Have you been feeling fearful lately? Maybe stressed out?

You are not alone in this. Many Americans are stressed, especially due to health care concerns.

Health Care Stress

Source: APA

But being a common problem doesn’t make it normal. Neither does it mean that the situation should be ignored.

Life has become very challenging for the majority.

You may not be having a job. And if you do, you may not be earning enough to sustain a comfortable life. Maybe you’re even avoiding having children because of this and definitely cannot make any investment.

With so many things to do and so little resources, anxiety creeps in. Life becomes overwhelming and you no longer have control over important aspects of your life.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and fearful to whatever degree, this article is for you. You can also share it to help others.

As you read it, you will understand the situation better and learn what you can do to change it.

SYMPTOMS OF BEING OVERWHELMED

Sometimes, unless you are trained to detect something, you may not notice it. This is why creating awareness is important.

For instance, the number of deaths due to cancer can be avoided if people just knew what signs to look out for. Or understood the need for screening.

The same applies to feelings of being overwhelmed. Do not ignore the symptoms or think it’s just how things are. Recognizing them for what they are will help you resolve the underlying issues.

It’s difficult to come up with a comprehensive list of symptoms.

To get you started however, here are a few symptoms you can run through.

This will enable you determine where you stand on the “feelings of being overwhelmed” scale.

Stress

The first thing you’re likely to easily identify when overwhelmed is stress.

Stress by itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just a way through which your body tells you to take a break.

But when you fail to do that, other things start going wrong.

You get stressed because of the release of the hormone cortisol. When you act appropriately, this is used up and you get back to normal.

But if you persist in the stress-producing situation, the hormone is continually pumped into the bloodstream and the results get worse.

A myriad of life issues can bring about stress and feelings of being overwhelmed are one of them. So paying attention to your stress levels is a good way of keeping things in check.

Worry

Rarely will you be stressed or overwhelmed by anything and not be worried.

This is just a natural result of stress.

  • Are you stressed about your debt level and financial insecurity? You’ll be worried about your future.
  • Are you overwhelmed by the amount of pending work? You’ll be worried about your boss’ reaction.
  • Are you stressed about how your spouse is treating you? You’ll be worried whether things will get worse and end up in a divorce.

All the above scenarios point to things going out of control. You were probably quite okay at some point but now you aren’t.

And as life keeps moving faster and people keep chasing after it, being overwhelmed is likely to be more and more prevalent.

As long as you’re overwhelmed, you’ll have a thing or two to be worried about.

Hopelessness

And when things get worse, you will start feeling hopeless.

Hopeless that the situation will never improve. Hopeless that you cannot do anything about the situation that’s causing you stress. Hopeless that your overwhelmed state is something you’ll have to live with.

This is the point where you might start exhibiting symptoms of anxiety or depression.

This is not a good state to get to and hopefully, the tips shared below will help you prevent it.

Hopelessness is also fueled by the kind of thoughts running through your mind.

At the beginning, you can contain them. But as the situation deteriorates, it becomes harder and you start believing that nothing can be done.

Just know that there is always something that can be done. And if you don’t have the strength, just reach out for some support.

Irritability

One of the tell-tale signs of being overwhelmed is increased irritability. If you are usually disposed to anger outbursts, being overwhelmed makes it worse.

If someone requests you to do something, especially your peer or junior, you are likely to lash out at them. You may see them as being disrespectful, unfair or even malicious in their intentions.

None of these assumptions may be true and the people you lash out at may just conclude that you’re stressed. To you however, they are the ones making life difficult for you.

If this is not dealt with quickly, you might move from being irritated and start attacking your perceived enemies.

With such action though, you might be making things worse. You may attack or frighten the very people who could have helped you out of the situation.

Weariness

Along with the feeling that you cannot manage the burden on your shoulders comes feelings of weariness. Any time you’re overwhelmed, you will also start feeling tired.

This is because you are working towards solving the problem but the expected results seem to elude you.

The truth however is that you’re putting in very inefficient effort.

The stress you’ve accumulated is causing you not to be focused and so your brain isn’t serving you well. It has many other things it’s trying to accomplish. Chief among them is keeping you safe.

So your brain will signal to you that some rest is necessary. If you don’t rest, things are likely to get worse.

