overwhelm-when everything gets too much

Five ways to escape overwhelm

2 November 2019

In our high intensity, high pressured lives, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Without even realising, we are rushing all the time. We live life feeling there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in. The more we get done, the more the to-do list seems to grow. Many of us can end up feeling as we are hamsters constantly running round and round a wheel. It’s as if we are putting all our energy into keeping up. The faster we run, the faster the wheel goes and we find ourselves trying to do more and more just to stay still.

Overwhelm affects thinking

When we are overwhelmed, it can be hard to think straight. Our minds become scattered and life feels out of control. It’s easy to become irritated when we get interrupted. We may find it difficult to concentrate and to complete even simple tasks.

Cycle of overwhelm

As our thinking slows down, we become less effective at whatever we are doing, leaving us even more overwhelmed. Some people end up withdrawing from family and friends in an effort to cope.

Worry and overwhelm

Overwhelm goes hand in hand with worry. Our minds are constantly thinking about how we can get through everything we have to do. We may feel responsible for taking care of others at home or work. We can feel anxious about how we are performing at work, and worry about losing our jobs. See https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/how-to-beat-imposter-syndrome-and-stop-feeling-like-a-fraud/ for more.

Physical symptoms

Overwhelm affects the body’s nervous, immune and hormonal systems. As the body tries to cope with overload, it releases cortisol, the stress hormone. At the same time, serotonin, which protects us from depression and anxiety, falls. Both of these leave us with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, fatigue and even despair.

Vicious cycle

Overwhelm can also make it difficult to take care of yourself. You may forget meals, avoid taking breaks and find it difficult to sleep. This makes it difficult to think clearly and makes it even harder to cope with overwhelm.

If you are stuck in overwhelm, it may be hard to see a way out, but it is possible to get help.

When I work with clients who are overwhelmed, we work together to change the thoughts, feelings and actions that are holding them back. We work in partnership to find realistic ways of managing stress so it doesn’t become overwhelming. I take care to always work at the client’s pace. I take time to support clients to develop the skills they need to make changes. We develop skills and strategies so clients can learn to relax and recharge and let go of beliefs that are causing overwhelm and to learn to enjoy their lives again.

Try my five ways to escape overwhelm to get you started.

overwhelm-learn to set boundaries

Set boundaries

You can learn to set boundaries in different ways. It may be you want to introduce time limits on the amount of time you spend on each task. Or, you may wish to limit the amount of tasks you take on. You could decide to finish work by a certain time each day and stick to it. Or you may decide to can say no to requests that will take up too much of your time. Setting boundaries also means tackling perfectionism and accepting that good enough is enough.

Learn to stop worrying

One of the causes of overwhelm is worrying about things we can’t control. Somehow, we believe that worrying or considering all the things that can possibly go wrong, will help us solve problems or protect us in some way. Constant worrying sets off warnings in our head that induce panic.

Instead, try to allow yourself to stay in the present moment and deal with what is happening right now. Let go of thinking about what possibly may or may not happen. Try to allow yourself to release unhelpful thoughts or feelings as much as possible. Instead focus on the reality of a situation without letting your mind wander to all the possible scenarios and outcomes. For more, check out https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/creating-calm-uncertain-world/

Go outside, get walking

Walking can make it harder for your mind and body to be as overwhelmed. When you walk, you take in lots of new information. You see things, you feel things, and you smell things with each step that you take. Walking moves blood around your body and helps regulate your breathing and heart rate.

Take care of yourself

When you are overwhelmed, its important to focus on your health. We need to be healthy to meet life’s challenges. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep are the basic building blocks of resilience. Take time out to do things that feel good to you, you enjoy and find rewarding. The more overwhelmed you feel, the more important it is to be taking care of yourself. This will help to calm your nervous system, reduce the fight or flight response and help you handle things more easily. For more, see https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/fight-flight-understanding-body-responds-stress/

Use your breath

When people become overwhelmed, their breathing changes and they begin to gulp air, and may feel as if they are going to suffocate. Or, they start to breathe really quickly and feel dizzy,  making them feel worse. Learning to recognise this and slowing down your breathing as soon as it happens can help reduce anxiety.

When you consciously breathe in deep, it triggers your body’s relaxation response and can come in handy during particularly stressful moments.

Check out How to Relax in Just Five Minutes a Day for a quick and simple breathing exercise to help you.

For more information on managing overwhelm see the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s factsheet.

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