitments that go beyond your capacity, you create space for the things that truly matter to you. You gain the freedom to focus on your priorities and invest in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
No one exists in isolation. Do not be weighed down by your responsibilities. Learn to delegate tasks to trusted individuals who can share the load.
Seeking support from others lightens the burden and allows you to focus on what truly matters. When you delegate, you’re not just lightening the load; you’re opening up doors for growth and collaboration.
You’re giving others a chance to shine and develop their own skills. Identify the tasks that can be shared and find the right people for the job.
Your external environment has a profound impact on your internal state. How would you feel if your room was cluttered with unnecessary objects?
Spend some time setting up your place so that it fosters your wellbeing. It’s time to reclaim your space and create a harmonious environment that promotes a sense of calm and clarity.
Channel your inner Marie Kondo and tackle that clutter head-on. Sort through your belongings and let go of the unnecessary.
Embrace minimalism and surround yourself with only what truly brings you joy and serves a purpose. As you clear out the physical clutter, you’ll discover a newfound sense of freedom and peace.
Get organized and create space in a way that supports your well-being. Find a place for everything and create systems that make it easy to maintain order.
A tidy environment not only reduces visual distractions but also helps you stay focused and productive.
Feeling overwhelmed often stems from a sense of disorganization and the fear of forgetting important tasks. In these moments, just take a step back, gather your thoughts, and approach the situation with clarity and strategy.
First things first, it’s time to prioritize. Take a deep breath and assess the urgency and importance of each task. Identify the ones that require immediate attention and those that can be tackled later.
Focus your efforts on the most critical projects and give yourself permission to let go of the non-essential ones.
“Feeling overwhelmed is often caused by chaos and lack of direction. Organizing your to-do list and completing basic goal-setting activities can relieve you from keeping a mental note about every little detail you should take care of. When I get stressed out, I take a few moments to draft down everything I need to do.”
When life gets hectic, most people just toss their hobbies out the window like yesterday’s news. It’s all too common.
However, studies have shown that engaging in leisure activities, even when you’re busy, can significantly improve your happiness and well-being. Whether it’s playing an instrument, painting, hiking, or indulging in a book, hobbies have the power to uplift your spirits.
Another way to conquer overwhelming feelings is to step outside your comfort zone and explore new hobbies or activities. Trying something fresh and exciting breaks the monotony and opens doors to new experiences and opportunities for personal growth.
Learn a new language, sign up for a martial arts class, or try cooking an exotic dish. Embracing novelty has the power to infuse your life with newfound energy and elevate your sense of well-being.
Gratitude is a powerful antidote to overwhelm. Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s top scientific authority on gratitude, explains that gratitude has two essential components:
“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts. and benefits we’ve received.
The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.
We acknowledge that other people – or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve goodness in our lives.”
Take a moment each day to reflect on the blessings in your life, big or small.
A published study in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience asserted that self-affirmation exercises stimulate your brain’s reward center. When you’re under stress, positive affirmations can help you react less defensively and resistively.
Positive affirmations help you cultivate a resilient and expansive sense of self. It’s like you’re equipped with a superpower to navigate through any difficulties life throws your way.
Incorporate positive affirmations into your daily routine. Repeat empowering statements that reinforce your worth, strength, and resilience.
Harness the transformative power of gratitude and affirmations to shift your mindset towards a more positive outlook.
The way you speak to yourself has a profound impact on your emotional well-being. When overwhelmed, negative thoughts and self-talk can amplify your distress.
Learn to challenge and reframe these negative narratives. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion and understanding.
Question the validity of negative thoughts and seek evidence to counter them. By consciously challenging negativity, you can free yourself from its grip and cultivate a more optimistic and empowering mindset.
It’s time to break free from those negative narratives that hold you back. Learn to challenge them, to question their validity.
It’s time to switch from your default response of self-criticism to something more empowering, like self-compassion and understanding.
You should treat yourself with the same compassion and consideration that you would extend to a close friend. Accept self-compassion as your compass, allowing it to mellow the edges of self-judgment and unlock the path to personal development.
When you reframe your negative thoughts, you’re actually changing your frame of mind. You’re flipping the script and cultivating thoughts that uplift and empower you.
It’s like a mental makeover that reduces stress and opens up a world of possibilities. Also known as cognitive restructuring, this method is all about rewiring your brain and reshaping your thinking patterns.
This will help you create a more empowering and optimistic mindset. Say goodbye to those old, negative thought loops that keep dragging you down.
There’s something truly magical about putting pen to paper and pouring out your thoughts and emotions. Journaling provides a safe and private space for self-reflection, self-expression, and processing your feelings.
Journaling allows you to gain clarity, release pent-up emotions, and gain insights into yourself. It’s a cathartic practice that can uplift your spirits and provide a sense of inner peace amidst the chaos.
Whether it’s free-flowing writing or structured prompts that unleash your thoughts onto the pages, journaling has an uplifting effect. It has been demonstrated that using writing as a therapeutic tool is effective in helping people handle traumatic experiences.
The Artist’s Way best-selling author Julie Cameron advises writing three pages by hand, on whatever that comes to mind, first thing in the morning:
“The dailiness of writing allows us not only to walk into change and through it but also to record change in tiny, manageable increments, to find grounding when our lives feel unhorsed.”
So there you have it: 12 easy techniques to lift yourself up when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
It’s not about making drastic changes or following some fancy self-help trend. It’s about embracing a mindset shift and incorporating small, manageable practices into your daily life.
It starts with prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and giving yourself permission to say “no” when necessary. It’s about cultivating mindfulness, finding moments of calm amidst the chaos, and reconnecting with the present moment.
Don’t forget the power of physical activity and quality rest. Moving your body and giving yourself sufficient downtime can work wonders for your overall mood and energy levels.
Not to mention the value of building positive relationships and asking for help from others. You need not endure life’s trials as a solitary castaway on some forsaken island.
Rest assured that feeling overwhelmed is common and affects even the best of us. By implementing these simple practices, you can uplift yourself and navigate through the storm with more ease and resilience.
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