Being overwhelmed is a feeling that probably all of us know. In today's society, a lot is about performance. Both in our professional and private lives, the high pressure of expectations can make everything go over our heads. But you are not alone in this! According to a German study from 2016, 51% feel frequent pressure to meet deadlines and perform, and 13% feel overwhelmed by the amount of work! Stress is also part of everyday life among young people in Switzerland. Here, 46% of young women and men often feel stressed and overwhelmed. So it's high time to take care of yourself and protect yourself.
Warning signals you should not ignore
We often feel it is a weakness to admit that we can't cope with something and are overwhelmed. But it is so important to pay attention to the warning signals of your body and your psyche because stress can make us very weak. Admitting to ourselves and to others that something is too much for us is much more of a strength because in doing so we take good care of ourselves and strengthen our body and our mind.
If you can answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you should think about being overwhelmed:
Have you had trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night for a long time?
Do you often have no appetite or completely forget to eat?
Is your hair falling out more often?
Do you often feel listless and tired?
Are you afraid of failing and are you often tense?
Do you feel your heart racing or shaky?
Do you not feel like getting up in the morning?
If you recognize yourself in these questions, then the tips I will soon present to you might help you.
Distress or Eustress?
But first, it is important to distinguish between positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress), because not all stress leads to excessive demands and makes us ill.
Positive stress can help us to approach a task with motivation and creates a good feeling. Do you know those days when a lot is going on, but you still fall asleep happy and content in the evening? Then you have felt the effect of positive stress, which makes us tackle things energetically and inspires us. An example of positive stress is the feeling you get before your wedding or before exams and competitions. Eustress helps us to be productive. But even this stress is only good up to a certain point. When it becomes too much, the demands increase and we can no longer cope mentally and physically, then the whole thing tips over into distress, which in turn paralyzes and blocks us. When this point is reached, when positive stress turns into negative stress, varies from person to person. Therefore, it is also important not to compare oneself with the performance level of others, but to pay attention to one's own signals. We experience distress, for example, during long-term stress, when we don't have enough time to complete a task or we lack the know-how. Feelings such as helplessness, shame, anger, fear or despair can occur. Often, relaxation phases are also missing and we are irritated or exhausted. In order to find your way out of this state, I would like to introduce you to some first aid measures.
First-aid measures against overstrain
Just as we take care of a broken leg with a cast and rest, we can also take care of our mental well-being after too much distress.
Create a balance: Focusing our full attention on something beautiful for a short moment can give us back a lot of energy. Be it a musical instrument, a sports club, a walk, making your favorite coffee, a power nap or a good book - all of these help us to relax for a moment and be more balanced.
Deep breathing: Breathing exercises can help us relax. When we are stressed, we often breathe much more shallowly and quickly, which increases the tension at that moment. Try to take a few minutes in between and consciously breathe deeply in and out. Can you feel the air flowing into your lungs, your chest rising and falling and your muscles relaxing? If you can, it is best to close your eyes briefly, as this increases the relaxing effect. Christian Morgenstern already described this: "Calm inside, calm outside. Learning to catch your breath again, that's it.".
Set priorities: Try to deal regularly with what absolutely has to be done today and what can possibly wait in case something gets in the way today. To-do lists can be helpful in keeping track of things.
Time management: Once you have set your priorities, the next step is to see how much time you need for which task. Plan consciously for breaks and a reserved time in case something unforeseen comes up.
Get out of the situation: Sometimes it can be helpful to leave the situation that is overwhelming you for a while. For example, if you are stuck with a task at work, go and get a coffee, take a deep breath or continue with another task for the time being and return to the task later. With a little distance, we usually see things much more clearly again.
Talk to yourself: Our thoughts determine how we feel. Try to talk to yourself in a positive way and build yourself up. Look at what went well today. If you got up today even though you knew it was going to be a very stressful day, then that is already something that you succeeded in doing today...because you could have just stayed in bed and called in sick. But instead you managed to get up and tackle the day.
Activate your resources: A mountaineer who wants to climb the Matterhorn will only be successful if he has trained sufficiently, has the appropriate equipment with him and has support from people who know the area. When we are overwhelmed, it often seems as if we have to conquer a mountain of tasks. The more resources we can activate, the easier it is to overcome the mountain or the task.
Get support: Just like the mountain climber gets information from people who know the area, you can also get support from friends or colleagues. Challenges often become overwhelming when we feel we have to overcome them alone. Together with others, the challenge is much easier to overcome.
If you still feel tense, depressed or stressed despite these first aid measures, then a conversation with a coach or psychotherapist can also help you to regain your inner balance.