You look at the pile of work in your in-tray and realize the need to keep working. Remembering that you could be kicked out of your home due to non-payment of rent, you will want to finish the job.

But since your mind is not settled and focused, you get thoughts of having too much to handle. And since you’ve been working hard to finish your work, you are certainly tired.

Your mind may start shutting down and cause you to become sleepy.

Procrastination

Procrastination is another classic problem faced by many. Victims range from perfectionists seeking to get all the details right to overwhelmed people not knowing where to start.

If you’re extremely overwhelmed, you may not see an end in sight.

You need to look for a way of getting things done. You need to plan. But the plans don’t seem to be working. Your efforts don’t seem to be paying off.

Are you making the right plans? Are you prioritizing tasks the right way? Do you even have the capacity to handle the situation or should you wait till you’re able to?

It’s very easy to decide that you need some extra time. Maybe to research the right tools to help you become more efficient. Or the right way of dealing with the situation at hand.

All these make sense. But for your current situation, it’s not the best thing to consider doing.

Your mind is already bogged down by issues and your focus is lost. “Researching” is most likely a term you’re using to rationalize time-wasting activities.

HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR AND FEELING OVERWHELMED

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re overwhelmed, don’t give in to the pressure.

Whether it makes sense or not, just tell yourself that you can get out of it. The truth is that you can.

You just need to believe it then slowly work your way out.

This article is all about pointing you in the right direction. We have broken the solution down to two distinct phases.

The first is where you deal with the current situation as it is. This is for the sake of getting a grip on your emotions to avoid the roller coaster ride. The second phase deals with the problem at the root of the situation.

Any time you have an issue troubling you, it’s best to try getting to the root. If you don’t, you’ll end up dealing with the symptoms only.

Those will disappear then re-appear again. It’s like cutting down the branches of a tree and hoping that since the leaves—the food-making part—are gone, the tree will die.

Here is your way out.

1. TAMING THE SYMPTOMS

The first thing to take note of is the wording used here. The tips provided here are merely for the purposes of “taming” the symptoms. The reason for this is to allow some logic to filter in.

When you’re overwhelmed and are giving in to fear, it is your emotions that are ruling your will.

Your will is the part of you that makes decisions. Despite being the master, it relies on your emotions and logic to decide what’s best for you. It’s like the CEO asking for information from company managers.

Take a Deep Breath

When you become overwhelmed, your body starts functioning differently. It deviates from the norm. Primarily, you will have increased brain activity and your blood pressure will also increase.

As your brain is working hard to solve the problem, your heart works hard to supply it with the right amounts of oxygen and energy.

This is why you will start breathing faster so as to provide your heart with the oxygen to supply your brain.

The good thing is that you can easily control all of the three connected activities i.e. breathing, heart rate and brain activity.

And you don’t need to deal with each of them individually. Targeting one works on the rest.

Watch the below video for some breathing techniques you can practice any time on your own.

Your breathing is the key here. Regulating your breathing will slow down your heart rate. Your brain will take the cue and calm down too.

Be Optimistic

Being overwhelmed brings about a lot of negativity. You become pessimistic as you struggle with the issues facing you. And as long as this is your mindset, you may only struggle some more.

The problem with being negative is that it establishes the situation over you. You therefore only see how big and tough the situation is and not how you can deal with it.

Not even how you can address it step by step until it’s all finished.

Optimism / Pessimism Scenario

Imagine a trader in North Africa walking across Sahara desert with his camel carrying his wares. At times, he climbs up the camel for a ride.

When he gets tired of sitting, he gets down to walk beside it. With temperatures getting as highs as 100.4 to 104.0 °F, he can’t avoid being thirsty.

When he runs out of water, he goes on for a day before finally arriving at the market. He is relieved to see a fellow trader he knows. Asking for water, he is given a small container (250 ml) which is only half full. What do you think he will do?

If he’s negative, he will start complaining. “Is this all you can give me? Do you know how tough my journey has been?”

Obviously, his fellow trader doesn’t know what happened on his journey to the market. Also, it’s very possible that the water provided is all there is.

If he’s positive, he will notice the small amount of water but appreciate all the same. To him, that’s better than nothing. A little relief is better than none at all.

Apply this to your situation.

