“Feel the feeling but don’t become the emotion. Witness it. Allow it. Release it.”-Crystal Andrus
This Post Is All About Teaching Occupational Therapy Clients How to Cope With Feeling Overwhelmed
Overwhelmed is experiencing intense emotions that you can hardly contain and feel slightly out of control. It’s perceived as receiving “too much,” an over-abundance, or an excessive amount from our environment, leading to intense “positive” or “negative” emotions.
Positive overwhelm can be described as an overpowering experience of emotions such as:
Positive overwhelm can be experienced during life events such as:
Negative overwhelm is psychological stress from taxing environmental demands that exceed one’s adaptive capacity or what one can handle. As a result, the brain is overloaded with too much information to process, leading to “shutting down.”
It’s best not to label emotions as “good” or “bad,” but it’s safe to say it’s more challenging to deal with negative overwhelm, and we can use this information to find coping strategies.
This suggestion stems from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which emphasizes caring for physiological needs such as food, water, and shelter. Some essential self-care (Activities of Daily Living or ADLs) include:
Some daily activities, specifically Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), involve more steps to complete and intact executive functioning skills.
Examples of IADLs include doing laundry, deep cleaning the oven, grocery shopping, cooking meals, managing finances, and caring for others (such as pets or children).
There is a behavior approach called “positive reinforcement,” which is adding a reward for completing desired behaviors. Once each step is outlined to achieve the overarching goal, you can “pat yourself on the back” with a break or a snack.
External motivation can turn into internal motivation but use this approach sparingly with non-preferred activities.
Get a piece of paper and a writing utensil (or make notes on your phone) of everything on your mind. This practice is called a “brain dump.” Once you’ve written everything down, identify the top three things you must accomplish today.
You can reference it the next day if you need to remember something or want to keep checking off items on the list. A “brain dump” will make everything in your life feel more manageable and help you reflect on what’s essential and should be prioritized.
“Control your emotions, or they will control you.”-Chinese Proverb.
Our emotions are a reflection of our internal states, and they also drive our behavior. Therefore, part of self-regulation skills is identifying our emotions and responding appropriately to the problem presented.
Examples of triggers include:
Resilience is adapting to and recovering quickly from a challenge or change. Strong resilience allows individuals to manage emotions and respond appropriately to life stressors.
You can build resilience by learning from past mistakes, not beating yourself up, and having a good sense of humor.
In social situations, knowing and enforcing our boundaries is our job. Boundaries teach others how to treat us based on what we find acceptable or unacceptable.
There is a misconception that having boundaries is “mean,” but it’s the opposite because you are showing you care about that relationship and respect them enough to tell them.
Some phrases you can use to set boundaries are:
By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you can determine which tasks are best to invest your time and energy into. Then, give yourself permission to ask for help from others and learn as much as possible from them.
Identify what you can change and learn to be okay with what you can’t control. Overall it’s important to remember that we have no control over others.
You can feel more empowered by knowing you can control and influence the following:
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