Feeling Emotionally Overwhelmed? Causes and Coping Mechanisms
We’ve all felt overwhelmed at some point in our lives. Even if you have a good grasp on life, there will always be moments when everything feels like too much.
There is no shame in admitting it: feeling overwhelmed can lead to anxiety and depression if left unchecked. The key is to take care of yourself before the problem gets worse.
This article will give you 8 different methods for staying calm when things get tough and reveal how therapy can help.
What Does Overwhelmed Mean?
Overwhelming emotions entail more than just being stressed. It’s the feeling that everything is “too much” and you can’t cope. It often includes a combination of anxiety, depression, anger, or other emotions.
Think of it as being on a sailboat, and the rope that tethers you to it is too short. It feels like your boat will capsize at any minute because there’s just so much happening around you. No matter how much you fight or pull, you’re still not getting anywhere.
When most people say, “I feel overwhelmed”, this is the kind of turmoil they’re talking about. If you feel emotional overwhelm, it’s essential to realize that there is a pathway or sequence in the emotional system where negative feelings can lead into more intense ones and then trigger an overreaction with similar intensity.
What starts as just feeling stressed may end up to be feeling anxious or even panicky.
When people feel overwhelmed, they may also have trouble focusing and remembering things. It’s for this reason that therapeutic interventions often focus on helping people to find a way of dealing with feelings to avoid a downward spiral.
No matter what you are feeling, it’s essential to know that there is always hope and help if you reach out for it. You can’t do everything by yourself all the time. Sometimes, we need each other!
Causes of Overwhelming Emotions
Whether brought on by an extremely stressful time at work, family troubles, or simply the demands of everyday life, overwhelming emotions can be destructive.
Feeling stressed and easily overwhelmed can happen for a short period or linger for days or months.
But what exactly causes it?
Some of the common experiences that can lead to being overwhelmed include:
- Physical or mental illness
- Stressful life changes
- Loneliness and social isolation
- Homesickness or grief
- Happiness-induced stressors such as new jobs, babies, relationships. All of these can lead to feeling overwhelmed in the moment but also after they have subsided.
- Financial distress
- Death of a loved one
- Habitual lack of sleep
- Time constraints
- Lack of good nutrition
Signs of Being Overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed can take shape in many ways. An individual may feel overwhelmed when faced with too many things to do or not enough time for everything that needs to be done in the end.
Others can experience feelings of overwhelm due to an extreme change in lifestyle: moving across the country after years of living on one coast and finding themselves at home adjusting back to their new lifestyle.
However, generally, feelings of overwhelm can be summarized in three different signs.
- Feeling an inability to keep up with responsibilities, tasks, or demands placed on them
- Experiencing a feeling of loss of control, which happens as they struggle to balance what is expected and what is possible for themselves, given their strengths and limitations
- Difficulty verbalizing their feelings and thoughts to themselves or others
The reason your mind responds so negatively to these emotions is due to the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone, which is a part of our stress response system. Stressful emotions increase the production and release of cortisol in your body.
This causes blood pressure to rise, heart rate to accelerate, breathing becomes faster and shallower, digestion slows down and other effects that are not beneficial.
On the other hand, the hormone serotonin, which helps you fight off anxiety and depression, is reduced by stress. As a result, the body also releases adrenaline, the hormone responsible for feelings of anxiety. This may make you feel restless and irritable and produce symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath.
Stress can lead to harmful health consequences such as a heart attack, stroke, diabetes or other chronic diseases if it isn’t managed appropriately.
Coping With or Stopping an Overwhelming Feeling
The first step to coping with or stopping an overwhelming feeling is to accept that it’s okay to feel the way you are. You may not be able to control what triggers your feelings of overwhelm, but you can learn how to manage and cope with them.
Once you have acknowledged your emotions as valid and understandable, it will be easier for you to work on overcoming the overwhelming feeling and getting back to normal.
Secondly, it can be helpful to identify what triggers the overwhelming experience for you.
Thirdly, we recommend taking a few moments every day to engage in activities that bring you joy.
The following tips will help:
Don’t Fight What You’re Feeling
If you’re saying, “I am overwhelmed but don’t know what to do,” the first step is to accept what you’re feeling. You see, when we try to suppress our emotions, the feelings only get stronger.
A better approach is to use acceptance as a tool to help you find your way out of the overwhelming experience.
Reverse Your Overwhelmed Thought Process
When you feel overwhelmed, it’s also crucial to stop the thought process that is leading you to feel more and more overwhelmed.
The first step is to stop and examine what’s happening inside your head, like what are you saying to yourself?
To do this, we recommend taking a few moments every day when you’re not feeling overwhelmed and writing down on paper or in an app all of the thoughts going through your head.
This is a great way to see what you’re telling yourself, which can lead you into an overwhelmed state, and then reverse those thoughts by replacing them with more helpful ones. This way, you’re training your brain to stop the pattern and start feeling better.
Live in the Moment
Learning how to not feel overwhelmed won’t happen overnight. However, you can start feeling better in just a few minutes.
The first thing you should do is try to live more fully in the moment and not worry about what happened or will happen. This means taking some time every day, even if it’s only for five minutes at a time. Put your phone down, close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and try to forget about everything else.
Mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yoga can also help. These techniques may seem intimidating at first, but they are a great way to reduce the frequency of feelings of being overwhelmed. When you’re mindful, you’re living in the present moment without judgment.
Therefore, instead of living with a constant feeling of being overwhelmed, you’ll feel more in control and calmer.
