Given the Ukranian situation, skyrocketing gas prices and COVID, many folks are feeling overwhelmed. If you are one of those folks, it is important to understand that there is nothing is wrong with you for feeling over-stressed. Ironically, due to COVID, many people were freaking out in larger numbers even before, the Russian mad man invaded Ukraine. Feeling More Stressed Than Ever? You’re Not Alone (healthline.com)
Of course, feeling over-stressed is nothing new. Indeed, human beings have always had emotional limits. Fortunately, there are many resources available online to help you cope. Coping Strategies for Navigating Dangerous and Uncertain Times | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)
To help you sort through them all, here is a summary of what you need to know about feeling overwhelmed and what to do about it:
What is the science behind feeling overwhelmed?
Although we have all felt overwhelmed, it is helpful to understand what is going on neurologically when we have this sensation. Basically, feeling over-whelmed is a psycho/physiological condition. In other words, feeling over-stressed affects not just our emotions but also our bodies. When we feel that we just can’t handle all of the demands which confront us, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are secreted. In addition to feeling bad, we also experience physical changes which may include:
- Heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate or chest pain.
- Shoulder, neck or back pain; general body aches and pains.
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.
- Shortness of breath.
- Feeling tired, anxious, depressed.
- Losing or gaining weight; changes in your eating habits.
- Sleeping more or less than usual.
- Gastrointestinal problems including upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation.
- Sexual difficulties.
Being overstressed also interferes with our ability to think calmly or rationally . That is because that when the amygdala sound the alarm and we begin to feel panicky access to our cortex is blocked .
What to do when you feel overstressed .
RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE OVERWHELMED. What is most important to remember about coping with stress is to recognize that you are overwhelmed and stop trying to push through it. Because access to the rational and problem solving part of our brain is blocked, it makes no sense to ignore the stress and soldier on as if nothing were wrong. You may be overstressed if you:
- Feel more emotional than usual.
- Feel on edge.
- Have trouble keeping track of things or remembering.
- Struggle to make decisions, solving problems, concentrating, getting your work done.
- Resort to alcohol or drugs to relieve your emotional stress.
RESTORE A SENSE OF CALM. After realizing your condition, the next step is to calm down and turn off the limbic system reactions. Here are some ways to stop the flow of cortisol and adrenaline:
- Reality test your situation with self-talk. Ask yourself , is the crisis you feel real or exaggerated ?
- Talk with friends. Ventilate your worries.
- Read a book.
- Download and listen to a “calm” app (sounds of nature, rain) on your computer or phone.
- Take a walk, exercise, practice yoga.
- Listen to music, sing along to a song or dance to music.
- Enjoy a soothing bath.
- Play with your pet.
If these suggestions don’t work, GET HELP FROM A PROFESSIONAL
If you try the suggestions listed above and things aren’t better, you have nothing to lose from reaching out for professional help. Counseling and/ or medication can make a huge difference in how life feels. More than that, beyond the emotional discomfort, living with elevated stress hormone levels poses an increased and serious risk to your physical health. Luckily, there are abundant resources from therapists and medical doctors from which help may be obtained. The biggest obstacle for many folks is the ability to give themselves permission to recognize not that they feel overwhelmed but to realize that being overwhelmed is a condition which may require outside or professional help.
Sometimes a person feels that admitting that s/he needs help is weak. FACT: ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT WEAK. That said, during these trying times, it is important to not ignore overwhelmed feelings since untreated stress can affect your work performance , your relationships and your personal happiness. Remember, effective help is available and affordable.
If stress has been a problem in your life but you haven’t addressed it, don’t delay any longer. You will be glad that you did.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC AAPC 3/15/2022
Image source, attribution and acknowledgement: Never Get Overwhelmed Again! – JudithsFreshLook.com