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How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

Updated: May 16


Everything was going well then one little thing happened, and it was like your mind exploded. You feel exhausted and that there was just too much on your plate. Even the easiest decision is difficult. You’ve found yourself unable to concentrate and your thoughts jump from one topic to the next which frustrates the people around you. They might even tease you that you have ADHD. The feeling of being overwhelmed can hit very fast or come in slow waves.


The cognitive impact of feeling overwhelmed can range from mental slowness, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating or thinking logically, to a racing mind or an impaired ability to problem solve. When we have too many demands on our thinking over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue can also happen, making us more prone to distractions and our thinking less agile. Any of these effects, alone, can make us less effective and leave us feeling even more overwhelmed. Here are some strategies to help stop being overwhelmed.


Find the Primary Source: If you think about your life, is there anything that if it went away then 80% of your stress would disappear? This does not mean that you are going to be able to make it disappear, but it helps to identify it. Over the last couple years, if covid went away we would all have experienced a drop in our stress. We all still had to deal with it, but when we acknowledge that and provide ourselves with some self-compassion it also reduces the effect. It could be something else in your life, a project that has been weighing on you or a relationship that requires attention. Identify the primary source of the stress and see how you can make it more manageable.


Set Boundaries: Chaos causes stress. Here is how the cycle between boundaries and overwhelmed work. When we are overwhelmed, we often have softer boundaries because we are too tired to have healthy boundaries. Then because of the reduced boundaries we then have more demands placed on us which then intensifies the pressure increasing the feelings of overwhelmed.


Healthy boundaries are set so that you are emotionally and mentally stable. It comes from taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions while not taking responsibility for other people’s emotions and actions. Once you take a moment to find the primary source of your stress then you will probably start to see what boundaries need to be adjusted. If you are working too much and have not have time for family, it is a time boundary. If you are becoming overloaded because you are overcommitting yourself to activities or friends, then it is an emotional boundary. Recognizing where the boundaries are being bent or completely broken will help you find ways to healthily adjust them.


Challenge Perfectionism: Perfectionism can lead us to make projects or tasks bigger than they need to be which can lead to procrastination and bump up the feelings of being overwhelmed. As things pile up because you are not completely the task then it cycles on itself causes the pressure to build. It is important to find the balance of when something is finish and done well. A question to check yourself is to ask, “What is the benefit of spending more time on this task or project?” If you find there is little to none then stop where you are. You are finished. We can not do everything perfectly because that standard does not exist as the perfect bar will move as we get close to it. Setting realistic goals and being able to praise yourself and be content with your work will lower the overwhelmed feeling.


Stop Judging Yourself: Its easy to judge ourselves by statements like “I should feel better by now,” or “Shouldn’t I have this under control?” But these statements cause havoc with our mental and emotional states. There are many things that we are able to deal with when we are mentally and emotionally healthy. When we become overwhelmed our capacity for everyday things diminishes so something that normally would not set you off become too much to handle. Judging ourselves for not being able to cope triggers guilt, shame and then everything gets harder. When we provide ourselves with some self-compassion and understanding then we can balance our emotions which increases our capability to cope with life stress.


Interrupt Your Worries: Fear is to a tool to protect us but when we start to worry about every possible scenario then it causes us to feel overwhelmed. When you are already overwhelmed by life in general it is about stopping the thought and distracting yourself. How to do this is by acknowledging that your thoughts are spiraling down the worry hole then stop yourself and change the topic in your brain. This could be by refocusing on your task, playing a game on your phone, calling a friend, playing with your kids. Interrupting your worries will reduce their effect on you and then you’ll be able to implement other coping strategies to deal with the worries.


Find the Good in Your Life: When we are stressed our brain steps up the protection mechanism so that we are not caught off guard. We become hyper focused on the negative and everything starts seeming like it is on fire. We need to balance this out by purposely finding the good in our life. This can include taking a moment through your day to be thankful, watching a funny show or movie, taking a moment to treasure a relationship, play with your child, have a meaningful conversation with a loved one, taking a walk in the park, etc. When we purposely look for the good it causes our brain to release the dopamine and serotine neurotransmitters which enhances our mood and lowers our stress.


When we are overwhelmed even the simplest suggestions can seem like too much for us. As you read this over you might dismiss it as “it would never work for you”. This indicates that even these suggestions are too much right now and you need support help you move towards health. It is possible to find peace and stop being overwhelmed. If you would like to discover that for yourself, please reach out. We are here to help.


Warmly,

Trish Pauls, MA RP

Registered Psychotherapist

HELPPS Psychotherapy

519-601-(HELP) 4357

www.helpps.ca


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