Overwhelmed by Stress and Anxiety? How to Deal with It
Anxiety can feel as though an incredibly loud and boisterous parade is charging right through your very being: blasting bands, flashy floats, animals, and announcers ad nauseam. This chaos within can cause headaches, chest pain, difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, aches and pains, and other noxious anxiety symptoms. Further, our thoughts become anxious and race with worry and obsessions. Often, panic sets in. As if this weren't bad enough, we have to live in the midst of this parade. We have to deal with parade garbage (think about it—debris, litter, road apples) while simultaneously dealing with everything else around us. With pandemonium on the inside, how do we deal with all of the stuff on the outside?
Anxiety and Stress Are Connected and Overwhelming
To be sure, life can be downright crushing. It’s often full of stress. When you have to destroy a rainforest in order to write your to-do list, you know you’re dealing with too much. Or maybe the number of items is small but they’re daunting in nature. The actual number of tasks is relatively inconsequential; what matters is how they impact your well-being. As the more than forty million people living with anxiety disorders can likely attest, overwhelming stress is often closely connected with overwhelming anxiety.
When it comes to stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to sort out cause and effect. Is your overwhelming stress causing your anxiety? Or perhaps is your overwhelming anxiety causing your life to feel intensely stressful?
Working with a therapist to sort things out can be very beneficial. However, you don’t have to know with certainty whether you’re anxious because of stress or whether stress is worse because you’re anxious. Personally, when I’m overwhelmed and the anxiety-and-stress parade is marching around painfully inside of me and interfering with my outer world, I really don’t care which is causing the other. I just know that anxiety and stress are there and connected; I’m overwhelmed and I want the parade to stop.
Ways to Deal with the Overwhelm Caused by Stress and Anxiety
Because anxiety and stress are often Co-Grand Marshals in this obnoxious internal parade, they can be reduced together. Each of the following techniques has been proven to reduce both stress and anxiety:
Avoid All-or-Nothing Thinking
Anxiety can loom so large that we begin to think in extremes: You might think, "I'll never get this done," "I can't do anything right," "If I don't do this perfectly, I'm a failure," "I'm a horrible partner/parent/employee/boss/person," "I made a mistake and now people hate me," and on and on. Of course we feel high anxiety about the outcomes of these things we're telling ourselves.
Recognizing how we're thinking is a helpful step in reducing anxiety. Over the next few days, simply notice your thoughts. What are you telling yourself? Once you become aware of all-or-nothing thinking, you can change how you think and what you say to yourself. "I missed a deadline" changes from "I'm horrible and I'm going to be fired," to "I made a mistake, but I do many good things, too. Overall, I'm valuable and am not likely to lose my job over this single incident."
Break (Or, Rather, Don't)
When we're anxious and stressed, it's easy to look at all of the tasks that lie ahead of us and become overwhelmed. At times, we're stopped in our tracks and completely shut down. We have reached our breaking point. At this point, anxiety is very high, and our ability to cope seems very low. The good news is that we have the power to prevent ourselves from breaking.
The trick? Break! Take breaks, and break up tasks into bits and pieces.
To avoid hypocrisy, I will admit upfront that I find it extremely difficult to take breaks. After all, when life is overwhelming with all of its demands and anxiety is flaring as a result, it just doesn't seem logical or even possible to walk away from stress for a while. However, it is vital. Even a short break can help your mind refresh and reset, and often when you return to your task you do so with a clearer head. Stand and stretch, get some fresh air if possible, massage your temples, breathe deeply. Snacking on something nutritious and energy-sustaining can give your brain and body a needed boost. For me, it seems that I don’t have time for a break, but in reality, when my anxiety decreases, I feel less overwhelmed, and I'm actually more productive when I take short breaks here and there throughout the day.
Further, anxiety often surges when tasks loom large in front of us. Life can be incredibly overwhelming when everything seems like one big mess, but it's easier to manage when we break things into manageable bits. Take my desk. It often looks like an office products store exploded on top of it. When I stare at it, I'm overwhelmed and I'm hit by a wave of anxiety that makes me feel like I'm drowning. When I stare at the entire mess, I feel daunted and can hardly begin to fix it. I've learned to break the task into bits. I'll clear one area then take a break. I might choose to put the rest aside and move onto something else, or I might come back and tackle another section. Either way, I've taken control, I can do something about the mess, and I feel my stress and anxiety ease.
To-Do List? How about a To-Done List!
