How to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed


In today’s time of information overload, it is difficult not to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed means feeling weighed down by intense pressure, negative thoughts, and stress. Sometimes it passes on its own, but sometimes it leads to chronic stress and inability to cope. All of us at some point, need help with managing feeling overwhelmed. Learn to process emotions and practice essential wellness on Wysa.

Mental and emotional symptoms of being overwhelmed 

When does the feeling of ‘too much’ need to be accounted for? when do we understand that ‘it’s not okay, anymore? How to know we are undergoing a lot of stress and fatigue? If you find below-mentioned symptoms, it’s time to take a break:

Inability to Focus

You can either feel bored and slow down in the face of work pressure, or your thoughts can race and you can’t focus. As a result, it would be difficult to get a task done or achieve a deadline. There might be procrastination or excessive jumping between various things that need to be done. Both would be symptoms of feeling overwhelmed.

A decrease in Social activity and Interaction

Another sign of overwhelm would be withdrawing into yourself and seeking more and more alone time. It is alright. Take a snooze from social commitments. With some people, they might physically be able to meet people, and go for outings, but may feel increasingly tired. When “going out” feels exhausting, it may be that you have too many things on your plate, and downtime seems like work too!

When daily tasks seem like chores

Sometimes, for a few days, it can also weigh us down and lead to a depressive state where managing self-care can feel like an enormous task. For example, getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, having breakfast might feel like boulders to overcome in the day. If this feeling lasts only for a few days, this means you are feeling overwhelmed, and your mind is giving you signals to take it easy. 

Physical Symptoms of being  overwhelmed 

Overwhelm doesn’t only show in a mental slowdown, or racing thoughts, but also has effects on our bodies. Our bodies tell us more than what we give them credit for. They are efficient messengers about what is happening. We must pick up on these signals and understand that we might be piling on too much on ourselves. 

Excessive work pressure, or having to take care of a sick person in the family, grieving somebody’s loss, are some of the circumstances that overwhelm. Usually, these stressors are part of our lives for a long time, leading to some negative effects on our health. It can cause:

  • increased blood pressure
  • reduced stamina
  • low immunity thereby causing frequent colds
  • weight gain and loss of muscle mass in your body
  • frequent migraines, and sometimes other aches and pains
  • racing thoughts, inability to concentrate
  • difficulty in sleeping, or sleeping too much.

Causes of being Overwhelmed

Lack of boundaries

Lack of personal boundaries in the workplace and in relationships makes saying no very difficult. When you know you are being told to take on more than you can handle. Some introspection on where your boundaries are and how to communicate them to others would help you in the long run when it comes to managing feeling overwhelmed.

Need for perfection and control

Many of us feel that any task done to the less than perfect quality is a disaster. There is one rule of thumb here, ‘Don’t Expect the World Out of Yourself’. Don’t be so hard on yourself! While quality is important, not everything can be controlled and managed, when it is beyond your capacity. You need to let go of the guilt that comes along when you don’t oversee everything that comes in and around your portfolio of tasks. 

Pressure from others

Some of us go through a tough time saying no to someone. We have to muster up the courage for this. You may feel you cannot say no to the friendly boss or you have a need to be nice, which may not always feel like a boon. While hard work pays off, we need to also know when we are being pressurized, and we need to gently but firmly, say no to pressure coming from others. For this,

  • Assess your boundaries: Take note of your personal commitments, your family, and any personal issues that need your attention. Set a boundary for yourself.
  • Assess your workload: there might be a week where you feel you can afford some extra hours without it taking a toll on you. So you need to keep a regular tab on the work you can say YES to.
  • Assess your own need for self-care and the breaks you need. That time needs to be accounted for too!

Fearing Disappointment

This can also be translated into a fear of the future. All of the above causes, come down to this – What If (followed by some predicament in the future)? What if my relationship fails if I don’t say yes to this? What if I don’t get my appraisal if I don’t prove myself in this task? What if the task cannot be completed without me? Fearing disappointing yourself or another person in the future is the biggest reason why circumstances overwhelm us. 

How to stop feeling overwhelmed?

