Why Feeling Overwhelmed Is So Overwhelming


Overwhelm is a common symptom of anxiety and frequently troubles those with depression, since anxiety often accompanies depression.

Being overwhelmed is more than a distressing feeling. Severe anxiety actually does overwhelm our brain, altering the way it functions, and may cause problematic physical symptoms as well.

The Overwhelmed Brain

When we feel overwhelmed it can seem as if our brain has been hijacked–because biochemically speaking, anxiety does hijack the brain.

Our brain, when flooded with stress, can reduce the energy allocated to other areas of the body such as our digestive system. This can cause the other systems to jump their tracks and function abnormally.

Some areas of an overwhelmed brain simply shut down, in an attempt to relieve the stress. Anxiety also alters the way hormones and neurotransmitters are manufactured and released, which may cause changes in thought and feeling.

Mind-Body On Overwhelm

Intense anxiety makes it problematic to concentrate, not only because our brain has gone a bit haywire, but because our thoughts tend to rally around our stress. So, one thing we can easily focus on is the anxiety.

Accompanying our anxiety laden thoughts may be tearfulness, a sense of hopelessness, or even an anticipation of doom. Feelings of impending doom, that you will soon experience something terrible, often accompany symptoms of panic. These unnerving feelings set the physical self on edge.

The physical issues related to anxiety are sometimes the most overwhelming. We might have chest pains, rapid heart rate, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, or light-headedness. These sensations can be so distressing the mind fixates on them, increasing our anxiety.

Relieving Overwhelm

The only way to stop overwhelm is to address the roots of our anxiety or depression, which may require the help of a mental health professional. However, until the deeper issues are resolved, there are things we can do to knock the wind out of overwhelm.

  • Going for a walk stimulates your senses with interesting sights, smells, and sounds that disrupt the mind and body’s focus on feeling overwhelmed. Walking also helps you breathe more deeply and regularly. If you can manage more intense exercise such as biking or swimming, you will breathe better and flood your brain with its own calming chemicals.
  • Activities that distract your thoughts are often effective in relieving overwhelm. Calling or visiting a friend, playing a video game, or doing a word puzzle can occupy enough of the mind to allow some relaxation.
  • Simple breathing exercises can be used anytime and almost anywhere. An easy exercise to remember and do is “3-3-3 breathing.” Inhale to a relaxed count of three, hold your breath for a count of three, and exhale to a count of three; repeat. Slowing and deepening the breath is the best quick and natural anti-anxiety treatment available.
  • Writing thoughts and feelings down in a journal or on a scrap of paper, seems to de-intensify them. There is something about making our inner world concrete by giving it form in the outer world that is grounding and settling.
  • Source: html link: Calm Clinic
    Photo credit: Sara V. - flickr


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