Of course listing the tasks that lie ahead of you is a way of organizing yourself, feeling in charge, and reducing stress and anxiety. Yet it can be overwhelming to look at a huge list that never seems to shrink even when we break it into bits. When we only focus on what we have to do rather than taking stock of all that we have already done, we feel stressed, and anxiety often skyrockets. To keep this in check, consider creating a list of things you've already accomplished, a to-done list, if you will. It’s very satisfying at the end of a long and stressful day to think about all that you've done and to write it down. Then, when your anxiety tells you that you’re not in control, you can see for yourself that you are indeed in control and are accomplishing things.
Whether you’re overwhelmed by anxiety or your anxiety is making you feel overwhelmed, it’s stressful. The good news is that it truly is possible to take steps each and every day to rid yourself of anxiety.
What works for you when you’re overwhelmed by anxiety?
NCC, T. (2014, August 28). Overwhelmed by Stress and Anxiety? How to Deal with It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/08/overwhelmed-by-stress-and-anxiety-how-to-deal-with-it
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
What an inspiring comment! Despite dealing with stress for 5 long years (it's not only possible to have prolonged stress, it's surprisingly common). It takes strength, desire, and a willingness to take small, steady action steps to do what you're doing. Sometimes it can feel like you're digging yourself out of a hole with a baby spoon, but what's important is the "digging yourself out of a hole" part. Your only direction is up!
multiplied and now I remain in complete stress, fear anxiety and depression 24/7. Not able to sleep more then two hrs at night. My heart plundering all the time, I feel like approaching death most of the time. Unable now completly to get out of the house. I stopped seeing my Psychitrist, who kept on changing AD but failed. I am going through so many side effects and getting more sick physically.Niw sawing Neurologist since last three months, he did Brain n cervical neck mri and brain mri came ok but have some cervical issues with CTS for which wrist splinter prescribed and Gabapentine 300mg Twice s day for pain killing. My eyes now found Entropion for which My Opthamologist referee Eye Surgen for surgery. I’m completly lost and my mind is not working. No support or moral help in house available. No support group available too. May be you can advice and help.
I'm so sorry to read that things are worse and that you are experiencing medical issues. Mental and physical health are intertwined, and one can affect the other. In addition to the medical help (it's always good to address and treat health problems), have you thought about seeing a therapist? A therapist is different than a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists deal more with the physical brain and medication, whereas therapists/counselors help people work through thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and create action plans to move forward. This list of resources can help you find help. Of course, it can be hard to see a therapist in person when you can't leave the house, so I included online resources, too. Healing is a process that takes time, but you can get better.
Two reputable online sources are talkspace.com and betterhelp.com (HealthyPlace has no connection to either of these, nor do we endorse any single organization either online or off because each individual is different, and what works great for one person may not work as well for someone else. We like to provide a variety of resources for people to investigate.)
These articles might help you find counseling resources near you:
Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-to-find-mental-health-help
Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-doctors-and-how-to-find-one
Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one
I'm sorry that you are going through all of this. Something very helpful for others with similar feelings and experiences is also something that isn't easy to do: finding support. Given all you've already tried, finding a support group or even general community programs that offer classes or activities similar to your interests can help a great deal. Interacting with others, pursuing something you like, and getting out of the house can be very healing. It's easier said than done, of course. Do you have a NAMI or DBSA office in your community? (You can google NAMI and DBSA to find their websites and use their search feature to find a resource center near you). These organizations have classes and support groups. This could be a great start. You can also search MeetUp.com to find support or interest groups in your area. Many people find that once they begin to reach out in this way, they gradually experience improvement.
Adults tend to get very excited when a kid/teen is so smart. Many times they're well-meaning and want the best for you. Many times, people forget that there is more to you than high intelligence. You are still 15 (and were 8, etc.) in every way. Have you had a chance to talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult close to you to share what the pressure is doing to you? It might be a difficult conversation to have at first, but it could go a long way in reducing your stress and anxiety. A big source of stress and anxiety for students in situations like yours involves disappointing parents and teachers. Once they begin to talk, though, they're often pleasantly surprised at how willing the adults are to problem-solve and just talk about how to make things better. Plan your conversation ahead of time. Not word-for-word, of course, but have a general topic outline. It will help you stay on track if things get emotional, and it will help ensure that you say everything you want to say. It's also helpful to "schedule" a time to talk. Pick a time when everyone is less busy and isn't overtired, hungry, etc. This approach is typically a great start. In many cases it works very well. Sometimes it doesn't, but that doesn't mean that you have to give up and accept anxiety and stress. It just means that you try something else. This is just something to consider as you work on making things better.