Plan Ahead

Hustling is the new trend and the new need for millennials. Because we do different kinds of things during the day, we are ace multi-taskers. However, we do get overwhelmed sometimes with the range of faculties we need to employ within ourselves. The best thing to deal with this is to invest in a planner. Write down your tasks, give yourself deadlines, and also write down your limit to how much work you can take on.

Make SMART Goals 

Dealing with long term projects? Elaborate deliverables? Break down your massive task into smaller chunks. You don’t need to get everything done in one go. You can work some, save your progress, and come back to it later. A good strategy is to finish off smaller chunks of a few projects serially. You would be surprised at how smoothly you can get multiple projects finished.

Do not ruminate

Many of us sit and think about the task at hand before we actually get to do it. Judge yourself on whether these thoughts are adding anything constructive to your performance. If not, you are magnifying and catastrophizing. These are thinking errors. Magnifying is overestimating the difficulty, the time needed, and the challenge of the task. And catastrophizing, would be thinking of and expecting things to go wrong. 

This happens in relationships as well. The impending “talk” can overwhelm us. We might start fearing the worst- that we would be dumped, or there is something shattering coming our way. We forget that it may not really be an impossible challenge. We forget to think positively about ourselves and begin losing faith in our own ability to solve problems.

Add Breaks to your Schedule

Do you forget to eat while you work? Do you forget to drink water the whole day as you work? If your answer is yes, then you need some breaks in your schedule. Your lunch break is not enough. Getting up from your desktop, walking, stretching, and hydrating is imperative to your mental and physical wellbeing. Sitting in one place and working on the computer tirelessly could cause headaches, shoulder pains, soreness, and more.

Listen to Your Body

Your body is giving you many signals. Do not ignore it. Listen to your body for fatigue, dehydration, pains, stiffness in muscles  Give it what it’s asking for. 

Remember you are only human

Expecting everything in your life to succeed is something we have all been guilty for at some point or the other. However, there is no human being whose life has had no falls, no failures, no stresses. When you expect the limitations of any other human being, why not accept these limitations as your own too? Would you expect a close friend to be on top of their game all the time? Then why have this expectation from yourself? Our failures and falls make our life real. How we cope with these things is what makes us special. Don’t forget self-compassion. Remember, you can always talk to Wysa.

What are the causes of emotional overwhelm?

Some of the causes of emotionally feeling overwhelmed could be- not being able to speak your mind and bottling up your feelings; going through frequent conflicts that do not lead to a constructive argument; feeling out of control emotionally due to stress and helplessness. Some situations are out of our hands, and ruminating over them tires us out. Another reason could be feeling criticized by a partner and family member frequently. It may be a good idea to remind the other person of your limitations and to acknowledge the things that cannot be changed.

How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed At work?

Too much screen time is physically overwhelming. Add to that a pile of work? It can feel excessive. Few things to do to stop feeling overwhelmed at work would be- Don’t take on more than you can handle; plan your day; add breaks to your day-plan; hydrate, and eat. Don’t isolate yourself at work, interact with co-workers and share your challenges. You might find help!

How to help someone who is feeling overwhelmed?

If you know someone who is overwhelmed and fatigued, let them talk about it, hear them out. People actually solve a lot of problems by talking about them, because they hear themselves, they verbalize the challenging mountain in their heads by slowing down the racing thoughts as they speak. When you are listening, ask them their plan. Help them make a schedule. Help them break down the mammoth task ahead of them. If they are stuck in a relationship concern, ask them what is bothering them, what are they feeling and how do you reach a constructive way of communicating what they’re going through.

How therapy can help you to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed?

Your therapist can help you in these ways-
By helping you detangle your thoughts– when we are overwhelmed we tend to collapse all of our stressors into one big unmanageable ball of stress. your therapist will help you make smaller chunks of this.
By Giving Perspective– Your therapist will help you gain a new perspective- when you catastrophize, generalize and magnify your problems, your therapist can highlight to you some of the thought-ladders you are climbing, that is actually pulling you down. 
Helping you Name what you are feeling– Many times naming your feelings can go a long way to healing. Your therapist is trained to help you tread this difficult journey of having a wholesome look into your emotions. This will also help you understand yourself and your boundaries better.

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