Overwhelm - What is it, do you have it and how you can use exercise to help you through it

By Jamie Mckagan on 11 November 2022


A term that's grown in usage over the last few years. You may have heard colleagues and friends use it, you may have seen it on social media, you may have even heard it on the news to explain away peoples action's, lack of actions and more.  But what does it even mean?

One of the Cambridge dictionary definitions is 'too much or almost too much to manage' and this is the definition we take when applying it to modern day usage.

People find themselves in overwhelm in a number of sitautions and the most common one I see is work.  Deadlines, workload, the sheer volume of emails, meetings, events and more leads people to feel overwhelmed with the scale of tasks to be done.

The physical and mental side effects of feeling overwhelmed are manifold. Symptoms can include, difficulty sleeping, increased heart rate, poor digestion, bad decision making, feelings of impending doom, sadness, anger, lethargy, panic attacks and more.

If you recognise these symptoms in yourself and feel like you might be in overwhelm the first port of call should always be your health care professional.  But outside of that there are a number of other things you can do to help yourself. 

Take a break and get outside!  I cannot advocate this enough!  Find a piece of woodland, a piece of countryside. Get off the roads, get off the busy streets, get out of the city centre and find some peace and quiet. There is always somewhere!  Let the power of nature (and be under no illusion it is powerful) remind you that these feelings are transient, they will pass and that really the situation you are currently in, when compared with the fullness of your life, the fullness of time and the magnificence of you, is not as important as you are currently feeling.  You will come through the other side.  The sun will rise again and you will pass through this time.

Move more!  Your body and your mind love to move!  Your body cannot function effectively without movement - so many of your bodies systems depend on movement it is essential that you give it to them.  Walk, stretch, dance - release those endorphins and feel happier.

Structured exercise.  Attend a class, online or face to face, go for a run with other people, take a dance class, go for a swim, anything that raises your heart rate, takes you mind off of your work and makes you concentrate and think about something else for a period of time is good.  Exercise is fantastic for combatting the physical and mental signs of stress and overwhelm - it is one of the single best gifts you can give you yourself.

So to conclude, yes you should seek advice from a health care professional, yes you should try to talk to your 'work' and find solutions and help for your current position but underpinning all of this taking on board the points above will help you feel focused, balanced and more able to deal with the current situation and remember - nothing stays the same and like everything in life your current state of overwhelm will pass.

Jamie x