A woman is looking overwhelmed at a large stack of papers on her desk
eing overwhelmed is an encompassing state of being that influences every part of your life, and in turn, impacts the lives of the people around you.
Photo Credit: Antonio_Diaz / iStockPhoto.com

Managing Daily Stress to Avoid Being Overwhelmed

You try your best — you take measures to think through your choices and to plan ahead. When life throws unexpected events your way, you always do your best to provide a positive and helpful reaction.

Unfortunately, it seems that no matter how hard you try or how well you do, you become overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is a unique experience; it is not just a thought or only a feeling. Being overwhelmed is an encompassing state of being that influences every part of your life, and in turn, impacts the lives of the people around you. Feeling overwhelmed involves aspects of:

  • Feeling confused or unsure of what to do.
  • Thinking there are no good solutions to your current situation.
  • Feeling stressed, worried or anxious.
  • Having thoughts that are sped up and swirling, seeming endless and negative.
  • Feeling physically run down and drained.
  • Decreasing quality or quantity of sleep.
  • Changing diet marked by less eating or eating low-quality foods.

Like most people, you probably do not find yourself in a constant state of being overwhelmed. Many people experience this feeling in a cyclical pattern of varying lengths depending on their situations.

With this being the case, you can have periods of normalcy where you feel in control of life and able to respond to stresses. This period will be followed by a buildup of stress and tension.

Some people can feel the unwanted feelings and thoughts associated with feeling overwhelmed growing and building. Other people are blindsided as they thought life was going smoothly and did not see the buildup coming. Then, the period of being overwhelmed peaks before it ends.

If you find yourself and your loved ones being negatively affected by your overwhelmed cycles, now is the time to take action. Quit fooling yourself into thinking you will be better able to deal with being overwhelmed next time it happens. You have the power to live without being overwhelmed. Here’s how:

Know Your Cycle

People who get overwhelmed often fit into two categories. The first are the people who can see their stress coming in the distance like a train barreling towards them, but they are unable to move because they are tied to the tracks.

If you fit into this type, you would benefit from understanding more about this pattern. Why do you follow this cycle? Were there other people in your life that did the same thing? How do others respond to you when you are overwhelmed?

The last question is important since, in some cases, feeling overwhelmed can be reinforced in the attention and support others give you.

The other category is filled by people who can never see the stress coming. This is the similar to people who have a “short fuse” when it comes to anger.

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In both cases, the stress and the anger are building all along. The person cannot perceive the changes in their thoughts and feelings because they do not have the ability, or they actively deny them.

Your experience may not fit either type, and that’s okay. The important aspect is you pay more attention to your cycle. Note major themes and stages in the cycle. In some situations, mental health conditions could lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, be sure to explore those issues with a professional.

Control Yourself, Not Others

How much of your overwhelmed feelings stem from frustration with others? How much of your frustration comes from people making bad choices or engaging in behaviors you don’t support?

People who become overwhelmed may be pushed in that direction by others, and this can be traced back to a need to control.

You cannot control other people. This fact may be disappointing, but it is true. Their decisions are their own.

The best you can do is to accept this before you become too consumed with telling other people what to do. People who become overwhelmed commonly spend too much time and energy on other people’s problems, which leaves fewer resources for their own. Caring for yourself has to be the primary focus.

A fantastic example of this is managing your expectations. Expectations that are too high frequently lead to being overwhelmed because you will expect too much from yourself or others. By reducing your expectations to a more reasonable level, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Minimize the Negatives

Now that you have a better understanding of your cycle and no longer want to control others, you can modify your own life. Start with working to identify and minimize the negative facets in your life.

What aspects lead to a sense of burnout? What people or groups of people drain your energy and resources? You cannot change them, but you can work to limit their impact by reducing the time you spend with them. Use assertive communication to establish new expectations in the relationship moving forward.

Many people who become overwhelmed look towards unhealthy solutions to feel better. Poor food choices, drugs, alcohol, and other negative coping skills are appealing because they are easy and convenient, but only add to future issues by continuing the overwhelmed cycle. Avoiding the negative coping skills is always a positive.

Find Positives

Speaking of positives, minimizing the negatives will only take you so far. To fully escape the cycle of being overwhelmed, you must actively and aggressively seek out the positives in your life.

Do not allow yourself to be tricked into thinking neutral people or activities are positive. Lying on the couch is neutral. Going for a walk outside is positive.

If you look around and cannot find any positives, you must work hard to create new and rewarding options. Examples include:

  • Starting healthy relationships.
  • Caring for your physical health by eating well, getting enough rest, and making time to exercise.
  • Caring for your mental health by practicing relaxation skills, changing the way to speak to yourself to be more encouraging, and having reasonable expectations for yourself.

The very idea of addressing your tendencies to become overwhelmed can be overwhelming. By breaking down the larger problem into smaller parts, you are able to see what must be done.

Gain information, control yourself and reduce the negatives while you add the positives to minimize the feelings associated with being overwhelmed.