It can happen for many different reasons. We may be stressed in work or in our personal life, and feel we cannot handle it anymore, we may feel that the demands on us are just too much. So, what can we do about it? We could delegate and ask people to take things on to reduce our to do list, or we could say ‘no’ when we are asked to take more on, but if it were that easy, we probably would not be in this situation in the first place.
Quite often we can feel overwhelmed by a particular task which plays on our mind. You may find that you are awaiting news and whilst waiting, other things start to build up. In cases like this, we need to manage our thoughts as we will be reacting to them, rather than the situation itself.
Sometimes we worry about the ‘what if’s’. We may have a fear of something bad happening. This fear can become intense, resulting in us feeling overwhelmed. When we fear the worst in a situation, we tend to look at the worst-case scenario which can then cause anxiety and panic.
For example, Emily is worried about catching COVID-19 and starts to imagine what her death will look like, who will be at the funeral and her children growing up without her.
As you can see, she has gone from zero to 100 miles an hour with her thoughts whereas, if she slowed it all down and thought about things rationally, she would recognise that she is doing everything possible to reduce the risk and has made it to this point without contracting it so must be doing something right. By focusing on just the facts, what is happening right now, you can think about things rationally.
We can also become anxious when we are struggling to find a solution to an issue, which in turn make us feel overwhelmed. The physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension, palpitations and sweating can then add to the problem and when we are in that state, we are more likely to make poor decisions. To help with this, it is useful to reflect on times when you have been able to think outside the box, and then ask yourself, ‘what mental state were you in?’ More than likely, your approach to the issue was more relaxed and as a result did not feel pressured. So, maybe that is the way to approach this issue. Relaxing is probably the last thing on your mind, but it is worth giving it a go. Have you ever forgotten a name and racked your brain for it for hours, and then when you least expected it, the name popped into your head? Well, that is a prime example of your brain working things out when you are relaxed. Try going for a bath or shower or make a drink or go for a walk. By doing this you are making a shift in the brain which will allow you to look at things differently.
Some people practice mindfulness, which is where we just observe and accept the thoughts. For example, you may be worried about being late for an appointment and instead of going with the thought to the worst-case scenario, just observe the thought, say to yourself ‘I notice that I am having the thought that I am going to be late’. The idea is to look at the thought rather than connect with it.
Being in the present moment is part of being mindful but can also help reduce the chatter, as we tend to always be in the past, thinking about things we should have said or done or in the future, thinking about the things we need to do. A great way to stop this is by connecting with the body, maybe feeling the clothes on your body, or counting your breathing.
Finally, we need to be kind to ourselves. By being kind to ourselves, we stop feeling overwhelmed. Being kind to yourself means different things for different people. Do not feel guilty for taking time for yourself, as taking time even for an hour, enables you to be more productive for the other twenty-three and a half hours in the day.
If you need support and your employer offers Vivup’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) it is available 24/7, 365 days a year and here to help you. The 24-hour telephone helpline is responsive, confidential, and totally independent, acting as an invaluable support for advice and short-term low intensity support. To find out more about the resources available to you visit vivup.co.uk