Overcome feeling Overwhelmed
What is “Overwhelm”?
Being overwhelmed is the feeling of running out of energy. It takes all your effort and energy to just cope and react to things that you have nothing left to think clearly. So, well done for reading this far! Keep going, you’ll be pleased you did.
We all get overwhelmed sometimes, like we are drowning in emotion. Being overwhelmed is not always unhappy, I’m sure we’ve all seen those videos where a child is given the yearned for puppy as a surprise and is overwhelmed with happiness. So, overwhelm is different to stress.
Difference between Overwhelm and Stress
Primarily stress is a physical response. When we sense some sort of threat, the body responds as if it is under attack and goes into “fight or flight” mode. This releases a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. Blood is diverted to muscles and unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion are shut down.
When we talk about being stressed, typically we mean how we respond to too much pressure. Whilst some pressure is a good thing, it motivates us and keeps us going, too much pressure that builds so we cannot cope – that’s stress.
Stress results from an overload of demands — too much work, too much pressure, just too much everything.
Typically, our response to stress reflects this “too much”. We get overinvolved emotionally and believe that if we just work harder and longer, tolerate more, do more with the kids, have more energy, be more of a person, then we will work out a way to get out of our stressful situation. Being stressed increases our need to respond to whatever is stressing us out – this creates anxiety.
Overwhelm is a forerunner to burnout. When we are continually overwhelmed, we can become burned out. Chronic stress can also lead to burnout.
Where stress means too much, overwhelm means too little. Because we cannot process all the overwhelming emotion, we are less emotive and we have less energy. So, we detach from our relationships, our work, and ourselves. We can feel helpless and stuck and are more likely to feel depressed and alone.
The thing about overwhelm is that its difficult to find the energy and motivation to get you out of it. We might know that talking about things or going for a walk are really helpful, but we can’t be bothered to do these things. We are in a hole and we can’t get out.
And there’s the key – overcoming overwhelm is about managing your energy.
The best way to effectively overcome overwhelm is to build up helpful, positive energy while reducing draining, negative energy. Here’s some tips to do just that:
Make your sleep priority public. Tell your friends and family that you feel sleep is really important so they understand. It will help you follow through with getting the recommended 7-9 hours every night.
Take a Break
After about 1½ to 2 hours of working, our mental and creative capacities naturally start to fade. So, when we “dig deep” and continue to slog away for longer, we start to make more mistakes and the quality of our work declines. So, even if it’s just to 5-10 minutes ‑ take a break.
There is a real connection between the food you eat and your mood. The relationship between food and mood
Fresh berries like blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries can increase alertness and improve energy.
Release negative thoughts
Let go of what triggering the overwhelm. It’s our thoughts about situations that trigger overwhelm, worry and anxiety.
Replace the thoughts, beliefs and habits that are unhelpful with thoughts, beliefs and habits that are. How? It takes time, practice and most importantly – self-compassion. Learn to treat yourself like a good friend with kindness, forgiveness and love.
Pay attention to how you are feeling
The moment you notice you are feeling off, overwhelmed, have discord or are frustrated, then pause and refocus. Engage in an activity that gets you back in harmony. This type of energy management helps to regulate our feeling or overwhelm. In this way you increase your sustained energy and move forward without overwhelm.
Real, sustainable change happens over time. Start small and see what happens.
When is the right time to seek help?
Generally speaking, if you are concerned about feeling over-whelmed or becoming burned out and you have found yourself looking for ways to change things, then it is likely that you will benefit from counselling.
Some people consider counselling to be a ‘last resort’. While this may be the case, you do not have to wait for you to be in crisis before coming to counselling. In fact, it is not unusual for people to use counselling sessions as a way to keep their emotional wellbeing healthy and to quickly address underlying issues before they grow and have a major impact on their lives.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure – it takes courage and is the first step to help turn things around.
If you are considering counselling, choose a counsellor that’s properly qualified and accredited. The Counselling Directory (www.counselling-directory.org.uk) undergo checks to make sure everyone they list is qualified and belongs to a professional body.
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