As always, it’s important to remember that even the smallest step forward is worth taking if your goal is to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Therefore, don’t be too hard on yourself when you can’t meditate or practice yoga like a seasoned yogi. Just keep trying.
Practice Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises also go a long way in relieving feelings of being overwhelmed. If you’re feeling anxious, try breathing in for five seconds and then out for ten seconds. When you’ve made it to a minute, take another deep breath before starting over again.
It may not seem like a big deal, but these exercises can actually reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm. Also, breathing exercises take time – so you’ll be distracted from your thoughts for a little while.
Self-care is another excellent way to start feeling calmer and less overwhelmed. It doesn’t take much time, but it can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself.
Take some time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes and do something that you enjoy. It could be reading a book, watching TV with your friends, or taking a long bath – whatever feels good to you!
Giving yourself some time for self-care can help reduce how often you feel overwhelmed and distracted by your thoughts. And it’s also vital that when you start feeling better again, you understand that self-care is a priority and not something you only do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Know Your Resources
Having an arsenal of tools to help you handle your anxiety and other challenges can make a big difference in how often you feel overwhelmed. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed for some time, it may be time to figure out what makes a difference for you.
Once you’ve identified the things that bring you peace and calm, you can put them to use when you start feeling overwhelmed.
Be Kind to Yourself
Sometimes we forget how difficult it is to juggle the demands of a busy life that can make us feel exhausted and overwhelmed.
It’s important to take care of yourself by eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and spending time with friends or family who support you.
Do not underestimate the power of journaling when you’re stuck on what to do when overwhelmed. This is actually a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out on paper, and the act of writing down what you’re going through can be therapeutic.
When you’re overwhelmed , your appetite may decrease or increase. So, it’s crucial to take care of yourself with nutritious food to provide energy for your day ahead. Good nutrition is also necessary for coping with stress.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to take care of yourself by getting regular exercise. You’ll feel better about your life and your body when you are physically active! It will provide a healthy outlet for the energy building up due to the high levels of stress and produce feel-good chemicals in your brain.
Get Plenty of Rest
Your body needs plenty of rest when you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. Plan for a good night’s sleep by getting to bed early, establishing a routine that will maintain healthy sleeping habits, avoiding caffeine after noon if possible, and limiting evening screen time.
When you’re well-rested, you’ll be much more effective, productive and happier in your work. Not to mention, you’ll have more energy to do all the things you love, which will limit your stress levels.
Take a Break
It’s crucial to take some downtime when feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. If that means going for a walk, taking a break in the middle of your workday, or meditating at home before bed, it will go a long way towards helping.
Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help when feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. If that means asking your colleagues or friends for a bit of relief, delegating some of the tasks on your plate, or utilizing an online assistant to ease your workload, it will go a long way towards helping you feel less burdened by everything.
Not only does getting someone to help you out when feeling overwhelmed and stressed out allow you to take a break, but it also allows your co-worker or friend the opportunity to help. This is an excellent way to build morale if you’re in a leadership position.
Hanging in there can be tough sometimes but remember that everything is temporary — your stressors will end at some point (even if only for a little bit). Don’t let them overwhelm you! Talk to a friend, your spouse, or anyone else you feel comfortable opening up to.
Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help yourself when feeling overwhelmed is going out and talking with a therapist or counselor. They’ll be able to listen, provide insight on what may have triggered your feelings of overwhelm, and offer suggestions for coping strategies that work.
Some of the strategies therapists may mention are:
- Deep breathing exercises that help you focus on the present moment and calm your mind.
- Meditation, which teaches you to stay in the here and now without letting thoughts of past or future intrude.
- Visualizing a single place where you find solace and imagining yourself there until feelings subside.
Therapists may also use different treatment techniques to help you cope with feeling overwhelmed. These include:
Talk therapy is quite common for people who are overwhelmed. It is a time-intensive form of treatment where people discuss their thoughts and feelings with mental health professionals to understand themselves better and cope with the issues they’re struggling with.
You can engage an online therapist on Calmerry.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This is where therapists use techniques like cognitive restructuring to change how you think about yourself or your problems to improve mood.
Therapists may also talk with their clients and provide support during difficult times by helping them identify positive thoughts and actions.
Some therapists may also use mindfulness techniques like meditation to help you relax and find peace.
Some therapists incorporate guided imagery into their treatment, which is where they use soothing images, sounds and sensations during therapy to help the client feel safe or calm.
Therapists may also encourage clients to try self-help practices like taking walks, meditating, listening to music or talking with family members.
Therapists may also have you practice deep breathing exercises to take control of your breath and calm down.
Journal therapy is also a technique used by therapists to help clients explore their thoughts and feelings, and it’s an excellent way of dealing with overwhelming feelings.
Therapists may have you talk with friends, family members or co-workers about your struggles to gain social support that will make it easier for you to feel better. This is especially common in situations where an individual is in therapy with their spouse.
Feeling overwhelmed is a natural feeling, and it’s important to know that you are not alone. If you’re easily overwhelmed, don’t forget these tips on how to not be overwhelmed. They’ll go a long way in helping you overcome the feeling, feel more at ease, and boost your productivity.
Also, don’t forget about your mental health — it’s just as important as physical health when overwhelmed or stressed out. Talking with a therapist helps you understand why you are feeling overwhelmed and allows you to manage your stress more effectively.
Bio Kate Skurat
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in healthcare since 2017. She mainly treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, grief, identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience is focused on individual and group counseling.
Follow Kate here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-skurat-5348381b9/
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