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How to manage feeling overwhelmed

April 8, 2024
Dan Kearsley

We’re all balancing different responsibilities - work, studying, chores, caring for others - and sometimes, it can all get a bit much. When life is particularly chaotic and we feel under a lot of pressure, this can cause stress, and when feelings of stress pile up, we may become overwhelmed.

Although stress is an inevitable part of life, it’s important that we manage our stress levels so that they don’t get out of hand. Too much stress for prolonged periods can lead to anxiety symptoms, like worry and irritability. If we become overwhelmed with stress, this can affect our mind, body and behaviour. We may feel unable to cope or experience burnout.

April is Stress Awareness Month, hosted by the Stress Management Society. This year, the theme is #LittleByLittle, which highlights how even the smallest acts of self-care and relaxation each day can have a big impact on our wellbeing over time. Learning how to prevent and manage feelings of stress can stop them from spiralling out of control.

What does overwhelm look like?

While the way that people react to pressure isn’t always the same, and different people can tolerate different levels of stress, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may experience:  

  • Disproportionate emotional reactions (you may overreact to a situation where you wouldn’t usually)
  • Feeling low, tired or drained
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Feeling flustered or confused
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • A change in appetite (eating more or less)
  • Muscle tension  

How to manage feeling overwhelmed

  1. Check in with your feelings  

When we’re used to feeling stressed, we may not notice the pressure that we’re under. That’s why it’s important to take the time to check in with ourselves - are we worrying more than usual, struggling to sleep or avoiding certain tasks? The earlier that we become aware of how we’re feeling, the sooner that we can manage our stressors before they overwhelm us.

  1. Talk to someone

Talking about our feelings can help us to feel less alone. There’s a good feeling that comes from getting something out in the open and being listened to. It also gives us the opportunity to let out our emotions and process our thoughts, so that we can come up with solutions.

  1. Set boundaries

Do you struggle to say no to things, even when you don’t have the time or energy? When we constantly put the needs or feelings of others ahead of our own, this can cause overwhelm. This is why boundaries are important; setting boundaries helps us to prioritise our own needs, and by communicating these boundaries to others, we set clear expectations of ourselves so that they don’t ask too much of us. Read more about boundaries.  

  1. Invest in self-care

Making time to look after ourselves both physically and mentally is essential when it comes to managing our stress levels. Filling our daily routine with things like balanced meals, exercise, spending time outdoors and getting plenty of sleep can make a big difference to how we feel. Activities that allow us to pause and unwind can also benefit our mental health, for example, meditation, journalling or breathing exercises.

  1. Be kind to yourself

When we’ve got a lot going on, it can be hard to stay on top of everything - we might get behind on messages, double-book ourselves or forget a birthday, and so on. While it can be tempting to become self-critical, it’s important that we show ourselves compassion. No one is on their a-game all the time, and ‘our best’ changes depending on what is happening in our lives. Learn how to be a better friend to yourself here.

  1. Try talking therapy  

If you feel overwhelmed with stress and unable to manage, you may want to explore the option of talking therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps to challenge your ways of thinking and give you the tools to stay in control of your mental health. At ieso, we offer online CBT where you can ‘speak’ to a therapist by typing back and forth. Our service is confidential and non-judgemental. Find out more about what we do.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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