By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Being overwhelmed can damage your mental and physical health.
Life these days can be hectic. Feeling overwhelmed is one of those stressors that can lead to poor mental health or the development of a mental illness. People often have responsibilities at work, challenges in their relationships, kids to raise, and bills to pay. All these conflicting obligations can cause you to feel overwhelmed.
People who come to see therapists because of depression often have a long history of being under stress and feeling overwhelmed. Some people have a positive stress mindset and interpret life’s challenges as opportunities rather than problems. But if you’re one of those people who is chronically overwhelmed by stress, there are things you can do to reduce the effects of stress on your life.
Your schedule needs to include some downtime.
Over scheduling yourself increases that overwhelmed feeling. If you don’t maintain your automobile, it’s likely to break down. You can’t run your car at full speed for very long before you start developing problems. Machinery needs some downtime for adjustments and repairs. It should be no surprise that humans need that downtime for rest and relaxation if they’re going to avoid both mental and physical problems.
Knowing when to stop reduces feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re chronically overwhelmed, the first step is to simply stop doing anything that doesn’t have to be done. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget that your human, not a rat. People who are overwhelmed often keep doing things out of habit rather than because they need to do them. If you feel overwhelmed, stop as soon as possible, take a break, and ask yourself, do I need to do this, and do I need to do it right now?
Take a deep breath and say goodbye to feeling overwhelmed.
As the level of stress hormones rise, one of the first things that it affects is your breathing. If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, examine your breathing. People who were stressing out often are holding their breath. Tell yourself to remember to breathe. Breathing like a little puppy, short, shallow breaths, will increase your anxiety and may even make you dizzy and lightheaded. Take a deep breath from the diaphragm, not a shallow breath from up near your throat. Hold that breath for a moment and then exhale. Pause briefly before taking another breath. As you breathe more deeply, and more slowly, you will feel your anxiety level declining.
Reduce the overwhelm by saying no.
The secret to getting more done in life is not piling more tasks on yourself. You become more effective and less overwhelmed when you learn to say no to things you don’t have to do. A very useful rule of productivity is that you increase productivity not by doing more but by eliminating items from your schedule, you don’t need to do so that you can focus on the important tasks.
Make sure your schedule includes plenty of time for personal things. Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. Include time in your schedule for your relationships, family and friends, and the things you really enjoy.
Don’t say yes until you’ve had a chance to think it over.
A huge source of that overwhelmed feeling is saying yes to too many things. Whether it’s at work or in your personal social life, learn to say no to something that will use up your time and leave you feeling stressed out and pressured. It’s easy to get into the habit of saying yes to everyone and everything. Learn to build some boundaries. Otherwise, people will keep dumping their garbage all over you.
Stop adding things to your priority list.
When you have too many priorities, you’re constantly running from one fire to the next and never getting anything accomplished. The fewer items on your priority list, the more progress you’ll make at getting everything done. Take another look at your to-do list and if things have been on there for a long time, either do it immediately or cross it off the list. It’s the things on your to-do list that you can’t do that add to that incredible sense of being overwhelmed.
Increase your self-esteem and reduce feeling overwhelmed.
You’re a human being, not a human doing. Learn to feel good about yourself regardless of what you have or are doing. If your self-esteem is based on what others think of you, it will always be precarious. Learn to like yourself. Become your own best friend. Your self-esteem should rest on being the best person you can be, which includes time for self-improvement rather than having to do a lot of things for others.
Invest some time in self-care.
Get plenty of sleep. Reducing sleep does not make you more efficient or give you more time to be productive. Lack of sleep results in foggy thinking, less energy, and will increase anxiety and depression. Lack of sleep also adds to the overwhelmed feeling because when you’re tired, you have less energy to do anything and become overwhelmed more rapidly.
Make sure you exercise regularly. Walking every day for twenty minutes or more has been shown to decrease symptoms of several mental illnesses. If you don’t have time to at least walk every day, your life is far too busy.
Listen to what your feelings are telling you.
Feelings have gotten a bad reputation. Your feelings shouldn’t control you, but they are a valuable source of information. If something is upsetting, you should stop and think about why, rather than ignoring this uncomfortable feeling. Don’t tell yourself you should enjoy something. Ask yourself if you really are enjoying what you’re doing. If the life you’re living isn’t making you happy, consider changing how your living that life. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that happiness comes from the next jolt of excitement. True happiness also includes periods of calm and relaxation.
Take some time to think about your life goals.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of day-to-day living without ever thinking about whether what you’re doing is taking you where you want to go. Do you want to be this frantically busy? If you were to have your ideal perfect life, would it be having more things or having more enjoyable experiences? Make sure that the life you’re living takes you to the goals that really matter to you, not the goals that someone else’s told you to pursue.
Maybe now is the time to say goodbye to that overwhelmed feeling.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.
What if your family secrets put you in danger?
Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
Books are now available on Amazon.
Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.
For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel
Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.