In a research carried out by Bupa UK, 27 percent of the respondents admitted that they are close to the breaking point and feel overwhelmed. Money is the leading cause of anxiety and stress by these respondents, followed by work and family life.
When a person admits that he/she is close to the breaking point, he/she feels overwhelmed. Emotional overwhelm is a state characterized by a difficult to manage intense emotion. Feeling overwhelmed can affect the way a person thinks and acts rationally. It can also hinder him/her from performing efficiently or in a functional manner.
Why We Feel Overwhelmed
When a person is exposed to multiple challenges in rapid succession or when his/her coping mechanism is insufficient, he/she can feel overwhelmed. The level of stress and the person’s support system are significant factors. When the person has a good support system like friends or family, then he/she is less likely to feel overwhelmed despite the stress level.
Feeling overwhelmed can stem from different reasons. Some people may feel overwhelmed by relationship problems while others cite financial issues, career demands, health conditions, and underlying mental condition as the cause.
How the Body Responds
When there is a perceived threat or danger, the body releases hormones or special chemicals to prepare the person for a fight-or-flight response. As a response to the release of these hormones, blood from the skin, organs, and extremities are directed to the brain and larger muscles. Aside from that, the senses especially the vision and the hearing are heightened.
Short-term stress can make the heartbeat and breath faster, the muscles tightened, the skin cold, and the mouth dry. These physical effects are normal and are needed for the person’s survival under stress.
When the person is constantly dealing with stress, the effects can be more severe and debilitating. It can change the person’s appetite, affect his/her sleeping habits, make him/her constantly feel worn-out and tired, and can make him/her more susceptible to colds and flu. People who are stressed can also suffer from psychological and somatic problems especially those with low self-esteem and poor social support.
What To Do When Feeling Overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed can momentarily make the person feel that there’s no way out. The truth is, there is.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, whether it’s a result of relationship problems, work, or cumulative stress, then know that there are things you can do to address this.
1. Make gradual changes
It’s too easy to feel overwhelmed when there is unpredictability or uncontrollability. For example, you wanted to lose weight. When you look at the whole picture and the things you need to do, it can make you feel and think that you’ll never be able to do it. This kind of thought can lead to more distress and anxiety; it paralyzes you from problem-solving and taking action.
A good way to go is to tackle the change one step at a time. Focus on small, doable chunks, and then build it. You’ll notice that you’ll feel good and this will help build more positive energy.
2. Take a few deep breaths
Deep breathing has been shown to help in relieving stress. It encourages the body’s relaxation response, slowing down the sympathetic activity. Taking a few deep breaths when feeling overwhelmed can help in reducing the blood pressure and the pulse rate.
3. Change your multitasking mindset
People used to associate multitasking with productivity. However, several studies have debunked this myth. With only 20 minutes of interruptions, people can start to feel more significantly stressed, pressured, and frustrated.
If you’re a multitasker, it’s best to get rid of this habit. It can also make you feel less overwhelmed if you change your multitasking mindset; that is, you have to complete everything right now or else.
4. Do something that brings you joy
Whether it’s gardening, hiking, or volunteering, doing something that brings you joy is an effective stress-reliever. Psychologists discovered that pleasures or activities that bring fun to life could bring a lift to one’s mood.
5. Talk things over with a significant other
Whether it’s a family, friend, or a partner, talking things over with a significant other can help in reducing stress.
Ryan Adams, Jonathan Bruce Santo, and William Bukowski are developmental psychologists who conducted a study on how the presence of a best friend buffers the effects of negative experiences. They found out that having a best friend during a negative experience buffers the negativity of the experience on the cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) level and on one’s self-worth.
6. Put on some music
A review of 22 quantitative studies on music and its effect on arousal due to stress revealed that music and music-assisted relaxation techniques significantly decreased arousal. Quiet classical music has been shown to slow the pulse and heart rate, lower the blood pressure, and decrease the level of stress hormones.
Modern technology may make it easier for many of us to do certain things, but the same technology can also be causing or exacerbating our stress level.
A study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden revealed that intensive use of cell phones and computers could be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorder, and depressive symptoms in young adults. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, using your smartphone or computer for long hours will not help. So, make sure to have frequent breaks when using your computer or phone and try to shut offline at least an hour before you sleep.
8. Focus on right now
We can easily feel overwhelmed when we focus too much on what may happen in the future. Thinking too much of the future also robs you of the joy of just being in the present.
You can always schedule a time to plan for the future. For the meantime, breathe and appreciate the here and now.
Feeling overwhelmed is a common problem people have these days. And it’s too easy to get into this state. Know that no matter how overwhelming the stress or emotions may be, you are more than capable of getting back into your pace/rhythm.
Published by Hypnosis in London on 25 June 2017, written by Malminder Gill.
Image: Christopher Meredith
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