Coping with Emotional Overwhelm
You are consumed by overwhelm. You recognize that sickening feeling, almost like panic, that seems to come from nowhere and sits over you like bad weather. Life becomes miserable.
It’s like you are standing at the bottom of a huge mountain looking up. Your mind is saying “you should, you must, you could have, you should have” but your spirit feels broken.
You feel tired, no exhausted, and even the stuff you normally enjoy doing can feel totally overwhelming. Just getting through the day feels like walking through thick syrup.
These are the symptoms of emotional overwhelm.
If you are feeling overwhelm right now then this article may help.
If you are feeling ok then bookmark this page because your overwhelm is coming.
How do I know?
Because we all feel overwhelmed sometimes – it’s part of being human.
What is Overwhelm?
Overwhelm is defined in the dictionary as “overpower” or “intense.”
When we look at emotional overwhelm, it is similar in that you feel overpowered with an emotion that is indeed intense.
The problem is it can be difficult to explain to others how you feel and even more difficult for them to understand.
We don’t have defined words for most emotions or internal feelings – so if others ask, “How are you feeling?”, you may find yourself saying “fine” or “I can’t put my finger on it.”
This difficulty to communicate what you are going through makes emotional overwhelm a lonely place to be. If you do try to explain your feelings you may find that others tell you to “get over it”, “pull yourself together” or that it is “all in your mind.” This can leave you feeling alone, depressed and hopeless.
Why you experience emotional overwhelm
Often you may find no logical reason why you feel overwhelmed. This is the paradox of emotion verses cognition.
Cognitively, in your brain, you may reason “it’s not really that bad” or “I have faced worse and coped”, but logic and emotion do not speak the same language. This causes an incongruence, or a mismatch, of what your head is saying and what you are feeling emotionally.
Your head says “I should be doing such and such”, your emotions are saying “I can’t face that.”
Your head is saying “but there is no logical reason”, your emotions are feeling guilt and despair.
This self-defeating cycle goes round and round in a spiral confusing your logic and adding more negative emotions such as guilt and helplessness to your emotional overwhelm. It can sometimes feel like the joy is drained from life and it often feels like there is no way out.
Stop Living in “The Land of Why”
There are no happy answers to:
“Why Me?” “Why didn’t I?” “Why did I?”
If you must ask any questions, ponder:
“How can I grow?” “What’s in my control to change?” “What’s the gain in my pain?”
- Karen Salmansohn Author of – How to Be Happy Dammit
How you can deal with overwhelm
Firstly – you are not alone. Everyone feels like this at one time or other – it is a normal human reaction.
I know it can sometimes appear like everyone else’s life is “together” and that people are strong but in truth, we are all fragile and have times we feel low.
It is not that important what triggered your overwhelm and the solution does not lie in finding the cause. Seeking the reason you feel like you do is a waste of your energy and may even add to the self-defeating cycle.
The answer to emotional pain is not found in reason or logic.
The answer lies in emotional acceptance and understanding of yourself.
Overwhelm is a little like quicksand – the more you try to escape it, the deeper you tend to sink. The best thing you can do is be overwhelmed. I know that sounds crazy but it’s the truth. You are overwhelmed anyway and fighting it leads to more overwhelm, confusion and guilt – so the solution is “don’t try to make it stop.”
You are an emotional being. It’s what makes you human and as such you are the sum of all of your emotions both positive and negative. You have some emotions like joy that are viewed as acceptable to self – but you also have sadness and overwhelm. All emotion is part of the human condition, they are part of what makes you, you. Yes emotions are sometimes painful, but it’s ok to feel them.
Allow yourself to feel your overwhelm and instead of trying to make it go away, try embracing it.
Accept the emotion and fully emerge yourself in it because it is a part of who you are.
What does it feel like? Where in your body do you feel the pain or the emotion? Is it sharp or is it dull? Is it a heavy feeling?
Explore your overwhelm and get to know it. Sure it hurts and you want it to go away but, for this moment, allow it to be.
The overwhelm will pass as it has in the past and as it will again in the future. By not trying to escape every time overwhelm visits, you will begin to understand and know this part of yourself better. When you know your overwhelm intimately, you will begin to recognize it when it starts as opposed to only recognizing when you are consumed by it. When you know it’s coming you get to prepare and avoid the self-defeating cycle – which lessons the pain.
Talking about how you feel with someone who understands what you are going through can certainly help. Part of the weight of overwhelm is that it makes you feel isolated and alone. Often you may find you are putting on an act pretending that everything is fine when in truth you are crushed inside.
If you wish to speak to me about your challenges I would welcome the opportunity. As a psychotherapist, overwhelm and its accompanying emotions are common ground to me. You can find out more about my online counseling service by clicking here. I would love to hear from you.