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The Overwhelm Decoder: Recognizing Symptoms and Taking Action

Overwhelm and Invalidation; a painful pair

We live in such an anxiety driven society don’t we? The amount of items to tend to every day seems at times never ending. We can all identify the various subjects and topics that can bring about a state of overwhelm with a variety of symptoms as a result. Often clients who come in to address stress cycles will tell a similar story. Though different in its details, the common denominators are indeed apparent.

Add the fact that often people feel that they can’t even mention the depth of their experience with peers because someone will have a story about how it is worse for them or remind you of a group of people in a 3rd world country and their tribulations. Going as far as justifying the reasons why you should be quite grateful for the life you are living.  In a quick swoop with merely a few words and phrases you are left feeling invalidated leaving you drawing unhelpful conclusions about your abilities, worth, choices and life all together perpetuating the stress cycle even further. Before you know it you find yourself in a downward spiral that seems too strong to fight against. The thoughts and feelings about the thoughts and feelings swipe you up in an overpowering current.

 As a matter of fact, when listening to clients, they often blame themselves for not being able to keep up; “It must be me”, “I wish I were stronger” and the self blaming statements come in many different tones and phrases across all ages, gender, education levels etc.

I am hoping to bring some comforting words and insights to facilitate a doable focus towards extremely effective solutions. We know from clinical research that when we logically understand something, a shift can indeed occur and remain in place. In the very least allow me to open the door to it, you can decide whether you walk through it or not.

Say it like it is

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The truth is we all have different thresholds to any given subject in life. Due to the individual experiences we’ve had, we all relate differently to any topic, ranging from sleep to food, romance, finances, friendships, work, smells, sounds and tasks to be completed. Just to name a few.

For example: if you have grown up in an environment where loud conversations meant for you to be quiet, someone might loose their temper, you will simply respond differently to such situations at a later point in life. Your threshold is set based on your past encounters. If having heard repeated negative statements, whether they are true or not, they find their way into your mind and become a part of that which you belief, another threshold is created. This is true for everything, the amount of money you’ll make, the partner you’ll end up with etc. We could indeed say that every single subject is a trigger and has an innate response within each person as much as it is your point of attraction. These are quite simply the thresholds each and every single one of us have been calibrated to. They vary significantly between one person to another. Even siblings’ thresholds can vary tremendously. The same parents, the same household but a different perception. Age plays a part in it. You don’t experience things the same at age 5 compared to age 10 for example. This is accurate throughout a lifetime.

Adding into the mix the growing number of single individuals doing it all by themselves. People will often exclaim ‘It’s a lot’ and they would be right. In more recent years, even the media has come up with catchy terms to calculate and factor in what is being referred to as a ‘singles tax’ and the heavy burdens being carried by those trying to stay afloat financially, emotionally, psychologically and physically.  Regardless of relationship status; all of this can easily and understandably lead to anyone feeling overwhelmed and the cycle of stress can be so hard to break. We are not typically taught how to recognize such pattern let alone been given the means to break it. The expression: can’t see the forest through the trees is very applicable here.

Signs and Symptoms

Fact is, in today’s world, most of us are so used to operating on higher stress levels that we don’t even know we’re habitually running on cortisol and adrenaline. Even though stress in acute situations such as a job interview, packing for a move etc are quite acceptable and normal. It is the chronic stress that becomes the threshold that needs attention and care. Once something is calibrated in the mind, it is in fact ‘your normal’. Doesn’t mean it’s healthy or supportive, it’s just what you’ve been accustomed to.

There are a multitude of ways to determine whether or not stress mode is activated longer than it should and time to get some help:

– Sound and/or light sensitivity

– Digestive issues

– Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both

– Increase in sugar cravings or frequently hungry

– Difficulty focusing and/or remembering info. Reading the same paragraph over and over again and used to be able to read without effort

– No energy when waking up even after enough hours of sleep were had

– Augmented experience of emotions such as impatience, anger, sadness, intolerance

– Zoning out for extended periods of time in front of screens

– Fatigue easier than before

– Feeling like you can take full deep breaths anymore

– Tension in muscles that doesn’t go away

The above are just of a few to be on the lookout for.  A person would not have to experience all of them to conclude a stress response is having them in a firm headlock. It is important to pay attention to any of these symptoms especially when they are occuring over multiple weeks.

There is a way out

A stressful response that is activated within should be able to be self regulated. The mind and body have the capacity to facilitate this by default or a person can use coping skills and tools. The issue occurs when either none of this happens or these skills are absent. It is a recipe for disaster. The overwhelm keeps building and creates in effect a momentum until it simply is an everyday occurrence. In this mindframe the smallest something can push someone into feeling like ” I just can’t take it anymore”. So much can become frustrating and annoying in this state whether someone closing a door too sudden or a crowd or  a friend take too long to get to the point of their story, etc…

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The trick is to pull out of this experience by activating what is called the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. When in overwhelm, anxiety and stress you are in fact experiencing an activation of the sympathetic nervous system, commonly called fight-flight-freeze or survival mode. When the mind doesn’t get out of this mode, the overwhelm can indeed becoming overwhelming. The train has left the station and there is no stopping it.

I conduct sessions EVERY day assisting people in deactivating survival mode. It is such a common occurrence as a hypnotherapist. The easy part is getting someone out of that anxious momentum. Hypnosis by default is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system. Just inducing the hypnotic state in someone, stops fight-flight-freeze and brings immediate relief. This is felt quite tangibly. Clients have described it in many different ways; a mind vacation, 8 hrs of sleep in 20 minutes, a massage, breathing better

The therapeutic part is, ensuring someone doesn’t default back to that sympathetic nervous system with any of the identified triggers. These triggers are of course different for every person and discussed prior to the actual hypnotic portion of a hypnotherapy session. Let’s remember that we all have different thresholds. As an experienced professional, I know what to look and listen for. Asking the right questions is a helpful tool in any part of life, including in my private practice.

A wide variety of hypnotic techniques can be chosen from to ensure a person walks away with a different threshold to previously stress inducing situations. Coping skills are subconsciously implemented for conscious benefit. There is nothing more annoying than to be in an anxious cycle having to make a logical conscious effort. It’s just too much to do.

The beauty of the subconscious mind is that it is a structure of neurons that fire automatically once wired together. It makes things so much easier. This is in fact how we can build resiliency and strength within. In other words we recalibrate old thresholds to ‘settings’ that are aligned with the way you’d like to react and respond to life. An inner upgrade if you will.

A calm mind truly doesn’t have to take a huge amount of work and time. There is a shortcut…


  • Yasmine Verberckt

    Yasmine Verberckt is a certified hypnotherapist with offices in the SF valley and Los Angeles in addition to offering sessions around the globe via video chat. She specializes in anxiety relief, smoking cessation, fears and phobia's among other topics. She can be contacted at hope@happyinhypnosis.com or watch her video's at www.happyinhypnosis.com

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