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When Everything Feels Like It's Just Too Much

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Mental illness is an interesting thing to live with. It affects everyone differently, but there are also a lot of similarities in the way that various illnesses affect individuals. One thing I’ve really been dealing with lately, that I’m sure some people can relate to, is feeling chronically overwhelmed.

In fairness to myself, I have a lot going on right now. I fell a few weeks behind in school work because of my mental health, so I have a lot due. Some of my friendships are in transitional periods. I recently decided that my plans for after college need more consideration (aka, I have no idea what I want to do with my life). And my mental health, on the whole, has been tumultuous.

But even before some of these stressors were so pronounced, I often found myself feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed on a regular basis. When I’m with a group of people and there are multiple conversations going on, I can’t follow the course of events, and I often recoil into myself. When I’m in a group chat on messenger and people won’t stop sending messages, it often overwhelms me to the point of becoming anxious. When I allow myself to think about upcoming due dates on assignments, it becomes too much to bear at times.

Sometimes, oftentimes, everything feels like it’s just too much.

So what do I do in these overwhelming times?

Change My Focus —  I’ve been practicing the art lately of mentally separating myself from my stressors. If I’m overthinking, I work on the practice of changing my mental focus. It takes time to build up this practice, but the more I do it, the more I’m able to effectively shift my focus. It helps to have a pre-determined topic of thought to turn to when I become overwhelmed, such as thinking about fun conversations I’ve had with friends. When I shift my thoughts from due dates to friends, it helps to lessen the anxiety I’m feeling.

Disconnecting — Because my phone is often a place of overstimulation, I’ve been trying to have a set time every day (usually an hour, sometimes more), where I put all of my electronics away. I like to use this time to focus on spending time with close friends and family, but it could also be a good time to pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read, playing an instrument or otherwise engaging in a positive activity that lowers the amount of stimulation you’re receiving. Not only does this lower anxiety, but it’s a really good model for self-care. Start with just 15 minutes a day, and build up to having more time unplugged from the world and plugged into your own needs.

Grounding —  When these overwhelming feelings  turn into anxiety, grounding techniques become invaluable in bringing myself back to reality. Deep breathing, mindfulness and being aware of the five senses are all great ways to pull my mind away from whatever anxious thoughts are running through my head. I do one thing where I play with my hair. If I can focus in on only the way that I fiddle with my hair, then I’m not focusing on all the things that feel like too much. It’s a great, but subtle, way to calm the mind.

These are just a few ways that I try to cope with overwhelming and/or anxious feelings. Have you ever felt this way? What are some things that you have found helpful in calming yourself down after feeling overstimulated?

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Thinkstock photo via Ingram Publishing

Originally published: March 6, 2017
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