How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed is unproductive, to say the least. Psychologist Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, described overwhelm as “feeling completely overcome in mind or emotion.” We feel overwhelmed when we believe that a stressor is too much for us to manage, she explained. Such extreme stress is something everyone encounters sooner or later, so for the sake of your personal development, it’s important to recognize its signs and how to deal with it. What causes us to feel overwhelmed? “The possibilities are endless,” said Deibler. “Overwhelm can peak from a long to-do list we can’t seem to finish or an emotional event like a birth or death.”

Suggestions for Preventing or Stopping Overwhelm

1. Accept your anxiety.

According to Deibler, “It’s ‘normal’ to experience some degree of anxiety when stressors are unfamiliar, unpredictable, or imminent.” Fighting the feelings will not get you anywhere.

2. Change overwhelm-inducing thoughts.

To avoid overwhelm-causing thoughts of uncontrollability or unpredictability, it’s important to try to consciously think helpful thoughts. Let’s say you have a mile-long to-do list, and all you keep thinking is “I’ll never get this done.” Ask yourself “In what ways might this [thought] be inaccurate, unreasonable or unhelpful?” Deibler said. Next, consider how you can think more realistically. For instance, you could think more realistically and positively: “I may not get it all finished today, but if I work on it or if I seek assistance, I will likely get it done;” or, “I know I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, but if I take a break, I may feel differently about this when I return.”

3. Change your multitasking mindset.

“’Multitasking’ by definition implies that we are doing too many things at once,” Chapman said. “We have to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now ‘or else.’”

4. Focus on right now.

It’s hard to appreciate the here and now when all you can think of is some frightening future event. Instead,  give yourself room to breathe in the present.

5. Take a deep breath.

Activities such as progressive muscle relaxation , guided imagery, Tai chi and yoga are also very effective in promoting relaxation.

6. Take action.

Listen to music, read a book, take a walk. Do any activity that you enjoy. Also think about what you can do to resolve or eliminate the initial cause of your overwhelm. To read more about overwhelm, head over to PsychCentral.

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