Overwhelm happens to even the best of us. No one is really immune, but if you know the signs and symptoms, you can be better equipped to handle it and maybe even prevent it from rearing its ugly overwhelming head in the future.

Overwhelm is a little bit harder to identify than say, anger or sadness.

It’s an emotional state that can be debilitating and paralyzing. Often we get so caught up in the turmoil we have trouble getting to the source, which is simply being overwhelmed.

What’s more, it’s two-fold. Overwhelm is the result of one or more other emotions, usually negative in nature, left unresolved.

For instance, when you are stuck in traffic it’s easy to feel angry. It’s even easy to identify anger as being the triggering emotion. When you get emotionally overwhelmed while stuck in traffic, it’s highly unlikely a traffic jam is the real culprit. Something else set the ball rolling and the ball didn’t hit a brick wall until you were bumper to bumper, crawling along the freeway.

Sure, you’re upset at the never-ending line of cars in front of you moving slower than a sloth. You are now late for a business meeting that was nearly impossible to set up with a potential new client. You aren’t wearing your favorite power outfit because laundry is piled up to your armpits.

Your 6-year-old threw a tantrum because milk is white. Your teenager set off the smoke alarm making toast and your partner couldn’t find their keys, right where you said to look. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong and in less than an hour’s timeframe.

Enter: Overwhelm.

So how do you get it together? How do you avoid being emotionally ripped in two because overwhelm is spitting curveballs from the pitching machine of life?

You must learn to identify the signs so you can address the underlying issues. If overwhelm has taken over your life you might be feeling:

  • Anxious about any – and everything
  • Have difficulty concentrating, even on small tasks
  • Feel negative about the future
  • Worry about all things, all the time
  • Mood-shift often
  • Have a short temper or even throw tantrums
  • Feel lonely
  • Binge eat
  • Procrastinate
  • Avoid activities that were once enjoyable
  • Use/abuse alcohol or drugs to relax

So, you probably noticed the above list could be indications of many things, and everyone has some of those signs some of the time but doesn’t necessarily feel overwhelmed. Let’s put it into real-life scenarios and shed some light on how overwhelm really works.

A Routine-less Routine

From sun up to sun down you are constantly on the move but never seem to complete your to-do list or feel like you’ve accomplished anything. If you are aimlessly running around all day long, like a chicken with its head cut off, you are busy accomplishing little.

When we don’t have a routine, we don’t have structure. And without structure, we waste valuable time that could otherwise be spent being productive. “Winging it” isn’t always a sign of being aloof or living a more relaxed lifestyle.

It could also mean you have too many things going on and are overwhelmed. It could be that you’ve spread yourself too thin, and unless you have a clone it’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything without routine and structure.

Procrastinating Patty

You often put things off and swear you’ll get to it later. But when later comes, you stare at the pile of procrastination and don’t know where to start. So, you don’t. Instead, you decide it can wait another day, by which time you hope you’ve had a revelation on how to clean up this mess.

Procrastinating Patty will find an excuse to keep putting off what should be done today until it gets so big, it’s too overwhelming to even find a starting point.

Decisions, Decisions

You are extremely indecisive, even about little things like what to order at a restaurant. Everything has so much pressure attached to it, it feels nearly impossible to choose one option over another.

You are eaten up with the fear of regretting you’ve made the wrong choice. We make decisions all day long, whether we realize it or not. Being paralyzed by even the simplest life functions is a dead-ringer for overwhelm.

Commitment Issues

Relationships get in the way of everything else you want to do, so you refuse to invest time and energy in something that’s bound to fail anyway. Every other week have a new career in mind.

Now you have your mind set on being a dog groomer because last week’s decision to be a freelance writer isn’t paying the bills just yet.

When you can’t commit to a single idea for more than a week or even a day, you’ve probably got too many irons in the fire and are honestly feeling overwhelmed by the pressures and standards you’ve set for yourself.

Overwhelm comes in many shapes and sizes and affects each one of us differently. Emotions run through us just like the very blood in our veins, but when you stop nature in its course, the results can be devastating.

Don’t let overwhelm take over your life. You have to identify it before you can change it!