floodOvercoming Overwhelm

By Steve B. Reed, L.P.C., L.M.F.T.

Jenny compares her experience of being overwhelmed to drowning. She says “I feel like I’m in over my head. I’ve lost control. I can’t stop how bad I’m feel. Nothing I do helps. My chest and stomach are so tight, I can’t breathe. I just want it all to stop!”

Two Types of Overwhelm
Jenny’s overwhelm was cumulative. It started with a move to Dallas were she didn’t know anyone. The opportunity for a higher paying job sounded great at first, but she didn’t plan on this much stress; an overbearing boss, more to do than time allows and no friends to support her. Nor did she plan on her car breaking down, her husband having an affair or her mothers critical illness. With her resources diminishing and her stress level rising, it was becoming difficult just to cope.

Sandy’s overwhelm was different. It was sudden. Late one night on the way from her parking lot to her apartment she was followed. Before she knew what had happened, a stranger was in her apartment. He had a knife and for the longest four hours of her life, he raped her, hit her and threatened to kill her. When he disappeared back into the night, she was left with an overwhelming fear that haunted her constantly.

Nine Signs of Overwhelm
There are many signs and symptoms of being overwhelmed. Some of the more common ones include:
· feeling disempowered
· difficult events seeming too big
· problems seeming too close
· self-esteem dropping
· negative thoughts dominating
· feeling gripped by fear and worry
· losing contact with inner strengths
· the inability to think your way out
· beginning to feel depressed

Ten Steps That May Help
1. Create a step-by-step plan to get back in control of your life.
2. Deal with one small piece of the problem at a time.
3. Take the first step no matter how small. Any victory can help rebuild your confidence.
4. Exercise will increase adrenaline and endorphins the body’s natural antidepressants.
5. Laughter has a positive effect on brain chemistry. Watch humorous videos.
6. Surround yourself with positive and resourceful people. Ask for help.
7. Listen to relaxation and self-esteem tapes.
8. Remember your past successes or times you overcame big problems.
9. Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on your emotional state.
10. Seek Professional Treatment.

Four New Types of Treatment
Research at Florida State University has identified four treatments that significantly reduce intense levels of emotional suffering. In this study people who had experienced overwhelming traumas were asked to rank how disturbing their particular problem was on a 0 to 10 scale. 0 represented no disturbance at all and 10 meant it was as overwhelming as they could imagine. All participants averaged a moderately painful score of between 5.5 and 7.15 on this disturbance scale. Treatment teams then worked with them to test how effective the new therapies would be in lowering their disturbance level. The results were as follows:

Type of Therapy

Total Reduction in Distress Level

1. TFT Therapy


2. EMDR Therapy


3. TIR Therapy


4. V/K Disassociation




Whether your experience with overwhelm is cumulative or sudden, the sooner you start to recognize the signs and take action the better. When people go into overwhelm the mind can go into shock. The steps you take can help you recover and help you to process through a difficult time in your life. If what you do on your own is not enough, then the four new therapies studied at Florida State University offer the fastest and most effective methods yet to get you over the overwhelm.

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