5 Types of Overwhelm & How to overcome them
Overwhelm is a feeling that can manifest in many different ways, but at its core, it is the experience of feeling like there is too much to handle, which can be caused by a variety of factors, including time constraints, emotional stress, decision-making pressure, information overload, and relationship challenges.
In this article, you’ll learn about the five types of overwhelm, be guided to identify the kind of overwhelm you’re experiencing, and long term strategies to help you address the root cause(s) of the overwhelm so you can move forward and prevent overwhelm from happening again.
P.s. Feeling overwhelmed right now and need a quick fix? This blog post will help
There are five main types of overwhelm: Time overwhelm, emotional overwhelm, decision overwhelm, information overwhelm and relationship overwhelm. Though it’s likely that the overwhelm you’re experiencing is a combination of 2 or more types, often you’ll find that there is one main type of overwhelm that is the root cause
- Identify the main type of overwhelm you’re facing, or the root cause.
- Then follow the strategies mentioned below to work on it.
- Once this root problem is resolved, this will also resolve the other associated overwhelms
Ready to jump in? Here we go:
⏰ 1. Time Overwhelm: ‘I don’t have enough time’
Time overwhelm is the feeling of having too much to do in too little time. You might feel a sense of constant rushing, feeling like there is never enough time to get everything done, or a sense that you have too much on your plate. To identify time overwhelm, notice if the internal dialogue in your mind or the feelings of stress or anxiety you’re having are related to time, as well as physical symptoms such as racing heart and shallow breathing. Some common examples include:
- ‘I don’t have enough time to finish this’
- ‘It’s impossible to meet this / those deadline(s)’
- ‘I won’t be able to do x and y within the same time’
How to overcome time overwhelm:
To overcome time overwhelm, first, ask yourself if your task / commitments list is realistically achievable within the given time / deadline. Setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself is powerful in overcoming time overwhelm. A helpful framework is the 4 Ds of Time Management: Do, Defer / Delay, Delegate and Delete/Drop. Consider if any of the tasks / commitments you have could be either delayed to a later time, or done by someone else whom you could ask for support from, or dropped completely.
Once you feel your load is manageable, follow these 10 time management tips to do more in less time
😟 2. Emotional Overwhelm: ‘This feels like it’s too much’
Emotional overwhelm is the feeling of being overwhelmed by strong emotions, such as anger, sadness, or anxiety. To identify emotional overwhelm, notice if you feel emotionally “overloaded” or “overwhelmed”, and / or if you feel physical symptoms of headaches and muscle tension. Many people experience emotional overwhelm when an unexpected situation occurs, such as the poor health of a loved one, notice of being made redundant at work, or being in the receiving end of hurtful words.
How to overcome emotional overwhelm:
Emotions are energy in motion. To overcome emotional overwhelm, it is important to find healthy outlets for your emotions, to allow this energy to move and be expressed outside of you. Here are 5 general strategies to help you:
- Allow yourself the time, space to feel your emotions. Notice if there is the urge to ignore or push away difficult emotions. Acknowledge that you are in a challenging / unexpected situation and these feelings are natural. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, Qigong and deep breathing can be helpful tools in grounding you and acknowledging attuning with and processing your emotions.
- Simplify the emotion you’re feeling. You might feel overwhelmed by a complex myriad of emotions. There are only five main primary emotional states (anger, joy, worry, sadness and fear), and simplifying and being able to identify what you’re feeling can reduce emotional overwhelm.
- Learn to identify your emotion(s), what triggers them, where you feel them in your body, etc. Notice what your feelings are trying to tell you about yourself, how you respond to the world, the other(s) in the situation, and the way the world works.
- Identify the appropriate way for you to feel/express the emotion(s) without causing physical harm to yourself / others. This might be talking to a friend or therapist, writing in a journal, releasing sounds (anything from fluttering your lips, chanting/repeating mantras, shouting in a safe space to release pent-up emotions)
- Seek out support from a friend, therapist, or support group of people in a similar situation. Being heard and seen by others can be helpful in overcoming emotional overwhelm.
Read this blog post on how you can overcome emotional overwhelm with the Five Elements
📚 3. Information Overwhelm / Information overload: ‘There’s too much information’
Information overwhelm, sometimes known as information overload, is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of information that needs to be processed. This can manifest as feelings of confusion, uncertainty, or difficulty focusing. To identify information overload, pay attention to feelings of being “overwhelmed” by information, as well as physical symptoms such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating.
How to overcome information overwhelm / information overload:
Try these 3 strategies:
- Break down large amounts of information into smaller, manageable chunks.
- Prioritize the most important information, and seek out a source of reliable information.
- Make a list of the most important information and to take some time to reflect on the information and how it relates to your goals.
🤔❓4. Decision Overwhelm: ‘What if I make the wrong choice?’
Decision overwhelm is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the weight or number of decision(s) that need to be made. To identify decision overwhelm, notice if you feel unsure, confused, fearful or worried that you’ll make the wrong decision. You may also experience physical symptoms like tiredness, fatigue or struggle to focus. Decision overwhelm may also surface in the form of procrastination – you might put off doing things or making a decision because you feel overwhelmed by having to decide and the possibility of making a wrong decision and how it might impact negatively you in future.
How to overcome decision overwhelm:
Try these 6 strategies:
- Try breaking down large decisions into smaller, manageable parts.
- Prioritize the most important decisions, leave less important decisions for later.
- Make a list of pros and cons for each decision. Take some time to reflect on your values and priorities.
- Notice if you’re making a decision because you feel obliged to, or influenced by someone else. By who? And why? What if you could set these external influences aside? How would that change your decision-making process?
- Follow your instinct, your gut feeling when making a decision.
- If seek out advice or input from others, make sure to consult only someone whose opinion you feel is valuable e.g. an expert, or someone who has been in a similar challenge and had overcome it. Take the person’s advice / opinion(s) with a pinch of salt. Remember, the final decision is yours.
👥 5. Relationship Overwhelm
Relationship overwhelm is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the complexity of relationships, whether they are personal (with a spouse / partner, children, parents, family or friends) or professional (colleagues, bosses or subordinates). To identify relationship overwhelm, notice if you feel stressed or anxious in relation to a personal or professional relationship, as well as physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension.
How to overcome relationship overwhelm:
To overcome relationship overwhelm, try these 5 strategies:
- Notice if you’re experiencing relationship overwhelm in relation to someone else. Identify this / these person(s) and the cause for overwhelm. Ask yourself, why do I feel overwhelmed by this relationship? What in the way I am relating to this person / this person is relating to me is making me feel overwhelmed?
- Ensure you have sufficient time away from the person(s) whom you feel overwhelmed by. During this time, ensure you engage in self-care activities that help you recharge and release any negative emotions, stress and trauma sustained from this overwhelm
- Engage in a 2 way dialogue to set clear boundaries and communicate openly with others about your needs and expectations. A cause of relationship overwhelm might be that your boundaries were overstepped by the other, your needs aren’t being met within the relationship or you felt unheard be other person(s) involved. Expressing your needs and clear boundaries
- Seek out support from other trusted family, friends, colleagues or a therapist if help from a neutral third party can bring objectivity in the situation
- Additionally, working on your own emotional intelligence and relationship skills can be helpful in managing the complexity of relationships.
Overwhelm can manifest in many different ways and it is important to be aware of the different types of overwhelm. By identifying the specific type of overwhelm, you can take steps to manage and overcome it.
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