What is Overwhelm and How to Deal With It

The rising intensity of life can swallow up our time and attention. Urgent events, activities, tasks and demands can drag us along until we lose sight of what matters most. Many of us take on too much, try to keep up, slip behind and as a result, become overwhelmed.

In this article, you will learn how to identify overwhelm, why it’s vital to restrain it, how you can eliminate it, and effective strategies to regain your personal power.

What Does Overwhelm Feel Like?

Do you wake up in the morning with your mind going 100-miles-an-hour, thinking about all the things you need to get done today? If so, you may be in overwhelm. People who suffer from overwhelm sometimes encounter physical and emotional symptoms. For instance, overwhelm can feel like a deadening of the heart, resignation and even despair. Common warning signs include:

Physical symptoms:

Stomach tied in knots
Chest pressure
Fast pulse or heartbeat
Pounding headache

Emotional symptoms:

Feeling inundated or swamped
Feeling a sense of panic or doom
Feeling stuck with no way out
Feeling helpless or powerless
Easily upset or annoyed at the little things
Feeling sad or depressed

What Happens If You Stay Overwhelmed?

Living in a constant state of overwhelm endangers emotional and physical wellbeing. When overwhelm persists, it is possible to experience a heightened adrenalin release that can lead to high blood pressure, adrenal gland burnout, extreme fatigue and other diseases.

Being overwhelmed over time, can lead to burnout, a serious condition with long-term health consequences that impact overall wellbeing. The latest research indicates that operating in a state of stress and overwhelm significantly increases our chances of developing serious illnesses. These include cancer, heart disease, hypertension and stroke, heart attack, diabetes and kidney failure.

Six Essential Strategies For Tackling Overwhelm

Stop. Take a moment and be honest. It is extremely difficult to reach your highest potential if you feel overwhelmed. It’s not a weakness to admit that you are overwhelmed. In fact, telling the truth is the first step in gaining the clarity you need to take action.

Refocus. Schedule an hour to answer the following questions. If that seems like too much time, reconsider. This exercise is worth it. You’ll gain the objectivity and knowledge you need to act on what matters most.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What is most important in my life?
What do I value and find meaning in?
Where is my life out of sync with my personal values?
Where do I settle rather than commit to a higher standard?
Where do I compromise: an unrewarding job, an unfulfilling relationship, disorganization at work or home?
Where do I lose time and energy by sabotaging my direction?
What are my true goals?

What became clear to you through this process? What needs to change to live your life with more meaning and authenticity? What actions will you take?

Make Yourself a Priority. Yes, you read that right. Put yourself first--not everyone and everything else. This is critical. Many of my clients tell me they cannot possibly put themselves first. They think their children, partner, work, etc., must come first. They believe putting themselves first is selfish!

The truth is, if you don’t create balance and peace in your own life, it’s difficult to grow fulfilling relationships, or to become truly involved and present in the events and occasions you care about most.

Start small by taking 10 minutes a day for yourself. Think about what matters most in your life and how you can build on that. Do you need to re-prioritize with you at the top of your list?

Learn to Say “No” to Others and “Yes” to Yourself. This is difficult for many of us, but building this muscle teaches you to set essential boundaries. Draw a line in the sand and only take on what’s most important to you. Start saying “No” today. Place a reminder note where you will see it often. With practice, saying “No” becomes easier and you will start to feel relief immediately.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate. Think about all the things you are doing. Who else can do them? Often, because we feel we can do them quicker, better and faster, we just do them ourselves and prevent others from learning and developing new skills. This particularly applies to children as they are much more capable than we might realize. Give them a chance, to learn, grow and feel empowered in their own lives.

Boost Your Time Management Skills. Do you strive to complete your endless to-do list every day? When you don’t complete your list, do you beat yourself up? If so, you are adding to overwhelm. Be realistic about your time each day and select 3 of the most important goals to complete. Start working on them first thing in the morning. When you focus on what you value most, you accomplish only what really matters and the insignificant tasks fall away.

Author's Bio: 

From Tina Elliot, MBA, PCC (ICF Professional Certified Coach)
Known as "The Professional Women's Coach" Tina's success as a life, business, executive and wellness coach draws from her twenty years experience working in the areas of coaching and consulting.
For a free report on the Real Coaching Strategies to deal with overwhelm, visit her website at http://www.synergycoaching.org or call 909-860-2732 for a complimentary coaching meeting and start living the life you deserve!