Emotional Overwhelm: Definition, Causes, Signs, & Coping Strategies. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Your job, tight financial situation, parenting demands, or possible illness are some of the lifestyle issues that can lead to feelings of intense distress. It’s not a good situation, but the good news is that no matter the causes, emotional overwhelm is normal and can be managed effectively. In this article, let’s delve deeper into the subject of emotional overwhelm, telling you what it is, its causes, and signs.
Importantly, this article will offer seven great practical tips for coping through emotional overwhelm and tell you how online therapy can help. Let’s get started…
What Is Emotional Overwhelm? What is emotional overwhelm? It is a state of being under intense emotions such that it becomes hard to cope with them. Emotional overwhelm can affect your cognitive abilities:
— Thinking, etc.
Worse still, it can make it challenging to perform everyday activities, both personal and professional.
What Are the Causes? Relationship problems, traumatic events, stress, and other lifestyle pressures cause emotional overwhelm when they build up to a critical threshold. You can tell that you are in this state if your feelings are so intense and past your ability to manage them. Negative emotions, e.g. fear, anger, and guilt, can overwhelm you from time to time.
Often, some people find it challenging to identify the exact cause of their emotional overwhelm. The reason for this is that it’s common to have several triggers instead of a single one. When too many conflicting and troubling feelings occur concurrently, emotional overwhelm is sure to happen. As a human being, you are bound to experience emotional overwhelm at some point. If you struggle with the feeling for a long time, consider implementing the tips we provide below or talking to a therapist.
Signs You May Be Emotionally Overwhelmed: What shows that you are emotionally overwhelmed? You can tell that you are emotionally overwhelmed if you experience various symptoms.
These include the following:
— You overreact to insignificant things, e.g., not finding a pen.
— You are tired or physically unwell without a valid reason.
— It’s challenging for you to focus on simple things/everyday activities.
— You are withdrawing from family and friends.
— You have a sad cloud around you, even during happy times.
— You are battling despair and feeling powerless.
Seven Tips to Overcome Emotional Overwhelm
Nobody likes to be emotionally overwhelmed. Luckily, the power to take charge of your life is within grasp. Here is what to do when feeling overwhelmed:
1. Acknowledge Yourself: Many people work hard to achieve various accomplishments to earn the recognition of others. They forget about themselves and fail to take time to recognise and celebrate their achievements. No matter what you have to do, always take time to appreciate yourself.
Are you a working mother? Celebrate yourself for that. It’s not easy juggling work and parenting successfully. If you are struggling with self-acknowledgment, take a moment to think about the great qualities you have and that helped you realise a specific accomplishment.
Have you been a great leader, patient person, creative individual, or even a risk-taker? Well, these great traits have seen you succeed. So make a point of appreciating yourself.
2. Rate Your Worries: Your worries are not the same. Just as some concerns are serious, some are trivial, meaning they should never work you up in the same way. Find a piece of paper or open a note-taking app on your smartphone or PC and then list all concerns that get into your head. The idea is to put down all of them without paying attention to their weight. After doing that, go back and rate each of them as either high or low.
This exercise will help you identify the concerns that need your most effort and those that do not. It also allows you to prioritise your concerns and do away with trivial issues. Importantly, it ensures that small issues do not compound with serious ones, resulting in a major emotional overwhelm.
3. Get Ample Sleep: Dealing with stress brought about by the current environment can have you sleeping less and less. However, persistent lack of sleep can further strain your mental and emotional health. Sleep is linked to mood and general mental well-being. Start by taking a count of your average sleeping hours in a given week.
If you have not been getting the recommended seven—nine hours of sleep most nights, think about reorganising your schedule. Some tips to help you get back to normal sleep include:
— Cut off on caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc.)
— Don’t go to bed hungry or too full
— Cut out daytime naps to help you fall asleep faster at night
— Take sleep supplements after consulting with your doctor
— Add physical activity and meditation to your daily schedule
— Ensure that your room is quiet and comfortable
4. Adopt the Three-Day Mindset: Most people are used to assessing their performance against set goals at the end of the day. However, adopting a three-day mindset can help ease some of the pressure off your back when you’re feeling overwhelmed. This technique is simply giving yourself an extension for achieving your personal goals to have room to balance everything else.
Start doing your self-assessment every three days rather than after 24 hours. This rather easy tweak will have you feeling less stressed and can even reinforce your commitment to your goals.
5. Create a Happy List: There are those experiences, memories, or things that give you joy when you think about them. No matter how small, these things can lift your spirits and motivate you whenever you’re feeling down and overwhelmed. Try writing down these small things on pieces of paper and keep a few of them with you as you go on with your daily activities.
You can also note them on your reminder or to-do list so that you carry them with you on your phone. Note down as many things as you can, no matter how insignificant.
6. Reassess Your Priorities: It’s important to set priorities and stick to them. However, always think about the sacrifice you will need to make to follow them through. Pushing yourself so much to accomplish certain things may be contributing to your emotional overwhelm. So, set weekly or seasonal priorities and then assess them. Now, try to tone them down, so give yourself time to recover and rest mentally. For example, if you’ve been prioritising going to the gym six times a week, try three—four days.
7. Pin-Point Your Top Energy Consumers: Single out five specific things that drain most of your energy to find solutions for them. While not all energy drains can or are easy to fix, recognising what drains you most can help you manage. Small adjustments like moving a high energy-consuming task to a time when you are at your best can really help. Sometimes unsettled issues such as dissatisfaction, bitterness, and anger can drain you and lead to emotional overwhelm.
So, look within yourself and work out any detrimental emotional behaviours that could be draining your energy.
Dealing with Emotional Overwhelm Through Therapy: Knowing how to stop feeling overwhelmed by yourself isn’t always enough to overcome it. You may also need therapy to identify what’s causing you to become emotionally overwhelmed and work on it. Therapy provides a place to vent and gives you the care, advice, and support you need to beat emotional overwhelm. Online therapists on Calmerry are a good option if you are looking for affordable and remotely-accessible therapy.
The Takeaway: Emotional overwhelm can be caused by several things:
— Traumatic experiences
— Relationship troubles
— Work pressure
— Financial constraints, etc.
Underlying mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and stress may also cause or aggravate feelings of being overwhelmed. Keep in mind the tips provided here to manage overwhelming feelings. Also, consider getting professional help through online therapy to deal with emotional overwhelm or other mental health issues.
Kate Skurat has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in healthcare since 2017. She mainly treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, grief, identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience is focused on individual and group counselling. Follow Kate on LinkedIn