The Six Skills of Overcoming the Feelings of Being Overwhelmed

Photo by: Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

We live in a fast-paced and overworked culture. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at any given moment, as the deadlines approach and the workload keeps increasing. It doesn’t help when some of us struggle with people-pleasing and we are trying to meet the demands of people’s expectations.

Some of us wish that we had more than 24-hours in a day. But would that really help? Or would that cause us to feel more overwhelmed. Right now, some of us are struggling with anxiety and even having a hard time going to sleep. Our hearts are always worried and numerous thoughts fill our minds. We feel paralyzed and it seems like the only option is to avoid people and procrastinate even more.

At times, the feelings of being overwhelmed are caused by things outside of our control, whether it is an unexpected situation or a hardship. These things fuel our negative emotions, which then cascades into feelings of despair, discouragement and helplessness.

Also, we cannot eliminate the physiological aspect of feeling overwhelmed. When we face these negative emotions, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released into our bodies and our serotonin (mood stabilizing hormone) levels start to decrease. Therefore, the higher levels of cortisol hinder the serotonin that we need in order to fight off things like anxiety, fear, and depression. This is why so many of us feel the intense levels of hopelessness and even lead to panic attacks.

Is there anything we can do? Is there hope of experiencing peace? Can we handle our situation better? The answer is, “yes!” Even with these triggers, we have the ability to fight through the feelings of being overwhelmed. But it will require some honest assessment and then we will have to make some tough decisions.

One thing is for sure – we will always go through waves stress; but we should not let it overpower us. We are able to build the skill sets to know how to handle it well, but it takes commitment, focus, and practice.

Here are 6 skills (STABLE) that you can work on in order to help you overcome when you feel overwhelmed:

  1. S – SET boundaries. When we don’t know how to set boundaries, then we will end up in situations that cause greater anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. We have to have a healthy view of ourselves and realize that we cannot do everything. It is vital that we know our limits. The quicker we can figure this out, the better we can handle our situation. Look at your workload, your use of time, and your relationships with people. What are some things that you need to cut out and even “de-commit” to things in order to set good and healthy boundaries? You CANNOT do everything, so start to carve out some “me time” which will help you to replenish and rest.

Next Steps: Look over your schedule and start to prioritize the things that you “must” do and things that you need to table for another time.

  1. T – TRACK the root cause. A lot of our anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed can be tracked back to a root cause. The more you figure this out, the faster you will be able to take steps to change. Sometimes our struggles deal with our perfectionism, which can cause us to procrastinate. Then, it causes emotional problems because we can’t get things done by the deadline. Therefore, if we address our perfectionism, then we will cut off the circuit that leads to feeling overwhelmed. There are other root causes such as false assumptions, over-estimation of ourselves, lack of purpose, and the list can go on and on. This is why it is critical that you go down to the root cause and tackle that first.

Next Steps: Don’t settle for simple answers. Keep on asking the “why” question – why do I feel this way, why do I do what I do, why am I constantly in the same situation, etc. Write these things out.

  1. A – ADDRESS expectations. Sometimes when expectations are not met, it is easy to get discouraged or disappointed. This puts us in a downward spiral of an emotional abyss. When we are able to honestly evaluate our expectations or even other people’s expectations of us, then we can take small steps toward change and keep our emotional stability in check. If we don’t address our expectations, then the chasm of what is realistically achievable and what is unrealistically attainable grows. This amplifies the feelings of being overwhelmed. It benefits us to ask others for help so that we don’t feel alone but that we are supported in this process.

Next Steps: Take time to reflect and see what chasms of expectation are in your life and close the gap by reassessing if the expectations are realistic or not.

  1. B – BATTLE your thoughts. If we win the battle in our minds, we will find victory with our emotions. But too often, we allow negative and fatalistic thoughts to control us. Therefore, until we can identify the thoughts which trigger our negative emotions, we will not be able to face the stresses of life. For many of us, we fall into the trap of learned helplessness. Once we get to that point, our thoughts keep reinforcing the negativity, which will lead to more paralysis and feelings of hopelessness. Therefore, we need to be more careful of the thoughts that enter our minds.

Next Steps: Find a positive phrase that you can repeat to yourself, so that you can fights the negative thoughts. For example, some phrases can be, “I am able to face this,” “I am created for greater things,” “I am a fighter and I can overcome,” and etc.

  1. L – LEARN to say, “No!” Many times, we feel overwhelmed because we just simply do not know how to say, “no.” Often, this is tied into our insecurities and a strong desire to find approval from people. When we have the courage to say, “no” then we will find greater freedom with the emotions that hinder us from living with peace of mind. This might mean that we disappoint people, but it is more important for us to be healthy. When we are healthy, we will be able to experience stability in our lives. We will also be enabled to function in a loving way so that we can pour into others.

Next Steps: Practice saying, “no” to various requests, which might add things to your plate and do this once a day.

  1. E – ESTABLISH a healthy rhythm. When we are constantly running around and our schedules are chaotically packed, it will intensify the stress levels as cortisol is released into our bodies. Then feelings of anxiety and fear will start to increase. This stirs the feelings of being overwhelmed, which we will either cause us to shut down or get more anxious. It is vital that we have a healthy daily rhythm and flow. Therefore, things like eating at scheduled times and having a regular sleep schedule, will help in stabilizing our hormones. When we establish a healthy rhythm, things are more manageable and we are able to better control our emotions.

Next Steps: Come up a reasonable schedule. First, put in all the necessary priorities such as meal times, sleep, work, etc. and then put in the things that are within the scope of your responsibilities. If it seems packed, then it will help if you can reassess the priorities.

The number of people feeling overwhelmed is increasing in our generation. There are so many things that fill our days that we don’t have room to breathe. This is why our emotions get out of control, which accentuates the negative feelings. Therefore, remember that we must be more STABLE by:

  1. SET boundaries.
  2. TRACK the root cause.
  3. ADDRESS expectations.
  4. BATTLE your thoughts.
  5. LEARN to say, “No”!
  6. ESTABLISH a healthy rhythm.

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