Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed when life gets too busy? In our contemporary, fast-paced world, most of us experience stress and exhaustion on a regular basis. Whether it’s the demands of our job, the responsibilities of daily life, global events or personal challenges, overwhelm can creep up at any time and can leave us feeling anxious and exhausted. While it’s nearly impossible to eliminate stressors from our lives entirely, there are ways to navigate them. In this blog post, I will introduce you to my five essential tips to help you navigate and conquer overwhelm and stay calm in the face of chaos.
Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash
Causes and symptoms of overwhelm
The feeling of drowning in tasks, racing thoughts, and emotional turmoil is something we’ve all experienced. Overwhelm can stem from a wide range of experiences, such as difficulties within our relationships, struggles related to our own or a loved one’s health, the pressures of work responsibilities, financial strains, significant life transitions, personal loss, traumas and unresolved mental health issues. Moreover, living through global events, such as environmental challenges or political turmoil, can all contribute to our anxiety and stress levels.
Overwhelm can manifest in various ways, predominantly through negative and uncontrollable emotions, such as anxiety, anger, irritability, worry, self-doubt, and helplessness. Physically, it may manifest as verbal outbursts, tears, or even panic attacks, sometimes accompanied by a racing heart, sweating, shortness of breath, or chest discomfort.
Each person’s stress tolerance is different, and responses to stressors can vary significantly from one individual to another. What might overwhelm one person might not affect the next. The good news is that you can learn how to handle even the most stressful situations with (relative) ease with the right tools.
5 essential tips for overcoming overwhelm
1. Start small
Overwhelm often arises from an endless to-do list. When you are feeling overwhelmed by something you need to do, start by identifying your most critical tasks. Next, break down your objectives into much smaller, more manageable steps, and focus on making progress one step at a time, steadily moving closer to your larger objective. Writing down the individual steps can help to provide a clearer roadmap, making the workload more manageable and less daunting.
2. Take regular breaks
Many of us are caught in an endless cycle of long workdays, household chores, and daily responsibilities, often only finding time to relax on the weekend. Intentionally setting time aside to take breaks not only reduces stress and the risk of burnout, but also helps to rejuvenate the mind and offer fresh perspectives.
If you feel overwhelmed by global news and societal issues, I recommend limiting your daily exposure to the news and social media to prevent emotional overload. Establish specific times for news and social media consumption, such as watching the evening news daily. Afterwards, give yourself the space to disconnect by switching off your TV or putting your phone aside to create distance.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the idea of being fully present in the moment and aware of one’s feelings and thoughts. It is not about “not thinking anything” but about being aware of what is happening around us and in our mind and body – without being judgmental. We can (and should) integrate mindfulness into our everyday lives, and it can be practised anytime and anywhere. Whether we’re dealing with daily stressors or bigger challenges, such as starting a new job, simply taking a moment to pause, observe, and ground ourselves can make a world of difference.
In my online counselling practice, I often introduce clients who struggle with chaotic life circumstances or difficult emotions to the ACE method from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), a mindfulness-based therapy approach. It’s a simple yet powerful technique that allows us to navigate challenging situations and emotions by embracing, rather than resisting, our feelings. You can learn how to apply the ACE method (and two other ACT exercises to help you deal with difficult emotions) in this blog post. And if you’re new to mindfulness, I suggest you start by reading my beginner’s guide to mindfulness.
4. Take care of yourself
Whether it’s a walk in nature, listening to music, exercising, practising mindfulness, eating healthy food or simply taking a hot bath – make time for yourself with an aim to relax and calm your mind and body.
Self-care not only has positive effects on stress management and recovery and allows us to recharge our emotional batteries, it is also crucial for building emotional strength and resilience, which are essential when life gets overwhelmingly busy.
5. Seek support
You don’t have to go through stressful and overwhelming times alone. Reach out to friends, family, colleagues or other peers for guidance and support. Talking to someone you trust will help you better process what is happening and make you feel less alone. It can also provide valuable insights and emotional relief, making it easier to navigate difficult times.
If necessary, seek professional help in the form of (online) therapy or counselling. A therapist specialising in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy can help you navigate difficult emotions and regain control and inner peace.
Incorporating these strategies into your life can significantly impact how you navigate and ultimately conquer the overwhelming moments and overpowering emotions that inevitably come your way. Remember that it is not about eliminating stress from your life entirely, but about learning to manage these moments in order to regain control in challenging times. By putting these tips into practice, you’ll be better equipped to maintain balance and clarity in even the most hectic of times.
Did you find this article helpful? You can find more ACT exercises and methods to help you deal with difficult emotions on my blog. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive my tips and tools for looking after your mental health every month directly in your inbox.
Photo by peopleimages.com – Yuri Arcurs via Canva Pro