2 1/2 years and a relationship end...severe panic attacks and anxiety in relationships Currently very stressed due to work ..more responsibility as I'm only full time person..sense of doom and being out of control tummy aches headaches.
I'm sorry to read of the loss of your parents. And whether or not we want a relationship to end, it's always difficult at first. It makes sense that you are feeling such physical and emotional symptoms of stress given the losses and stress at work. Stress and anxiety can be very hard on people. Have you seen your doctor for a physical check-up to make sure your body is functioning healthily? That is often an important first step. Then, he or she can recommend you to a therapist who helps people handle stress and anxiety or he/she might have other things to recommend. Doing this is a way of practicing self-care and handling/reducing stress and anxiety. Things won't always have to be this way.
Your situation would definitely be stressful and anxiety-provoking. The symptoms you describe do fit anxiety and stress. It's always a good idea, though, to check out physical symptoms with a doctor just to make sure that there aren't underlying health problems. You doctor, too, can give you recommendations for stress management and will likely know community resources such as support groups, therapists, parenting organizations, and caregiver support groups (you are considered a caregiver to your father). Local resources can make a very positive difference and provide the right kind of help and support.
Anyway "just take breaks whenever you like" doesn't really work if you aren't self-employeed, or high enough in the workplace hierarchy to set your own meal times. A to-done list is a nice idea if you're in a position with a finite set of definite tasks, but my own position is a neverending flow that can't really be written on to or checked off a list. It's infinite, it stops only because I go home and someone else takes over. So I can check off/to-done the hours, but that doesn't make the actual work any less overwhelming.
And from the last two years i recovered very much from these things and doing my job more perfectley. But sometimes i feel alone and i am engaged and my fiance and she is exactly opposite of me. While i am emotional and she dosen't shows any emotion. When i am upset or angry she use to run away fro me. While she is angry or upset i use to be with her and help her. Some kind to problem dont know what it is. What should i do.
eshaq mukhtar khan
I'm sorry to hear of your current situation. It's difficult to have such important people in your life be so unsupportive and downright abusive. Are you able to break an engagement? If not, can you have a talk with your fiance about how you can each be a good spouse for the other one? Maybe together you can create a marriage that is good. It might be helpful for you, too, to sort everything out by listing the things that are causing you the most problems. Then, make two columns: Things that can be changed, and things that can't be changed. You can then make plans to make changes where you can and plans to deal with what you can't change.
It seems that you have a lot of great insight into what's causing anxiety and keeping you anxious. Because of this, plus the fact that you are moving to get a fresh start and you have an idea of what you want and don't want for your life, I think something called acceptance and commitment therapy might work well for you. You can work a therapist who specializes in ACT (do a search on goodtherapy.org or psychologytoday.com), or you can begin by reading about it on your own. Given that you're moving soon, you probably don't want to begin therapy right now.) You can find information within the two websites above. Also, this article provides info to get you started, too: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/stop-avoiding-anxiety-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/. Good luck with your move and with ACT!
Afraid to drive, breathing too fast, can't focus on my creative ability (multimedia artist ) , been suppressing my emotions for some years, create a happy face so nobody else knows what am dealing with.
Your anxiety sounds very intense and like its really limiting your life. Working with someone directly is often an effective approach to dealing with something this strong. This link will take you to a page that contains links to many articles/resources. Scroll down to the heading "Mental Illness Treatment" to find several articles with information about mental health treatment services and how to find the right treatment. I hope this is helpful. https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/mental-health-information-toc/
My boyfriend is constantly feeling overwhelmed by life. He says he wouldn't like to be here, but that he is certain that he will live a long life and that makes him feel like he's carrying a great weight on his shoulders.
He often feels threatened by common things in life, he worries and stresses by simple things like going to his sister's wedding, or going to work.
He has gone to therapy before, and it made a difference, however I can still see and feel how much pain he has.
I don't know how to help him, so please I'm begging you to shed a little light, so I can help him.
Thank you very much
It can be very difficult to see someone you love suffer. Are there mental health organizations in your area, such as NAMI? NAMI has support groups for individuals experiencing difficulties and groups for family members, partners, friends, etc. of people going through mental health challenges. That could be very helpful for both of you. You can get support from others in similar situations as well as strategies and tools for dealing with this. Also, I noticed that you said that therapy has made a difference in the past. Doing more of what has worked is often a really helpful approach. Another thought: when he says he doesn't want to be here, you could encourage him go call or do an online chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-8255). They are incredibly helpful in talking through things when someone is upset and in pointing the way to other resources. It's very caring of you to want to help your boyfriend. Getting support for both of you is a very effective way to do it.
