By Kate Skurat
Our lives are made up of a whirlwind of emotions: some good, some bad, and some that are downright overwhelming. Everyone aspires for the good alone, but negative emotions are unavoidable.
If someone cuts you off in traffic or in line at the supermarket, or even if you face rudeness from a salesperson — everything can trigger a wave of negative emotions and spoil your day.
Most people can deal with negative emotions arising from the pressures of daily life easily. However, extended stress from factors such as a decrease of income or the death of a loved one, as has been witnessed by many people this past year, can lead to feeling overwhelmed by our emotions.
How Emotional Overwhelm Arises
What is emotional overwhelm? Emotional overwhelm occurs when there is a disproportionate response to stressful situations in a person’s life. An argument with a loved one, or say, a misplaced wallet can have a person on a downward spiral for days or weeks.
Negative emotions may arise from singular events in our day-to-day lives. However, emotional overwhelm caused by prolonged periods of stress may be triggered by specific events or factors such as:
- High-pressure environments at home, school, or work
- Working or studying for prolonged periods with little to no rest
- Financial distress or loss of income
- Living with a chronic condition or illness
- Perfectionism and trying to live up to standards that don’t match our own
- Poor self-care
- Significant life changes, for example, moving to a new school, town, or a divorce
- Memories and traumatic life experiences
These factors can work in multiple combinations, thus aggravating the impacts of emotional overwhelm.
There are also tell-tale signs of emotional overwhelm which we delve into further in the next section.
How to Tell If You Are Emotionally Overwhelmed
For many people, the line between emotional overwhelm and typical emotional reactions to negative stressors isn’t always clear. However, a quick self-diagnosis of one’s typical behavior, or a conversation with a friend or loved one may reveal emotional overwhelm.
The usual tell-tale signs of emotional overwhelm include:
- Being constantly fatigued
- Getting easily agitated, upset, or frustrated by small or relatively insignificant things
- Sleeping too much or barely sleeping at all
- Not enjoying the things you used to, for example, going to the gym
- Become more withdrawn from family, friends, and colleagues
- Lack of motivation, increased procrastination, and putting off important things
- Feelings of unhappiness even in typical “feel good” situations
These are the typical signs to keep in mind when it comes to manifesting emotional overwhelm. The degree and severity of manifestation may vary from person to person.
If you don’t know what to do when feeling overwhelmed, reading an article such as this is always a good place to start.
Persistent Emotional Overwhelm — How to Tell If You or a Loved One Is Afflicted
Emotional overwhelm that isn’t dealt with can transform into something much harder to deal with, for instance, depression or anxiety.
Drugs and alcohol may soon turn into a problem if someone is using them to deal with emotional overwhelm. Severe cases of emotional overwhelm may degenerate into social withdrawal, declining physical and mental health, and lack of self-care.
You can deal with the impacts of short-term emotional overwhelm following some of the techniques we outline below.
However, for persistent emotional overwhelm, the person should get help in any way, shape, or form. As an example, one can try online therapy.
When you see a friend or loved one becomes very withdrawn or suddenly spending too much or too little time in their usual activities, it may be a sign that all isn’t well.
How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed: 6 Things That You Can Try
If you are dealing with emotional overwhelm, there are several simple techniques that you can try.
See It Through Someone Else’s Lens
This might sound like the worst idea right now, especially if the only thing that you feel like doing is locking up yourself in your room. However, think about it from another person’s perspective.
If your friend or family member was going through the same thing, you’d like them to talk to someone, for instance, yourself.
Different people have different things that may make them tank into emotional overwhelm. What is clear is that we often only see things through our perspective. When you talk to someone else, for example, an e-therapist you may see options that you didn’t see first.
Coping through emotional overwhelm may cloud our judgment that we may not see clearly. In the end, a counselor is just a friend who sees the finer perspective of things.
Write Your Feelings Down
Journaling your thoughts down is not only a therapeutic approach, but it may also make for a pretty great life story. The tunneling effect of sifting through your thoughts and writing them down makes you calmer and more objective.
Think about what’s important and what you have to fight for. Your family, your career, your spirituality, your health are all things you shouldn’t lose because of a moment in time.
Writing these things that matter down helps you see a lot clearer.
Take a Break from Your Usual Schedule
Sometimes going away for a while helps. It may be an environment that you can’t keep up with, whether at school, work, or home. It may be a tight schedule that has beaten you down.
It may be the feeling that time isn’t on your side. Our environments play a huge role in shaping our emotions and outlook, therefore always keep change in mind.
Your Physical Routine Matters
One of the main signs that someone may be suffering from emotional overwhelm is that of excessive fatigue. Fatigue itself may be deemed as a physical attribute. However, it all but starts in the mind.
Emotional overwhelm on its part will make most people slack or unable to do their usual tasks. Someone who was once masterclass at the gym may not turn up at all. Suddenly, things that you were able to do with minimal effort seem like a mountain to move.
Try reminding yourself that you can do it and have done it before. That this is just a phase that you will conquer.
Never Stop Rooting for Yourself
You are your biggest fan, and you should always remember that. Keep telling yourself that everything will be fine and that you will make it safely to the other side. Meditate on happier times, your accomplishments, successes, past failures, and how much you have learned along the way.
Emotional overwhelm may sometimes make someone completely withdrawn and the only voices that they hear are their own. In these periods the person may become isolated and buried around a mountain of thoughts.
When emotional overwhelm reaches such a point, the person may be in depression. Talking to an e-therapist in confidence is a great place to start.
Reflect on Something That Eases Your Thoughts
People have various mindfulness practices they turn to, even when they aren’t necessarily under emotional overwhelm. For some, yoga and meditation really work.
Think about your ideal serene place and what you would be doing there, free from all thoughts, worries, and anxieties. Get your mind to a place where you can see things rationally and relax knowing that you are still strong.
Recalibrating yourself in this way is useful because you not only get to beat your emotional overwhelm, you also create a new chapter of yourself.
A Counselor Is Always in a Call, Text, Email, Or Video-Call Away
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and cannot bear the pressure anymore, a professional such as a licensed counselor is recommended.
E-therapy has become a much sought-after solution in light of recent global events. Not only is it affordable, but it is also safer when it comes to social distancing. And Calmerry is a great place to start.
Start dealing with your emotional overwhelm today!
About the Author
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 counseling.