Webster defines overwhelm as "bury or drown beneath a huge mass", "to defeat completely", "to give too much of a thing to (someone), inundate", "to have a strong emotional effect on" or "to be too strong for, overpower."
Overwhelm can be a completely normal response to everyday stressors. Stress can sometimes be helpful as a motivator and may increase your productivity. However, being chronically stressed and constantly overwhemed can take a toll on your mental and physical health.
As is the case in the above photo, our stress and overwhelm are often of our own making. Trauma can also cause a feeling of overwhelm (PTSD).
Signs and Symptoms of Being Overwhelmed
Irrational thoughts: You may struggle to think rationally, which can make the problem seem inflated and your perceived ability to deal with it feel deflated.
Paralysis: You may experience a freeze response that can cause you to feel paralyzed and unable to function. Even simple tasks can feel impossible. You may find yourself postponing stressful tasks, or avoid them altogether.
Disproportionate reactions: You may overreact to minor stressors. For instance, you may panic if you’re unable to find your keys.
Withdrawal: You may find yourself withdrawing from friends and family. You may feel like they can’t help you or understand what you’re going through.
Pessimism: You may feel helpless and hopeless about the situation.
Mood changes: You may feel angry, irritable, or anxious, and cry easily.
Cognitive fatigue: You may feel confused and have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and solving problems
Physical symptoms: You may experience physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, cramps, an upset stomach, or other aches and pains
There are things you can do to help relieve the feeling of overwhelm.
Simplify your life (suggestions in newsletter).
Change your perspective - I remember post 9/11 a study highlighting perspective. The increased commute time was seen by some as a burden, by others as a chance to catch up on books on tape and podcasts.
Ask for help - Energy work and massage work are both powerful allies in the fight against overwhelm.
Challenge your assumptions - are your fears true? likely?
Surround yourself with friends and family.
We are all overwhelmed occasionally, but if you find yourself living in a constant state of overwhelm, do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. We will help you in any way we can.