Pressure, pressure, pressure.
Sometimes, it can get so heavy you wonder how you’re still managing to keep standing. Can you really carry all that weight?
I get it. As a highly emotional person, I’ve gone through my own periods of absolute overwhelm. Through times when the world just seemed way too loud, and all I could do was crawl under my blankets and find some semblance of comfort in the quiet darkness.
But then I learned there are other – better – ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to hide. You’ve just got to change your behavior.
You have power over how you feel. Don’t believe me?
Then read on. If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, say goodbye to these 12 behaviors.
1) Taking on extra work 24/7
The simple truth is that you can’t please everybody.
People will ask you for favors. They’ll try and push your boundaries. They’ll constantly prod at your limits, wanting to see how much you can take.
“Hey, could you quickly do this and that?” Never mind it’s 5 PM on a Friday.
“Can you cover my shift tomorrow please?” she says for the third time this week.
Every time you say yes to pleasing someone else, you’re also saying no to prioritizing yourself. And while that’s okay once in a while, making it a regular habit can become extremely overwhelming.
If you’re tired, take a break. It’s incredibly important.
Trust me – as someone who had to learn how to take guilt-free breaks and focus on myself, I can say I’m doing so much better now.
“Oh no, my boss said I didn’t do very well today! Soon she will realize I’m a complete impostor and fire me!”
Been there, done that. Catastrophizing is an old menace of mine – every time there’s a negative trigger around me, my imagination goes into overdrive, overwhelming me with all the absolute worst scenarios that could happen.
What can I say? I’m a drama queen. 💅
Seriously, though. Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion: a mental filter that distorts reality and fuels negative emotions.
To get out of the loop, become aware of when you’re catastrophizing and bring your awareness back to the present moment.
Then ask yourself whether there’s concrete proof for what you’re thinking. “My boss didn’t like my work today, but she also said I’d done a really good job last week. There’s no proof she’ll fire me.”
And moving on to another cognitive distortion you’ve got to let go of…
3) Maximizing the negative
Oftentimes when I feel completely overwhelmed, it’s because I don’t approach the situation objectively. There’s no distance between me and my emotions.
I’m just drowning, drowning, drowning in all the pessimism.
But then I ask myself, “Is it really all so bad?”
I try to come up with all the positives about the situation. I count all the things and people I’m grateful for. And slowly but surely, I begin to realize that it’s not all doomed.
Nothing is ever black-and-white. Use the positives to balance out the negatives.
4) Worrying about things you can’t solve
So you’ve got a problem.
Except it’s not an actual problem you can tackle in the here and now; it’s a potential problem for the future you.
Worrying about it isn’t going to help you. What it does do, however, is completely overwhelm you.
Here you are brainstorming how you would go about solving an issue that might not even manifest itself in reality. Here you are stuck in a cycle of “what if” and “that’d be so terrible” and “oh god what will I do”.
You will do what it takes. Pass the responsibility onto your future self. They’ll know what to do. You, on the other hand, have other responsibilities to focus on – such as taking care of your well-being in the present.
5) Hyperfixating on the future
The previous three points have one thing in common: they all revolve around the future.
Look, I get it. The future does feel overwhelming. The uncertainty can drive you mad.
But guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it.
The only thing within your power is today. And if you do your best today, you’re automatically making tomorrow easier.
Take things step by step. Today is the only time that matters.
6) Disregarding your feelings
Last week, I felt like crying. I went through the day suppressing my emotions, distracting myself, and trying to move on.
But you can’t move on if your feelings are still there, screaming to be heard. They find other ways to manifest.
I, for one, got a terrible migraine. I was stuck in catastrophizing loops for hours.
The only thing that helped was letting it all out. I cried and cried. And then I slept like a baby.
7) Keeping your stress bottled up
Just like grief needs tears and anger needs high-energy activities, stress needs an outlet, too.
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, chances are…you’re incredibly stressed. Day in, day out.
I used to be the same. In fact, I was so stressed just a year ago that my muscles were always tense and my lower back hurt every single day.
Until it broke. All it took was bending to clean the bathtub, and my disc herniated. I was twenty three. The doctors were shocked something like this had happened to me at such a young age.
I wasn’t. I knew I’d stressed myself out so much that my lower back couldn’t take it anymore.
Then I read Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski and I realized that the reason I’d felt so overwhelmed for so long was because my stress had no outlet.
As it turned out, the key to ending the stress cycle was super simple – I just had to move my body to simulate the fight-or-flight situation so that a relaxation response could ensue.
I’ve been working out regularly since then and my stress levels are much lower.
And guess what? My back doesn’t hurt anymore.
8) Being too harsh on yourself
The truth of the matter is, most people get overwhelmed through no one’s fault but their own.
They hold themselves to too high a standard. They are perfectionists, and they are so very strict on themselves that they struggle to meet their own expectations.
But that’s completely counterproductive. You won’t reach your goal through a strict regime with no breaks. At some point, you’ll burn out.
Be kind. Listen to your body and mind with empathy and without judgment.
Yesterday, I was going to have a fully packed day. When I woke up, I realized my energy was drained, my focus was off, and I couldn’t write for the life of me.
So…I was kind to myself. I took a break. And today, I’m more productive thanks to it.
9) Not asking for help
You’re not on this planet to walk it alone. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be billions of people surrounding you.
We’re in this together. And we thrive when we offer each other a helping hand.
Don’t let your ego get the best of you. If you need help, ask for it. It’s okay. In fact, it’s more than that – it’s brave and it’s wise.
10) Chasing achievement
There’s an Instagram reel I’ve seen that perfectly sums up why I used to drown in emotional overwhelm and why I feel much more at peace now.
It says, “Western cultures believe we must be alive for a purpose. To work, to make money. Some indigenous cultures believe we’re alive just as nature is alive: to be here, to be beautiful & strange. We don’t need to achieve anything to be valid in our humanness.”
When I realized this a few years ago, I felt immense relief.
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without some good old procrastination.
The problem with procrastinating is that it doesn’t actually help you. It overwhelms you all the more because while you’re pushing off the task you’re dreading, you’re constantly worrying about it.
It kind of beats the purpose of pushing it off, if you ask me.
Do it now, and you’ll feel so much better. We’re usually most anxious before we actually begin.
Once you’re in the middle of the activity itself, it’s not so hard anymore. What’s more, most of the overwhelm is gone. Just like that. (Snaps fingers.)
12) Letting the world eat you up
Remember how I said you have power over how you feel?
Let’s circle back to that. If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, you probably also feel powerless. Like life is just dragging you to places you don’t want to go, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
But that’s not true. You’re in charge here. You can change your life. All it takes is the courage to do things you’ve never done before.
And you can 100% do that. So grab the steering wheel and take responsibility for your life. The road ahead of you is long, but you know how to drive.
You just need to press the gas.