In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal how to indentify when you are emotionally overwhelmed and the ways to overcome it.
First a quick update:
Read my article about how to overcome loneliness around The Holidays – and anytime of the year. I offer tips, strategies and insights to conquer loneliness and to make new friends and connect with people.
Now, let’s talk about how to identify when you are emotionally overwhelmed and the ways to overcome it.
In the past week, three clients have expressed concern to me over their mental and emotional state. Two of them believed that they were having a nervous breakdown. The term ‘nervous breakdown’ or “mental breakdown” is not a clinical term but usually refers to a phase that someone experiences which may involve stress, anxiety or depression and it is usually precipitated by external stressors. Specifically, ‘nervous breakdown’ refers to a state of intense mental distress where a person can no longer function on a day-to-day basis.
A 1996 study by Ralph Swindle, Jr. Kenneth Hellerc, Bernice Pescosolidod and Saeko Kikuzawae – “Responses to nervous breakdowns in America over a 40-year period. Mental health policy implications” – found that problems with intimate relationships, such as divorce and marital separation, contributed to one-quarter of nervous breakdowns while problems at work and school accounted for almost one-fifth of cases of nervous breakdown.
Mark is in his thirties and is recently divorced from his wife of 4 years. For Mark, the pain of divorce was multiplied because he had only recently discovered that his wife had been selling herself as an escort during the day and had been doing so for almost a year. Although, they were financially well off, the divorce almost ruined Mark financially and affected his business as he tried to deal with the emotional turmoil of his life. Mark and his wife have no children and both his parents had passed away at a young age. Now, around the Holidays, Mark truly feels alone. Mark tells me he can’t sleep, can’t get motivated to do anything, is listless, has lost interest in the things that he used to love doing and is turning to alcohol.
Marianne is married with two children. She enjoys her job and in fact, says “I look forward to getting out of the house and going to the office”; Marianne is extremely unhappy at home. Although she doesn’t fight with her husband, they sleep in separate beds, rarely do anything together and she is deeply resentful and angry towards him because he had an affair over a year ago and she has not yet forgiven him; although he does want to make amends. Marianne says she is suffering from numerous aches and pains, cries a lot, tosses and turns at night, feels lethargic, helpless and hopeless and “cannot seem to think straight.”
Alan is a successful businessman, highly ambitious and driven to succeed. Alan is constantly on the go and truly does not know how to relax or enjoy the moment. As a father of four children and the head of a number of companies, Alan has a lot of responsibility. But Alan works seven days a week and almost year-round. He told me he couldn’t remember the last time he had a holiday with his family. Alan loves his children but is too busy to spend time with them because he wants to build a future for them and give them the best – the things his father never gave him. But Alan is suffering from multiple symptoms – he doesn’t sleep well, is fatigued, has headaches daily, can’t concentrate, has racing thoughts and suffers from guilt, grief and anxiety.
Understandably, Mark, Marianne and Alan each felt as if they are having a nervous or mental breakdown. Each one of them felt that their world is out of control.
I explained to each of them that they are emotionally overwhelmed and this is the direct result of stress which I will explain in a moment.
The dictionary defines overwhelm as:
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf
2. a. To defeat completely and decisively
b. To affect deeply in mind or emotion
3. To present with an excessive amount
4. To turn over; upset
We will say that a sporting team was too powerful for the opposition and overwhelmed them with talent and speed. We will also say that the enormous waves of the ocean overwhelmed the small boat (thus overturning it, engulfing it or submerging it. We might also say that one’s kindness is overwhelming – i.e. it is excessive.
Accordingly, overwhelm is an accurate word that describes the symptoms and experiences of Mark, Alan and Marianne. And emotional overwhelm is something that we all experience at one time or another in our life, and even more so, around the Holidays when expectations are raised to levels that are often unrealistic – expectations we have for ourselves and for the people around us.
I mentioned earlier that feeling overwhelmed is caused by stress. Too many people fail to realize the significance, severity and dangers of stress. Please read my newsletter from August 2009 “You’re not crazy” where I indemnify stress and it’s physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms.
We live and experience life via four realms:
Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual.
- Mental refers to our thoughts and cognitive processes (skills, talents, abilities, etc)
- Emotional refers to our relationships (with our self and others), the way we feel about life and the world, the way we process our emotions
- Physical refers to everything that is tangible – our body and the physical world around us (this also includes finances)
- Spiritual refers to a belief in a higher power and, our service to others – making a difference, helping and contributing to other people to help them live and breathe a little easier – to enjoy life. Even if you do not believe in God or a higher power, the spiritual experience occurs when we know we are being useful and meaningful by helping others or creating a legacy.
Read my book “Get What You Want”.
The first step to overcome being emotionally overwhelmed is to identify that you are emotionally overwhelmed and that it is within your control. I am not referring here to self-blame and self-loathing. In fact, I am stating that there is hope and you can change your world. Nothing is truly permanent.
The second step is to recognize that the cause is stress – your circumstances, experiences and your response to them.
The third step is to simplify. The single most significant and powerful way to ease stress is to simply your life.
The fourth step is action.
Accordingly, the answer is to identify what is creating the stress in your life, make an action plan to simplify your life and then take the necessary action.
Anxiety is almost always caused because we feel out of control and we are often struggling to control the very things we cannot control. Identify what you can and cannot control, and then take action accordingly.
It is also critical to note that you must deal with every area of your life – with all four realms. You must take action to ease and calm your thoughts; action to heal and resolve your relationships (with yourself and others); action to heal, nurture and nourish your physical body and; action to develop your spirituality – to ensure that you feel fulfilled by recognizing that you are making a difference and living with purpose.
Finally, and most importantly, we must accept that not all the decisions we make or will need to make will be pleasant; they might be in our best interests but they may not necessarily be easy or pleasant. In the long run, they will be better for us, but presently they might be very difficult. As I explained to Alan who consciously recognized that he must take the tough decision of letting go of some of his businesses, we are often afraid and run away from taking tough decisions – but we cannot run away forever. And the longer we wait the harder it becomes. It is similar to holding an angry dog by its tail. If you let go, there is a chance it will bite you, but the longer you hold onto that tail, the angrier the dog will become and when you do eventually let go, it will only be worse, and the dog will bite you even harder.
Take control of your life now and set yourself free from being emotionally overwhelmed.
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.