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April 27, 2022

Stress Vs Overwhelm

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Life is not easy. Inevitably you will encounter times that challenge you. In learning how to navigate situations that aren’t ideal, and managing your emotional state, you’ll be able to live the fulfilling and enthusiastic life you desire. With that in mind I want to illuminate a distinction between stress and overwhelm. While both involve feeling a sense anxiety and apprehension, they actually take subtly different forms.

First, stress is a normal physiological response. It’s our sympathetic nervous system getting activated to protect us. It’s the fight or flight response. Unfortunately that response isn’t activated only when exposed to physical threats, which was the intention, but also psychological, spiritual, and social threats as well. The overactivation of our stress response and having elevated levels of cortisol in our blood is actually responsible for many health issues. So managing stress is incredibly important, and at the end of the day, experiencing stress is natural but it is often out of place.

Overwhelm is an extension of stress. With overwhelm you’re feeling such significant levels of anxiety that it paralyzes you. Overwhelm is characterized by being so occupied with your circumstances, emotions, and realities that you cannot take action. The issue here is it creates a negative psychological loop that makes you more and more concerned, adding on more stress and anxiety, because you’re aware that you aren’t doing anything to relieve the situation. In that way it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and a negative spiral.

To manage overwhelm you need to do something counterintuitive. Just stop. Breathe slow, calm the sympathetic nervous system, and don’t make yourself do anything. In this case the way out is to wait it out. Give yourself time and space to let the overwhelm not have such a strong hold over you. After recalibrating you will regain the ability to take action in ways that reduce the stress you’re feeling.

It’s not easy but it is doable. To reflect on this and be more self-aware today ask yourself this question - What stresses me out more often than it should?

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