One of the hardest parts about living a life of anxiety is the way that it always tends to be present in your life. It doesn't matter what you're doing or how much you need to focus. That feeling of anxiety is always there, and the knowledge that you have anxiety and reminders of its presence are common.
That's because anxiety is a naturally overwhelming condition, and in some cases it can become so overwhelming that your mind and body suffer as a result.
Are You Feeling Overwhelmed from Anxiety?
Anxiety is overwhelming. It triggers your fight or flight response, and uses all of your physical and mental energy. Our free 7 minute anxiety test can help you determine your anxiety score, graph the severity of your symptoms, and figure out a treatment.
Both Physically and Mentally Overwhelming
Anxiety is not a single condition. It is a host of different conditions, and it can be both physically and mentally overwhelming. If you haven't taken my free 7 minute anxiety test yet, make sure you do so now to learn more about the severity of your anxiety.
Feeling overwhelmed is perhaps the most common symptom of anxiety, and it can actually affect you on a very base level.
How Anxiety Overwhelms the Mind
We'll get into the actual feelings of being overwhelmed in a moment, but what's perhaps most telling about anxiety is that it actually overwhelms the brain in ways you may not even realize.
In fact, during periods of intense anxiety, the brain is so overwhelmed with stress that it actually reduces the energy it provides other parts of your body. For example, digestion problems are very common with anxiety because anxiety actually causes the brain to pay less attention to the digestive system, causing it to go haywire. Anxiety also can cause certain parts of your brain to "turn off" in an effort to cope with stress.
At its most chemical level, anxiety even affects the way neurotransmitters and hormones are produced, possibly leading to changes in the way you think and feel. When we talk about anxiety feeling overwhelming, it should be remember that it's not just the way you feel. Anxiety really does have many overwhelming qualities, and can genuinely overwhelm your mind in many ways.
Feeling Overwhelmed From Anxiety: Mentally
Of course, when most people talk about feeling overwhelmed, they're talking about the way anxiety tends to cause severe stress that affects all of their thoughts. That's what anxiety does: it makes it very hard to focus on anything other than your anxiety, and the more you focus on that anxiety, the more anxiety you seem to feel.
People talk about anxiety as if it makes it difficult to focus. But that's not entirely true. Anxiety often makes it easy to focus, but only on your anxiety. Some people experience such a feeling of emotional distress that they may start to cry, or feel like they're about to cry, while others may experience a complete lack of hope as if their anxiety is never going to be treatable.
During anxiety attacks, that feeling of being overwhelmed may actually less about the actual overwhelming nature of anxiety and more about a feeling of doom that seems to affect those that are struggling with panic attack issues. This feeling of doom can make you feel like you're about to suffer from something terrible, often health related, and it can cause your entire body to become completely on edge.
Feeling Overwhelmed From Anxiety: Physically
Which brings us to another issue that many people find overwhelming: physical symptoms. Indeed, even though anxiety can essentially take over the mind, often the physical symptoms are the issues that seem the most overwhelming. Severe anxiety is fraught with physical symptoms, and - especially during anxiety attacks - those symptoms start to become more and more intense until they're the only thing your mind and body can focus on. Examples of these symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Trouble breathing
These symptoms seem to be felt in every area of your body, and they also tend to cause severe anxiety on their own and ultimately lead to an anxiety attack. Anxiety genuinely is very physically overwhelming, especially if you're prone to panic attacks.
How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
It is possible to control this feeling, although it comes in parts. Ideally, the best way to stop feeling overwhelmed from anxiety is to control your anxiety. But in the interim, here are several tips for overcoming these strong physical and mental symptoms:
- Find Distractions Obviously for something to feel overwhelming, distracting yourself is difficult. But there are some strategies that can still be effective. One that many people find beneficial is to simply call someone on your cell phone. Talking on a phone is hard for the mind to do while still focusing on your anxiety, thus stopping your anxiety from getting too out of control.
- Go For a Walk Like talking on the phone, walking itself can make it harder for your mind and body to be as overwhelmed. When you walk, you take in lots of new information. You see things, you feel things, and you smell things with each step that you take. Walking also helps move blood around your body, and is a good tool for controlling your breathing and heart rate.
- Controlled Breathing The reason controlling your breathing is important is because anxiety symptoms can actually create new anxiety symptoms. A great example of this is hyperventilation, a common anxiety symptom that occurs during anxiety attacks. Hyperventilation occurs when you don't allow your body to create enough carbon dioxide because you breathe it out too quickly, resulting in feelings of feint, chest pains, and lightheadedness. Hyperventilation also makes it feel as though you need to take deeper breaths which ultimately make it worse. So controlled breathing (breathing in very slowly, breathing out very slowly) is a great way to control this experience.
- Journaling When your thoughts are too overwhelming, another effective thing to try is journaling. Writing out your thoughts in a permanent place has been shown to have a very powerful effect on your mind. It's as though your mind relaxes about the thoughts because they're on paper. So if thoughts are overwhelming, write them down more to experience some relief.
- Exercise Exercise is also a powerful tool to combat feeling overwhelmed for two reasons. First, it tires out your muscles and improves your breathing so that your symptoms are not as severe. Secondly, it floods relaxing neurotransmitters into your brain and tires your mind so that you can't have as many overwhelming thoughts. Exercise is not just for your physical health, and can be a powerful tool to combat anxiety.
Once you have your anxiety more under control, you can also start trying various anxiety reduction strategies.
I've helped many people that were feeling overwhelmed control their anxiety starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test is a very effective way to learn more about your anxiety severity and then use that information to find an appropriate treatment.
If you haven't yet, take the test here.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.