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Overwhelm and the Holidays

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Overwhelm and the Holidays


The smell of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” while the cold air nips at you are reminders of the fast approaching holidays. Like most everyone else, you feel excited by all the lights, glitter and parties. Attendant to all of these brings massive preparation – shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking, decorating, etc. – so everything can be perfect. With the season being thick with so much excitement, overwhelm cannot be too far.

Women are especially vulnerable to overwhelm. Like most moms you know, you perhaps feel that the secret of having a perfect holiday is up to you. You probably want your children to experience the Christmas traditions you had as a child. With all the commercialization of Christmas, you could be tempted to overdo your decorations and lightings, not to mention picking out gifts from a wide array of choices. The holidays have that effect on people. There is so much to do that you can easily be overwhelmed, losing sight of the joy that everyone deserves to have this season.


Behind the Emotional Overwhelm

What is emotional overwhelm? Good Therapy defines it as “… a state of being beset by an intense emotion that is painful and difficult, affecting a person’s ability to think and act rationally or perform in an efficient and functional manner.” It has many possible causes.  It could be brought about by stress, traumatic life events or a recent loss. It can be associated with transitions – a change of job, moving to a new home, or entering a new phase in life, such as adolescence and late life.

During the holidays, you can be overwhelmed because you have a lot of things going on. You can also be overwhelmed by the choices you have when you shop online or in the physical stores, teeming with a horde of options. Caught up in a financial trouble, you can be more stressed. The biggest triggers can be unrealistic expectations, family issues and poor emotional health. If you had an episode of depression, anxiety, or overwhelm, etc. in the past, and if the family is a factor in your emotional issues, the holidays can unduly increase your vulnerability.

Dubbed to be “the happiest season of the year,” the merry last months of the year is loaded with multiple stressors. It may not be easy to pinpoint the cause of overwhelm, since it’s usually a result of the compounding of many events, factors and emotions, especially when added to exorbitant expenses, physically draining activities, and taut emotions with family gatherings. If you are not emotionally well, there can also be more complications when you are not ready to mix with a lot of people (or certain people) or do all the exhausting tasks associated with the celebrations.


Telltale Symptoms to Tip You Off

If you find it difficult to get out of bed to face your tasks and you seem to easily lose your temper over slight or insignificant matters, watch out… these are signs of overwhelm. Irritability, exhaustion, distress, and stressing over small things may result from having so much to do or “biting off more than you can chew.”  Not getting enough sleep, meeting unrealistic expectations, party after party, and other temptations can be a potent mix.

According to WebMD, there are emotional, as well as cognitive and behavioral symptoms.  The emotional manifestations can be in the forms of irritability, edginess, social isolation, and feeling low. Some possible cognitive symptoms can be lack of focus, poor judgment, racing thoughts, and absentmindedness. The behavioral symptoms include change in eating and sleeping patterns, nervous behaviors (pacing, twiddling and nail biting), procrastination, and even increased consumption/use of cigarettes and/or alcohol.  

Because your body is programmed to respond to stimuli for survival, it also has physical manifestations. These include physical weakness or fatigue, gastric problems, and aches/pains, such as chest pains, stomach pains and headaches.  Overwhelmed, you may also experience sleeplessness and loss of appetite. You may also develop health issues that were not there before.


The Health Issues of Overwhelm

A person’s response to overwhelm is biological. It is a sign that you have reached your breaking point. One of its telltale signs is poor health. Why is that? It is because “Every cell in your body responds to the call from the brain to go into survival mode and feeling overwhelmed triggers this call to go into survival mode!” says Dr.  This means that your immune system that gives your body the ability to fight off infection and other physical conditions may become weak, so you often have colds and infections. Tired and sleepless, you may also easily feel fatigued.

According to WebMD, chronic stress and overwhelm can exacerbate your risk of cardiovascular disorders like hypertension, stroke, heart conditions, heart attacks, and abnormal heart rhythms. Eating disorders can lead to skin and hair conditions like hair loss, psoriasis, eczema, etc. as well as excessive weight gain or loss and gastric problems – ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, gastritis, GERD and irritable colon.

Overwhelm can similarly increase your risk for emotional health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Good Therapy says, “Emotional overwhelm may also be an extension of emotional concerns such as anxiety or depression.” In fact, “Depression tends to increase during the holidays due to an increase in demands (perceived as stressful), family issues, and being unable to meet expectations,” says psychologist Anita Sanz.


Bouncing Back with Joy and Therapy

Christmas season is the worst time to be overwhelmed, yet it happens to so many people. Having an overload of tasks, the chance of being overwhelmed by multiple stressors is very high. Thus, while the season can mean fun, festivity and reunions, it is also the time for stress, expenses, overeating, parties, etc. If you have adverse feelings and emotional conditions like anxiety and depression, you are more vulnerable.

Is there a way to overcome emotional overwhelm and bounce back from it in time for the holidays? How will you work through overwhelm before the holidays? Yes, by going to therapy.

Therapy can be a productive approach to help you sort out your concerns, especially the complex emotions you have. If you have been through a traumatic or painful experience recently, you may not be well enough to meet all the expectations and take care of the multiple tasks. If you have had anxiety or depression in the past, counseling/therapy can help you with your responses. If meeting with relatives is looked upon with apprehension and consternation, why not talk about it with a therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC.

Therapy can help in easing overwhelm by sorting out the key issues bothering you and their roots. With an experienced therapist, you can gain a better view of situations, explore ways to stop emotions from worsening, and discover techniques to work through the different stressors and reduce their emotional impact on you. Since emotions can be unpredictable for most people, learning ways to accept and regulate your responses is critical to survive the emotional skirmishes with your relatives in the forthcoming gatherings.

Overcome your worries these holidays and nip overwhelm in the bud. These are things that you can work out with therapy. So, bounce back from overwhelm. It isn’t too late to enjoy the holiday cheer. Call CCS – Pinehurst, NC now!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311