When you are Overwhelmed
“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes over night. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
When you find yourself stressed, overwhelmed, or experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it is helpful to remember that every journey, every trip, is taken one step at a time. Patience and understanding of this timeless lesson can get you through an otherwise tough time. In this article, I offer some actionable tips for you to practice starting right now. And there is a bonus tip for you at the end.
The Word Overwhelmed
As I began writing in my journal about feeling overwhelmed recently, I realized I use this word frequently, yet when I thought about it, I couldn’t clearly and accurately define the word. When I looked up the meaning, I was a little surprised, wondering if I was even using the word correctly.
As and adult, I find myself searching for the definition of words frequently, much more than I remember doing so when I was younger. It’s almost as if words hold more value to me now than they ever have in the past. This quite possibly may be only in my mind.
Words hold energy, emotions, intention, and impact, in addition to the basic meaning. Words are at the heart of one’s ability to skillfully communicate with others as well as ourselves. They may hold different meaning or weight from one person to another.
The Meaning of the Word
By now, I imagine you are wondering what the definition of overwhelm actually is. Although the suspense may be heavy right now, I’ll start with my interpretation of the word prior to my search for it’s meaning.
I use the word overwhelm to describe any or all of the listed experiences:
- Feeling stressed
- Too many things on my plate
- Having more responsibilities than I feel like I can handle
- Feeling agitation
- Having a short fuse
- My mind feels busy and distracted making it hard to focus
- My chest feels heavy making it difficult to get a full breath
- On the verge of tears
- Feels like what I imagine an adult temper tantrum might look and feel like
Have you ever felt this way or some version of similar? I am curious, if you answered yes to this, what word or words would you use to label this experience? Would you call it overwhelm? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Now, the definition you’ve been waiting for…
According to Merriam-Webster, Overwhelm means:
- Upset, overthrow
- To cover completely
- To overcome by superior force
- To overpower in thought or feeling
Some example sentences offered:
- The Tornado overwhelmed many mobile homes.
- A sense of inadequacy overwhelmed me.
- Overwhelmed with grief.
How to Use the Word Overwhelmed
This made me stop and consider my use of the word. The way I was understanding it and the meaning I was implying was overwhelmed as an emotion itself–an emotion as in angry or sad. As in “I am feeling overwhelmed.” When in fact, it is not really an emotion. It is an overpowering OF a specific emotion. As in the example above, “Overwhelmed with fear.”
Because my interpretation of the word is not really accurate, I must pause and get curious about what my actual emotions are at times when I perceive that I am overwhelmed. I’d say I have a history of not being in touch with my emotions. Yet, I thought I had made strides to improve this in the last 10 years or so. I guess there is always more to learn about yourself.
After deeper inquiry, I realize, I am overwhelmed with fear: fear of not enough, fear of failure, fear of letting people down–to name a few.
What to do when overwhelmed by strong emotions?
You take one step at a time. Take one task at a time. Move one foot in front of the other.
There are many analogies that come to mind when thinking of this lesson.
First, the task of painting a room:
- Move the furniture away from the walls
- Tape moldings
- Place drop cloth
- Mix paint
- Cut edges with brush
- Paint remaining walls with roller
- Clean up (this is as important as the other steps to truly finish the job!)
This same philosophy can be applied to so many other tasks including gardening, laundry, putting together furniture, reading a book chapter by chapter, cleaning the house, etc. You get the idea.
Important Reminder for Times of Stress
One step at a time. One task at a time. This allows you to see more and more as the process moves along. It allows you to practice patience and reduce the possibility of stress, worry and fear that may be present with a large, daunting task or project.
This can be applied to a to-do list with one more consideration—Priorities. Ask yourself, what is the most important task that needs to be completed first? Many people have a practice of prioritizing the top 3 items on their to-do list ever day.
I have a bonus tip for you to reduce the tendency of becoming overwhelmed with fear and it is one that I often need reminding about. I am fortunate to have Les as the person who frequently offers this reminder for me. The to-do list will never actually be 100% cleared! (Insert dramatic microphone drop here) This simple realization can be extremely freeing.
I hope some of these ideas prove helpful for you the next time you find yourself overwhelmed with an emotion. If you feel there is an underlying belief you carry about yourself that is keeping you stuck in a state where you are overwhelmed by a strong emotion, a 1:1 personalized hypnotherapy session is a powerful tool to uncover the cause so you can begin to make a positive change. I absolutely love working with clients who are looking to get unstuck.
When you find yourself having difficulty getting started with a task, procrastinating, second guessing yourself, your abilities, or your worth, give yourself the time and space to inquire with curiosity about what’s under these actions or beliefs so that you can make a positive transformation.
- Meditation to Gain Clarity and Get Unstuck
- Rewire Your Mind for Confidence and Resilience
- Pause and Breathe
- How to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
- Healing Self-Care to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
- Tips to Relieve Anxiety
With love and gratitude,
Sara and Les
The Mindful Movement
Design Your Dream Life
A Guided Visualization
Are you living the life of your dreams?
Are you happy with your life and the direction you are going?
Lao Tzu once said, “If you do not change the direction, you may end up where you are heading.“
Make a change TODAY!
Download this FREE resource
This practice will give you an opportunity to:
- Design your dream life and clarify your values
- Begin to develop positive habits and live intentionally
- Connect with your authentic self and let go of resistance
About your host
Sara and Les Raymond founded The Mindful Movement in August of 2016. They are passionate about helping others grow and live mindful, fulfilled lives. They have both experienced profound growth and fulfillment in living a mindful lifestyle. Together they help others live a more mindful life, deepening their awareness and sense of gratitude. They strive to inspire others to live authentically with love and abundance.