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5 Signs You’re Overwhelmed (and How to Fix It)

February 22, 2021

We all feel overwhelmed at times. But when you can’t shake that feeling, it can lead to chronic stress and a host of associated physical and emotional symptoms that can affect your well-being.

Experts say it’s important to recognize when everyday life — work, family and health — is overwhelming you and to take action. These are the top five signs that you’re at your limit and what to do about them.

1. Your heart is racing and it feels hard to breathe. “This may be a sign that your sympathetic nervous system — the part of your nervous system that activates the fight or flight response — is working overtime, and anxiety is in the driver’s seat,” says Dr. Frederic Guerrier, a board-certified family medicine physician on the medical staff at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

How to fix it: Try to slow down your breathing, he says. Instead of focusing on the length of your to-do list, concentrate on an activity you can do at this very moment — something that you can control. “Practicing activities such as yoga and meditation also can help to rein in the fight or flight response,” adds Dr. Guerrier.

2. Aches, pains, dizziness and even an impaired immune system can be signs that your body is under chronic stress, according to Dr. Guerrier.

How to fix it: Relaxation exercises can be helpful for easing muscular tension that increases joint pain. Practicing mindfulness can help you clear your thoughts, refocus and reduce stress.

3. Emotional and behavioral changes such as moodiness, crying easily, irritability and withdrawal often signal when your stress is mounting, says Dr. Guerrier.

How to fix it: Talking through your stress with a licensed therapist can provide notable relief, he says. It can help you approach and address your stress from another person’s point of view. “Try to take a step back, observe your thoughts and gently challenge yourself to find alternate explanations for your stress-related thoughts.”

4. You can’t stay focused on tasks, and you’re missing out on your favorite fun activities. Lowered concentration and increased apathy might be a result of stress-related sleep issues or intrusive thoughts.

How to fix it: Dr. Guerrier recommends performing one task at a time, writing lists and setting up a schedule where you tackle tasks that need the most brain power when you have the maximum amount of energy. And, don’t forgo your fun, he says.

5. You feel guilt or anger for taking on too many responsibilities. Whether they stem from caring for an infirm relative, taking on extra chores or simply being someone’s sounding board, feelings of guilt and anger can be overwhelming and lead to chronic stress.

How to fix it: Practice delegating appropriate tasks to other people, including your children, says Guerrier. Whether it’s cooking a meal, doing the grocery shopping or walking the dog, these small responsibility shifts can help lighten your daily load, reduce feelings of guilt and anger, and balance out stress levels.

While there are many ways to manage the stress that comes with feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to check in with your doctor if symptoms continue.

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