Overwhelm, anxiety, fear, worry, and stress are all familiar words we use in our every day, and for many of us, they are very familiar and real experiences.
Anxiety is not a single condition. It is a host of different conditions, and it can be both physically and mentally overwhelming. Feeling overwhelmed is perhaps the most common symptom of anxiety, and it can actually affect you on a very base level.
If you find yourself asking “How do I stop feeling overwhelmed?” then trust that you’re not alone. There are so many surveys recently conducted across the globe that report huge increases in the amount of people feeling overwhelmed in this world today that is full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
Stress doesn’t discriminate. It impacts everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or location, and it can originate from many personal and systemic factors. We all have different stress level thresholds, and we all handle stress in our different ways. What overwhelms one person may not trouble the next.
So, here’s a friendly reminder: Though it’s not always easy, it is possible to learn skills for coping with overwhelm. Learning the potential root causes and coping tips may help you manage your stress a bit easier, no matter what’s causing it.
There are many coping strategies that you can try to reduce the amount of overwhelm experienced on a daily basis and in each stressful moment.
So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to deal with it – here are some coping tips that may help.
1. Reflect on the “why”
A first important step to overcoming overwhelm is to get to the root cause of it. The next time you are tackling overwhelm, ask yourself what is making me feel stressed right now? Once you identify the source, you’re that much closer to solving it and feeling better.
2. Accept your feelings
Nonjudgmental acceptance of your feelings of overwhelm is important, and may help to alleviate any negative thoughts and feelings associated with your stress. If you continue to deny and ignore your overwhelm it is going to make it worse. It will continue to bubble away under the surface, building up until you have no choice but to address it and deal with it.
There are so many different breathing exercises that can help improve and reduce stress levels. Long slow deep breathing into the lower belly helps calm the nervous system, and diaphragmatic breathing can offer physiological and psychological stress relief. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, try taking a deep inhale through the nose, and a long slow exhale through the mouth and repeat. Focus on your breath with each inhale and exhale until you feel more at ease. There are many resources available online, youtube etc.
Meditation helps alleviate stress, anxiety and overwhelm. There are many different techniques available and it is important to find one that works for you. In as little as 10 minutes, a meditation practice can reduce anxiety and stress, calm the nervous system and help you feel relaxed even in the most stressful of situations.
5. Be Present
When you are fully present you have the ability to be mindful which not only makes us happier, it also helps us deal with stress and overwhelm. By being present you are improving your ability to cope with the negative emotions like fear and anger of the past and future. When you are not focussed on the present moment, you are rehashing past scenarios in which danger may have been present and so creating a fearful perception of going forward, or you self-generate anxiety by future mental scenario building. Neither of which is conducive to easing overwhelm.
6. Focus On What You Can Control
It’s natural for us to focus on all those things that we feel are out of our control, but this amplifies our anxiety. Instead, focus on the things you can control! When you focus on the controllable, you give yourself the opportunity to redirect your attention to something within your power.
We live in a society that doesn’t exactly prioritise rest or self-care. For most of us its work, eat, sleep, repeat – until we get through to the weekend and can maybe grab some relaxation time, if we’re lucky.
It is important to intentionally set some time aside for self-care to reduce the amount of stress and overwhelm you feel from being “on” all the time. Taking short breaks during the workday can help, get up and stretch, have a walk outside – small things that can give you a moment of respite.
8. Do What You Enjoy
Take time to bring joy into your life. Are you doing enough of what you love? Or are you merely grinding your way through each day?
9. Set Boundaries and Prioritise
There is enormous value in getting good at saying ‘no’. It is important to set boundaries with people who bring negativity and sap your energy. It is important to prioritise what you devote all of your time, energy, enthusiasm and passion to and eliminate the time wasting projects and unimportant tasks that overload you and add needlessly to your overwhelm.
10. Speak with a Therapist or Coach
Consider talking to a professional, speaking with a therapist or coach may help if you have tried many of the coping mechanisms, but are still struggling with overwhelm. A therapist or good coach can help you identify the root cause and create personalised solutions to help you move forward.
Do remember, you are not alone, overwhelm happens to everyone at some stage. These feelings are temporary, and they will pass.