You may feel like everything is against you. According to you, the only relief you expect to have is for all your problems to be solved at once. Your pending work to disappear, your debts to be miraculously canceled and your bank account filled with $1,000,000.

The chances of this happening are very slim.

But if you just believe that the situation can be dealt with, you’ll be able to get things sorted.

2. DEALING WITH THE ROOT PROBLEM

With the emotional part of the problem under control, you can now dive deeper to deal with the real issue.

This is where you start building a system which can get you out of the current mess.

Having developed a positive mindset, you can now take action. A positive attitude will help you move forward.

And since you have several things to work on, you can generate enough will power to move in the right direction.

Silence Your Inner Critic

Do you remember the symptoms we talked about? They all push your body to some action.

For example, weariness may push you to go and sleep. Stress, anxiety and depression can push you towards suicide. Procrastination can push you towards unhealthy or even illegal activities.

But is it all automatic?

No.

When you start experiencing symptoms, there is a voice which whispers to you the kind of action to take. That voice advices you in line with the challenges at hand so you only experience them more and more.

But this voice did not show up from nowhere. It always existed though you may not have recognized it.

Your inner critic is the voice which tells you how much you’re unable to deal with the situation. How inexperienced you are for the job. How nobody appreciates the effort you put in because it is not good enough.

That voice is always criticizing you whenever you have an opportunity to move forward.

Inner Critic

Source: Alex Kip

To counter your inner critic, you need to feed yourself with affirmations. Find out your strengths and recite them to yourself. Make yourself know how good and able you are.

Do not mind arguments going on in your mind. Just ignore whatever is against these affirmations and in due time, the arguments will reduce. Eventually, they will cease because they will have been overcome by the affirmations.

This is how you train your mind. You simply feed it with the right information and it will use that to reason things out.

The next time your will wants to make a decision, your new logic will be stronger, presenting your will with better reasons to disregard temporary emotions.

Reduce Your To-Do List

Building yourself up against your inner critic is like cutting the tree down to the ground. But in order to stop it from growing and causing trouble again, you have to uproot it.

The reason you are overwhelmed is because you just have too much on your plate. You either bit more than you could chew or someone pushed too much your way than you could handle.

It might also be that the problem is laziness. Maybe you just take your sweet time to do even the smallest of tasks. As a result, other tasks come and find you still working on the first one.

They join the queue. By the time it’s evening, you have so much and despite being small, they are all incomplete.

Whether the tasks are small or big, that’s not the issue. The issue is that you have too much to handle. You need to reduce the items on your To-Do list.

And this is not by working on them but by either canceling them or getting people to help you out.

Get rid of anything you don’t have to do by yourself. And if everything is personal such that you can’t just bring in people, then get some trusted friends.

This is a critical moment and you have to open yourself up a little.

Openly communicate to your friends your urgent need for help.

Once they are signed up, dish out those tasks like cookies. Let them help you out on as much as possible.

Learn to Say “No”

Those tasks may get finished only for the list to grow long again. To avoid that, learn to only take on the tasks you’re sure you can finish on time.

If it’s your job, speak with your manager about this. If you feel or think that you might lose the responsibilities which give you a good income, then you have to train yourself to be more productive.

But even then, it is always wise to know when you need to say “No.”

There are many things requiring your attention. Some may be important while others are not. Understanding that you cannot do everything helps you realize that you have to abandon some projects.

Prioritize

After all these, you will remain with only a few things which you need to do. These are those which you either cannot delegate or just intend to handle by yourself.

At this point, you need to practice the art of prioritizing. Even if you have only three things to do but start with the task with the lowest priority, you may end up overwhelmed.

You will later on start rushing to finish the important tasks since you’re already behind schedule.

It’s advisable to start your day by working on the most important tasks. That way, even if you don’t complete the rest, you will at least have finished the most important ones.

That way, potential stress is eliminated.

When you notice that you’re progressing well, congratulate yourself. Celebrate yourself so that you see the rewards of doing things right.

Your mind will appreciate it and help you towards more of the same victory. It will do this knowing there is a reward.

CONCLUSION

When you deal with the overwhelming situation and stop it from recurring, you will have taken control of your life.

You will be able to do more important things and your life will be more meaningful.

How to Overcome Fear and Feeling Overwhelmed

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