If you have ever “been there,” you will recognize the scenario: The tiniest tasks feel monumental, your joy is MIA, and you have no clue how to stop feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
You may not even know what you are feeling because your emotions are overlapping into a big blur.
You don’t want to do anything — even the things you have always enjoyed. And yet, you have a gazillion things you have to do — but you are too tired to do them.
“Overwhelm is a feeling of being completely overcome in mind or emotion.” Psychologist Marla W. Deibler, PsyD
We all navigate countless stressors — many without our conscious awareness — every day. But when those stressors seem too great to manage, the result is overwhelm. And it can manifest as an intense emotion, such as anxiety, anger, irritability, worry, helplessness or depression.
If you are currently feeling this way, you may not know how to stop feeling overwhelmed and depressed. But I promise you, it IS possible.
Remember that these feelings are rooted in thoughts. You may not be able to control your feelings, but you can control the thoughts that lead to them.
Start by accepting your emotions exactly as they are. Think of this as “riding out a wave.” Some things turn disastrous when we fight them, so allow them to exist, and work on what you can change.
In Never Good Enough? How To Use Perfectionism To Your Advantage, I explained how anxiety is rooted in the unknown. It is the manifestation of focusing on what is uncontrollable and unpredictable.
These unrealistic, unreasonable thoughts can be self-propagating if not stopped in their tracks. By thinking about your thoughts and questioning their accuracy, you can create alternative ones. And these will lead to positive emotions and behaviors.
Learning how to stop feeling overwhelmed and depressed is going to take work on your part. Hardly good news when the tank is already empty and your inbox is so full you don’t know where to start. But it IS possible!
In terms of feeling overwhelmed, remember that busy-ness is not a reflection of how much you have to do. It is a state of mind. Your brain can do only one thing at a time, even if it bounces around and makes you think you are multi-tasking.
Stepping out of this multi-tasking, “everything has to be done now” mindset will help to anchor you in the present. And if you can “stay present to the present,” you will notice that your life begins to come into focus.
You will also have focus, which is a great little housekeeper when it comes to those flooding thoughts that leave you overwhelmed.
If you are so overwhelmed and depressed that even basic daily tasks are difficult, consider finding a helping professional to guide you. He or she will be able to help you recognize irrational thoughts and develop rational alternatives.
They can also help you develop manageable goals and steps to achieving them. Breaking goals into smaller components is one of the most important actions you can take to break out of the overwhelm/depressive cycle.
Sounds easy, I know. Perhaps even inviting — like “not as much homework.” But to the depressed person, having to develop goals to do something enjoyable can seem very unnatural. Depression depletes natural joy, so these small steps are imperative to breaking the cycle.
Give yourself permission to do something easy that requires little effort. Baby steps are still steps, and every forward progress prevents the depression from winning.
Do something — anything. And instead of judging the activity, give yourself a big dose of praise for every step you take.
Learning how to stop feeling overwhelmed and depressed isn’t simply about changing your feelings, it’s about changing your brain. Every new thing you do, no matter how small, creates a new brain pathway. This isn’t just emotional, it’s physiological.
So give yourself a huge boost by taking small steps. And make a big deal out of the credit you give yourself, just as you would for someone you care about.
Finally, breathe. And with every breath, inhale what serves your highest good, and exhale what doesn’t serve you. Even a breath is a step…and the perfect reminder that we live by taking one breath at a time, not all of them at once.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and/or depressed, please reach out. We are here to help.