Some of the Best Self-Care Tips for When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
Does it feel like your to-do list is a never-ending abyss that consistently generates feelings of anxiousness and stress?
In today’s fast-paced world, it may feel like you’re drowning in responsibilities. But what can you do when stress becomes overwhelming?
Let’s take a closer look at the top signs of stress and some of the most effective self-care practices that can help relieve stress!
For millions of Americans, feeling overwhelmed or being stressed out are common experiences. From the pressure to succeed in our careers to juggling multiple responsibilities at home, it can feel like we’re inundated with a steady stream of tasks. For better or worse, stress is pervasive and has become a normal part of life for many people today.
Good Stress/Bad Stress
Did you know that not all stress is bad? Some stress can be beneficial as it can motivate you to take action and complete necessary tasks. However, when stress becomes overwhelming for an extended period, it can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and other negative physical and mental health effects.
Beware the Stress Trap
One major reason for the prevalence of stress is the constant need to keep up with the demands set by society. We live in an age where success is highly valued, often at the expense of our well-being. With technology allowing us to work from anywhere at any time, there may be an expectation to always be available and productive. This pressure can lead many individuals to push themselves beyond their limits, resulting in increased levels of stress.
Societal norms also can play a significant role in ratcheting up stress levels. It seems like there’s an unspoken rule that individuals must have everything together – a successful career, a happy family life, and an active social life. This pressure to have it all can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure when we’re unable to live up to these lofty standards. Social media also can contribute to this type of perfectionism, as we often compare ourselves to others…at least to their curated images and seemingly perfect lives online.
The increasing demands of work and personal responsibilities may leave us with less time for self-care and relaxation. The persistent need to be connected and accessible may reduce the time we have for activities that bring us joy and help us unwind. This lack of balance may lead to even greater levels of stress in our lives.
Also, the current global climate – with its political unrest, economic instability, and health concerns – has only added to the already high stress levels in our society. The uncertainty and fear brought about by these ongoing issues can take a toll on our mental health, making it even more challenging to cope with everyday stressors.
Some of the Top Signs That You Might Be Feeling Overwhelmed
Symptoms of being overwhelmed can manifest in different ways and may vary from person to person. It’s important to identify these symptoms so you can take the necessary steps to manage stress before it becomes unbearable.
Here are some common symptoms associated with being stressed or feeling overwhelmed:
- Physical Symptoms
When you experience stress, your body goes into a “fight or flight” response where your heart rate increases, muscles tense up, and stress hormones such as cortisol are released. This can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, changes in appetite (either increased or decreased), stomachaches, and difficulty sleeping.
Extreme stress levels also may create bodily reactions such as an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweaty palms, and tense muscles. These symptoms can make pre-existing medical conditions even worse.
- Emotional Symptoms
Stress can wreak havoc on your emotions. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may find that you’re more irritable, impatient, or angry than usual. Also, you may experience feelings of desperation or helplessness when you’re overburdened with responsibilities.
- Cognitive Symptoms
When your mind is bogged down with too many tasks, it tends to have trouble focusing and concentrating on one thing at a time. Due to this type of cognitive overload, you may find yourself easily distracted, forgetful, or more prone to making mistakes.
- Beating Yourself Up
Another common symptom of being overwhelmed is negative self-talk. For example, you may criticize yourself for not being able to keep up with demands or clear everything off your plate. This constant self-criticism may add fuel to the fire and make you feel even more stressed.
- Avoiding Responsibilities
Feeling overwhelmed can make you procrastinate or avoid tasks that need to be done, leading to an ever-growing cycle of stress and guilt. Avoidance can cause your responsibilities to pile up, making you feel further behind and unable to take control of your life.
When feeling overwhelmed, it’s common to isolate from friends and family. You may find that you just don’t have the energy or motivation to socialize. However, isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, which can further exacerbate stress levels.
- Loss of Interest in Activities
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may lose interest in activities you used to enjoy. This could be due to a lack of time or energy. It also may contribute to feelings of hopelessness, which can lead to mood issues.
- Feeling Exhausted
Constantly feeling tired or drained physically and emotionally are signs that you may be overwhelmed. While trying its best to cope with stress, your body may become exhausted and run down, which may lead to illness or other physical and mental problems.
How to Create a Self-Care Routine
Creating a self-care routine is essential for managing the stress caused by mounting responsibilities. With the constant demands of work, family, and other commitments, it can be easy to neglect your own well-being. Prioritizing self-care is crucial for maintaining mental and emotional balance in the face of overwhelming stress.
Importance of Self-Care
It’s important to understand why self-care is necessary. Many individuals view self-care as indulgent or selfish. However, taking care of yourself allows you to better take care of others.
Self-care may help reduce stress levels, increase energy and productivity, and improve overall health and well-being.
Here are just a few self-care practices you should adopt to counter everyday stress…
Identify Your Needs
The first step in creating a self-care routine is identifying your specific needs. Take some time to reflect on what makes you feel relaxed and rejuvenated – it could be anything from reading a book to going for a walk outdoors. Make a list of activities that help you feel less stressed and try one of them today.
Schedule Time for Self-Care
It’s common for people to put their own needs last on their never-ending to-do list. But, just like any other important task, self-care needs to be scheduled into your daily and weekly routine. Set aside a block of time each day for self-care activities and adhere to it (barring emergencies).
Focus on Physical Health
Taking care of your physical health is an important aspect of self-care that often gets neglected when you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities. Make sure to prioritize eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.
Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment without judgment. It can be a useful tool for managing stress as it allows you to focus on the present rather than worrying about the past or future. Incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, into your self-care routine may help to reduce the stress you’re experiencing.
One way to keep from overextending yourself is to set boundaries with others. This could mean saying “no” to certain requests or limiting your availability during specific times to focus on self-care activities.
It’s important to have a support system in place when managing overwhelming stress. Reach out to friends or family for emotional support or consider seeking professional help from a therapist if needed.
Assess & Adjust
The prevalence of stress in today’s world is a result of various factors including societal pressures, technological advancements, lack of work-life balance, and external events beyond our control. Though stress is an inevitable part of life, there are practical ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed such as identifying your needs, setting boundaries, and practicing mindfulness.
Remember, self-care looks different for everyone and may change over time. It’s important to regularly assess and adjust your self-care routine to ensure it continues to meet your needs.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s recommended to take a step back and make some changes in your life. Be sure to seek help from a friend or medical professional if overwhelming stress is threatening to negatively affect your mental and physical health.
Most importantly, make self-care a priority – taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for overall well-being.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This content is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for medical or healthcare advice from a physician, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new health regimen.
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