Overwhelmed Anxiety - How to Stop It?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : February 16, 2023

Feeling overwhelmed refers to a situation when we feel a strong wave of emotions which we can’t describe in words. These emotions are so strong that we do not know how to deal with them. We feel a mix of many emotions at that time. In this article, we try to understand what is the meaning of overwhelmed anxiety and how we stop feeling overwhelming anxiety.

When we feel anxious, we experience a range of emotions. We feel scared and shocked, nervous and our body shows many physical symptoms. Since all of these emotions are all at once at times, our body does not know how to react. Therefore it cannot cope with all these emotions. This can overwhelm us. So say, we may get confused and won’t know how to respond.

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Chapter 1:

What Happens When We Experience Overwhelmed Anxiety?

Overwhelmed anxiety is uncomfortable. It is also uncontrollable. In the case of anxiety, being overwhelmed is mostly related to some negative stressful event. For example, the death of a loved one can leave us speechless. In that scenario, we can’t explain how we feel and what we want to say. We can experience the following:
  • We can feel speechless and numb for a while
  • You may have doubts and feel confused.
  • A person can experience irritation and anger.
  • A person can have a panic attack or may scream in confusion.
  • Physically, the person may start crying and lash out.
  • Some other common physical signs include shortness of breath, and non-stop crying.
  • You may feel very tired physically without knowing the reason.
  • You feel emotionally numb.
  • It can make us withdraw from friends and family.

Chapter 2:

Why Do We Feel Overwhelmed?

This feeling is in response to stress. It is not necessary that the stressful event is always negative. We can have positive stress too. However, when feeling overwhelmed is a sign of anxiety, it is mostly in response to negative events. So for instance, if you find out that a lion is standing in front of you. You will feel nervous, scared and helpless. This will happen all at once.

This kind of response is mostly because our body releases a stress hormone called cortisol when we are stressed. When someone is overwhelmed, the body releases a lot of cortisol. This leaves us confused.

Chapter 3:

Effects of Overwhelmed Anxiety

This feeling of confusion can leave you feeling helpless. Overwhelmed anxiety is an extreme form of anxiety. This can affect many parts of your life. Following are some effects of this emotion.:
  • You may find trouble falling asleep and feel restless all the time.
  • When you keep experiencing this kind of response to anxiety, your ability to think rationally will reduce.
  • When you fall into this loop of anxiety and overwhelm, it will be difficult for you to manage even some minor stressful events.
  • This cycle can lead to several health issues such as unexplained stomach problems. It can lead to a weak heart and immunity issues. (Immunity is also linked to mental health)
  • When you are facing such a rush of emotions, you can forget to eat or drink water. This can affect your health.
  • Your social relations may suffer because you find it hard to explain them. They think your problem is complex and may avoid talking about it.
  • When you keep lashing at others, people around may not feel good talking to you.

Chapter 4:

How Do We Stop Feeling Overwhelmed?

Feeling overwhelmed is a common and natural emotion. As we can see overwhelm can affect various aspects of our lives, so it is important to control it. People who keep feeling overwhelmed again and again have a narrow window of tolerance. It is important to take steps to broaden it.

Feeling overwhelmed repeatedly can limit our ability to think practically. Overwhelmed anxiety can be dealt with in the following ways:

Chapter 5:

Accept the Overwhelming Anxiety

Understand what are the emotions you are going through when you are anxious. Note it down. You may be going through fear, surprise or anger at the same time. Try to understand the trigger for anxiety. For example, you may get anxious in presence of other people. When many people are around you, it overwhelms you. You can not this down and accept it. Further, you can try to understand why you feel anxious. There can be many reasons such as feeling shy and having low self-confidence. You can write down these causes to get a better understanding of your emotions.

Chapter 6:

Take Some Deep Breaths in and Let It Out!

When you have identified the triggers you can take deep breaths when such an event occurs. For instance, you know that a particular situation makes you nervous. During that time, your heart starts racing and your mouth feels dry. Once you have identified such symptoms, you can notice them when they occur. Take slow deep breaths whenever you find these signs coming. This habit will come through practice. In your daytime practise deep breathing and make a habit. You can follow these steps:
  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Imagine a situation when you felt overwhelmed. (Keep some water beside you)
  3. Imagine everything- What had happened, how you had felt that time, what you were thinking.
  4. Try deep breathing. At least ten deep breaths in and exhales.
  5. Notice how you feel after the breathing exercises.
  6. Sip some water. Remember to keep yourself hydrated during overwhelmed anxiety.

Similarly, you can bring some variety. For example, instead of breathing, you can try using imagery when you are having overwhelmed anxiety. You can imagine a favourite and safe space.

Chapter 7:

Keep a Safety Toolkit

When you are going through overwhelming anxiety, you often forget what to do. Keep a diary of emergency phone numbers. Keep your positive affirmations written in that diary. You can have a playlist of soft relaxing music which can calm you down. When you are having such a rush of emotions, remember to sit down, and breathe in and out. You can have a stress release ball or an object that makes you feel safe.

Chapter 8:

Learn to Take Things Slowly!

If you are overwhelmed by the worry of the future, practice mindfulness mediation. How to stop feeling overwhelmed? By focusing on the present moment. A small exercise can help you focus on the moment that is ‘Now’
  1. Catch hold of a soft furry ball/any favourite object.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Bring your attention to your breathing. Notice your abdomen and the rising and falling of it.
  4. Now breath in deeply and exhale slowly three times.
  5. Feel the object in your hand.
  6. Feel the texture of it.
  7. Experience the shape of the object and try to imagine its form and colour with your eyes closed.
  8. When distracting thoughts come by, don’t worry just let them pass and notice your breathing again.
  9. Bring the object close to your ears and try to listen to the sound of it as you shake it gently.
  10. Rub the object against your cheek.
  11. Keep breathing gently.
  12. Whenever you are ready you can open your eyes.

This is just one of the few exercises of being in the present. There are many you can find online.

Chapter 9:

Know Your Emotions

If you want to know how to stop feeling overwhelmed, understand how anxiety works. Focus on identifying your emotions and work on them. Strengthen your helpful emotions such as coping skills or courage to face fear. You can write down positive affirmations and note them down. Revise it daily. When you feed your mind with positive ideas, it becomes stronger.

You can read books about emotions. There are many videos and audio that help you calm down when you are stressed. Read about people who have overcome anxiety.

Chapter 10:

Physical Exercises

Whenever you feel that strong emotions are ruining your moment, go take a break for a while. You can go for a walk or run. Be with nature for a while. Nature provides a variety of sensory stimulation which help you feel better. You can feel that your body is getting fresh oxygen amidst nature.

To stop feeling overwhelming anxiety, you can engage in activities which increase the happy hormones in your body. This can include engaging in a hobby often.

Chapter 11:

How Do We Stop Feeling Overwhelmed?

In summary, if you are feeling overwhelmed often and cannot deal with it, you can consult an expert about it. Moreover, at Epsychonline, some courses help you understand your feelings better. Do check them out.

"Practical and insightful" David

70 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount