by Bonnie Hill, Everside Health APNP, DNP, FNP-BC
Irritability, racing heart rate, feelings of sadness, panic, stress, fatigue, and avoiding enjoyable and routine activities are all potential symptoms of mental health overload. Stress may be the root cause.
Adults and children alike process normal emotions like anxiety about new experiences or challenges, sometimes through talking, crying, or needing a time-out to assess the situation. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed sometimes is normal, but when those feelings take over our everyday lives, it is usually a sign that we have too much stress on our plates.
When Too Much Stress is a Bad Thing
Social media highlights the toll anxiety, depression, family relationship struggles, identity issues, and suicidal thoughts can factor into our thought lives if left unchecked. If life stressors are keeping you or a loved one from doing normally enjoyable activities, or if you need self-medication with to cope with life, then it’s time to take action. Reaching out to your doctor or a trusted loved one for help is the best next step.
Dealing with Your Emotions
Moving beyond mental health overload with overwhelming stress, sadness, or anxiety means recognizing that some parts of your day or your life are not working. It’s important to take time to reflect on what may be causing this overload. Once you identify things that are contributing to your overwhelm, you can tackle what you can change, one step at a time.
Make Time for You
Research shows that people who set aside time for self-care have reduced symptoms of anxiety and have improved quality of life. Self-care can involve activities such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, physical exercise, Tai Chi, spending time with loved ones, spiritual practices, and more1. Self-care looks different for everyone, so think about what makes you happy and calms you down. Schedule time on a daily or weekly basis to take a mental health time-out for self-care.
It’s also healthy to take brain breaks that focus on how you feel and consider what’s weighing you down mentally and emotionally. Be specific: ask yourself what’s working in your life and what isn’t. Keep a journal in a notebook or on your phone to track your sleep schedule, diet, exercise habits, and your mood. Are there any relationship or personal struggles you’re dealing with? Acknowledge these concerns and challenge yourself to pick just one thing you could do differently today to cope, like talking about the problem with a friend, going to bed 15 minutes earlier to get some extra sleep, listening to a helpful podcast, going for a walk, listening to music, biking, baking, or spending time with a pet. Eventually, these little changes can add up to big improvements in your mental well-being.
With time dedicated to self-care and brain breaks, you can
The truth is that we have a limited amount of time and energy each day. Understanding and accepting our human needs for sleep, relaxation, eating, work, and relationships means prioritizing the most important things and people in our lives first. Make time for the meaningful must-have’s and say “no” to the things that distract from your goals.
When to Get Help
If you feel emotionally paralyzed by guilt, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, or if you feel worthless, understand that you can move beyond those feelings by opening up to a close friend, counselor, or your doctor. Regaining mental balance looks different for everyone: joining a support group can help you connect with others while learning coping techniques. Your primary care doctor can help you understand if medication may be right for you. If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, text 988 to chat with a confidential counselor with the National Suicide Hotline. This hotline is a free service you can access anywhere.
Bystritsky, A. (2021). UpToDate. Retrieved April 19, 2023 from Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Physical, cognitive, and spiritual interventions – UpToDate