Unfortunately, I think that what you describe is a hazard of the writing profession. :D While it's inherent to the profession, it's also annoying and certainly shouldn't be shrugged off as part of the job. There's a very helpful approach to the stress and GAD you describe called acceptance and commitment therapy. It helps people determine where they want to go and how they're going to get there by practicing acceptance, separating yourself from problems, practicing mindfulness, and coming to know yourself. I've seen other benefit from it, and I've benefited from it myself. It's great for what you are experiencing. It's something that you might consider looking into to see if you might find it useful.
It sounds like your current situation is incredibly stressful! Of course this would affect your health and wellbeing. Talking things through would be very helpful. I definitely understand how in your position it would be difficult to talk to friends and professors. If you are able to talk to a counselor, you might find it useful. You can get your stress out of your mind and work with him/her to create a plan to deal with all of the overwhelming things you're facing. If you can't see a therapist, you might consider checking out crisischat.org. The term "crisis" is somewhat misleading. While they do indeed help people in crisis and thinking about suicide, you don't have to be at that level to chat with someone. They help people figure things out so they can keep moving forward. They might have some great suggestions. With these connections, you can deal with your stress and start enjoying life again.
This time of the school year can definitely be overwhelming. Stree and anxiety are common in school. One of the most effective ways to reduce this type of stress and anxiety is to talk to someone in the school. A teacher (especially the stats teacher if he/she is approachable), the counselor, or anyone you feel comfortable with you. They can help you sort things out and get back on track. Sometimes, deadlines can be adjusted if they know what's going on and can tell that you're working toward finishing the project. Even if they don't change the deadline, you can create an action plan that will help reduce anxiety and stress. Remember that this project is stressful -- and it's also temporary. You can build stress management skills right now that you can draw on again in the future.
Just by reading articles and seeking information, you are already on the right track. It sounds like anxiety is starting to restrict your life, so it's important to seek help. Working with a professional therapist in person can be incredibly helpful. Also, starting with a visit to your medical doctor is a good idea just to rule out any medical cause of anxiety. Sometimes, people find that anxiety books and self-help workbooks can help get them feel more comfortable reaching out to a therapist for an appointment. Definitely keep seeking information about anxiety and anxiety treatment to build strategies that work for you. This doesn't have to always limit your life.
You are quite right; stress and anxiety are very common. Professional counseling/therapy can be very beneficial in managing both stress and anxiety (as well as other things). It's great that you offer the service!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on managing stress and anxiety. All of the things you mention are very important and truly do help (medication, though, is indeed helpful for some but not at all for others; that is something between a person and his/her doctor).
You're so right -- stress is part of everyone's life from time to time. Sometimes it seems like too much to handle. I believe strongly that we all have the power and strength to overcome it with help and support. Thank you for your comments!
This is a good place to talk with someone and get some support if you are feeling stressed out. Great environment and very welcoming!
Thanks for sharing your tip here! I love that HealthyPlace/Anxiety-Schmanxiety can be a place for sharing tips and techniques that work. I have a similar system. My planner is designed to be a funnel, with general tasks listed at the top that are then funneled into days and further funneled into hours of the day (if necessary). It can be great, but admittedly there are times when I cast it aside because it causes more stress than it alleviates. Even when we find helpful systems, we should remember that it's okay to modify them or set them aside then come back to them. Go with the flow! :)
I know the feeling of having anxiety and tension, and it's not a good feeling!. I used to drink for me to relax and my Dr. advised me to stop using it so I decided to have a therapeutic and I'm telling you It is way more effective than any medicines It gives my mind time to relax, eliminates anxiety and tense muscles.I uggest you to do the same to have the best feeling ever!
Thank you so much for sharing your tip. I love therapeutic massage for all the reasons you mentioned. It really is helpful. And your doctor is right. It's not uncommon for people to self-medicate by drinking. But there are so many harmful effects, including worsening anxiety in the long-run. Good for you for finding an alternative that works great -- and feels great, too! You've reminded me that I need to schedule a massage. :)
Thank you for sharing this fantastic tip! I use a planner that is designed somewhat like a funnel system. Tasks are listed at the top then funneled down into days and into hours of the day if necessary. I like this, but it's different from your ABC priority ranking. I love that idea for all of the reasons you explained. I'm so glad you shared because others might benefit from your system, too. (You're right that it's not for everyone -- nothing is. That's why at HP we try to share many different ideas for people to try and to use what works.) You have a nice weekend, too! :)