7 ways to cope when you feel completely overwhelmed

7 ways to cope when you feel completely overwhelmed

Whether you’ve received a cancer diagnosis, are supporting a loved one through their cancer journey or simply have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to become so overwhelmed that you feel paralyzed. Overwhelm can affect your mental and physical health and hold you back from making progress on your goals. Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, shares how to recognize overwhelm and simple ways to reframe your mindset, so you feel better quickly.

Signs you’re overwhelmed

“If you try to be all things to all people and take on too much, you’ll start to notice symptoms in your body, mind and relationships,” says Buttimer.

You may start to notice physical symptoms like skin conditions, headaches, insomnia or high blood pressure.

Mentally, you may feel scared, uncertain, angry, withdrawn or stressed. You may also experience emotional outbursts or mood swings. You may have trouble thinking straight because the brain has difficulty processing information overload.

“Your brain literally struggles to remember or learn things because the demands are beyond your resources,” he says.

You may also notice relationship issues.

“The quality of your relationships may change in some way and that too can be an indicator that you’re trying to do too many things and are tapped out of your resources,” says Buttimer.

How to feel better when you’re overwhelmed

Buttimer recommends the following strategies to clear the cobwebs of overwhelm:

  1. Pay attention to your mindset. While your circumstances can cause you to feel overwhelmed, your perspective also plays a significant role in how you feel. “People can look at the same event and have completely different reactions to it because of how they’re processing it,” says Buttimer. “Even if you have 10 people helping you, your experience still hinges on your perception and the stories you tell yourself.”

  2. Let go of multitasking. Do one thing at a time and give it your full attention. “In our society, it’s common to attempt to multitask, but truly, it’s difficult to do so effectively,” he says. “It’s appropriate for computers, not human beings. We’re not machines.”

  3. Focus on the present moment. “The point of power is in the present moment,” says Buttimer. “When you have too many responsibilities, you start to believe you’re powerless. The good news is you still have power because you can alter the present moment. You can shift your thoughts and feelings.” You don’t have to do everything right now. Take some deep breaths for one minute, go for a walk outside or practice five minutes of chair yoga to reset.

  4. Interrupt the pattern of negative thoughts. “You get to choose how you want to move through the remaining hours of your day,” he says. Reflect on what you’re grateful for, give yourself permission to be imperfect and set realistic expectations for yourself.

  5. Focus on small wins. You’ll build momentum as you achieve small successes rather than feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to do. For example, instead of thinking about all of the cancer treatments you need over the next several months, focus on getting through your next appointment.

  6. Build in habits that support your best intentions. You don’t have to completely overhaul all of your habits at once. But you can slowly build small, consistent, positive habits into your daily routine that balance your stress levels. These habits may include exercise, meditation, journaling or cooking nourishing meals. Start by focusing on just one healthy habit. From there, you can build momentum as your habit helps you live healthier.

  7. Recognize your resilience. Think about past habits, activities or relationships that you enjoyed and that provided stress relief. Use these strategies now to help boost your well-being.

“Reducing overwhelm isn’t about changing your personality; it’s about finding small steps you can take to shift your mindset,” says Buttimer.

Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.


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