What to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

stressed businessman sitting at his desk

Stressed man who feels overwhelmed | Source: iStock

Picture this scenario: You’re at work, being bombarded with assignments and meetings, and you begin to feel overwhelmed by all of your tasks. The feeling of being “overwhelmed” is described by psychologist Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, as “feeling completely overcome in mind or emotion.” Deibler adds that when a particular stressor is too much to manage, you get that overwhelmed feeling.

Deibler notes that this feeling can manifest itself as anxiety, or a “maladaptive thought process” such as doubt or helplessness, worry, lashing out, or crying. If you’re experiencing any of these feelings, take a deep breath and then read on to discover four strategies that will help you feel calm. These are only a few suggestions, and if you continue to feel overwhelmed and think it may be a symptom of more serious anxiety disorder, do seek professional help.

1. Breathe

The advice of many is to “just breathe” and for good reason: Although it’s simple, it works. In fact, there is a direct connection between our emotional state and breathing. An anxious, frustrated, or overwhelmed person breathes as if they have just finished running a marathon, whereas a calm person breathes differently — more slow and steady. The best way to bring your heart rate down and regain your cool is to focus on your breathing.

The American Institute of Stress stresses that the best way to bring yourself back to your normal state is to focus on your breathing right there in the moment. In fact, AIS recommends abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day to prevent overwhelm and reduce anxiety and stress. The Institute adds that, “Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body — it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”

2. Jot it down

man writing on paper

Man writing down feelings | Source: iStock

If you write down what’s bothering you, it may help you put everything into perspective. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., explains in an article for Psych Central that it’s important to give yourself five minutes to write down everything that’s bothering you and hold nothing back. This helps to give your brain a much-needed break from the moment and how you’re feeling.

3. Reach out for support

This is one of the best things to do when you’re overcome with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Forbes suggests that you ask your family and friends to help you figure out how to feel less overwhelmed. You’re reaching out to them as a means of support and for any insights or advice on how to make your situation better.

4. Take a walk and listen to music

man walking on a track

Man walking | Source: iStock

Taking a walk is scientifically proven to beat stress. The Daily Mail reports that scientists have found that briskly walking (or jogging) can calm you down by triggering nerve cells in the brain that relax your senses. Though exercise has long been known to calm you down, the exact brain mechanism behind this phenomenon had remained a mystery until now. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, excuse yourself from the office to take a brisk walk outside or walk up and down the stairs.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: