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Feeling Overwhelmed?

We have all likely experienced this feeling at different points in our life, and it’s so important to validate yourself when you feel this way, and take action to protect your mental health and wellbeing.

What does being overwhelmed look like?

Feeling overwhelmed often involves flooding thoughts, emotions and even physical sensations. Everyone feels overwhelmed from time to time and it is a completely normal experience when going through something stressful. However, being chronically overwhelmed and stressed out can take a real toll on your mental and physical health.

Signs & symptoms of being overwhelmed:

  • Disproportionate reactions – you may find that you overreact to minor stressors, for example getting overly angry with a family member about something small or panicking when you lose your car keys
  • Cognitive fatigue – you may been disoriented and confused, have difficulty concentrating or with making decisions
  • Irrational thoughts – you may struggle to think rationally and feel deflated by your perceived ability to deal with things
  • Pessimism – you may feel helpless or hopeless
  • Physical symptoms – you may experience things like a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, headaches, an upset stomach or fatigue
  • Withdrawal – you may find yourself withdrawing from friends and/or family or feel like they can’t understand what you’re going through
  • Paralysis/ freezing – you may experience a freeze response when facing stressful tasks

Why am I feeling overwhelmed?

There are many reasons you might feel this way. It could be an unexpected event, an accumulation of stressors or poor mental health. A lack of effective coping skills can also exacerbate these symptoms.

Here are some common triggers for feeling overwhelmed:

  • Health concerns
  • Relationship difficulties, conflicts or breakups
  • Excessive workload or stressful work environment
  • Major life changes
  • Financial problems
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Environmental or political issues

What can I do if I feel overwhelmed?

  1. Be compassionate. Remember that feeling this way is ok and likely only temporary. Give yourself some grace, your mental health should be your top priority and you can do whatever you like to ensure that. If you need an extension on a university assignment, just apply. If you don’t get that chore done today, that’s ok.
  2. Write it out. Writing down what you’re feeling and why is a great way to help you alleviate some of the symptoms and get those thoughts out of your head. You can do this in an unstructured way – a written stream of consciousness that allows you to express yourself freely.
  3. Challenge your assumptions. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to let irrational thoughts and fears guide us. It can be helpful to identify and question illogical assumptions you’re making and articulate them either to someone you trust or in a journal.
  4. Seek support. Reach out to your social support network who may be able to offer advice, support and a different perspective. This can make you feel validated and supported through the stressor. Professional advice from a therapist can also support you through the feeling. Therapists can help us develop effective coping strategies and understand why we respond to stressors the way we do.
  5. Try mindfulness exercises. Practicing mindfulness can be very helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Grounding techniques can help you by exercising your senses and connecting you to your environment, often helping you escape the chaos of your mind. Consider techniques like mindfulness or Dadirri.

No matter what you are feeling, others are feeling it too. Help and support is available at any time from the following organisations:

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