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How Chronic Overwhelm Harms Our Connections

In the fast-paced world we live in, chronic overwhelm has become an all-too-familiar companion for many of us. Whether you're a caregiver, a helper, or someone simply navigating the challenges of daily life, the constant juggling of responsibilities, stressors, and expectations can leave you feeling emotionally depleted.


Chronic overwhelm isn't just an individual struggle; it's a shared experience that has far-reaching consequences for our connections with others. In our society, chronic overwhelm has almost become the norm, with its symptoms including persistent stress, racing thoughts, physical tension, and emotional exhaustion.


Identifying Chronic Overwhelm


While these symptoms have become many people's new "normal", this isn't how it needs to be. Do you experience any of these common symptoms of chronic overwhelm?


Persistent Stress: Our society's relentless pace often leads to high levels of chronic stress. The pressure to perform at work, maintain a busy social life, and manage daily responsibilities can be overwhelming. This persistent stress can lead to a constant feeling of unease and tension.


Racing Thoughts: With the multitude of demands vying for our attention, our minds can become a whirlwind of racing thoughts. The constant mental chatter can make it challenging to focus on the present moment, affecting your ability to connect deeply with others.


Physical Tension: Chronic overwhelm takes a toll on your body. Physical tension, headaches, and even muscle pain are common side effects. The physical discomfort can further hinder your ability to engage in nurturing and meaningful interactions.


Emotional Exhaustion: The weight of chronic overwhelm can result in emotional exhaustion. You may find yourself drained and irritable, unable to access the emotional resources needed for harmonious relationships.


Society's Expectations: Our society often places unrealistic expectations on individuals. When we are feeling chronically overwhelmed these expectations can begin to feel heavier and heavier over time.


How Chronic Overwhelm Seeps Into Our Relationships


While experiencing chronic stress and overwhelm can feel isolating, its impacts go far beyond the internal impact. Chronic overwhelm isn't just an individual struggle; it's a shared experience that has far-reaching consequences for our connections with others.


Reduced Emotional Availability: When you're consistently overwhelmed, your emotional bandwidth narrows. You may find it difficult to engage in deep and meaningful conversations with loved ones, as your emotional resources are depleted by the demands of daily life. This can leave your partner, friends, and family members feeling unheard and disconnected.


Diminished Empathy: Chronic overwhelm often leads to reduced empathy. You might find it challenging to understand and relate to the experiences and emotions of those around you. Empathy is a cornerstone of healthy relationships, and when it wanes, it can strain your connections.


Increased Irritability: Overwhelm can make you more prone to irritability and impatience. Small annoyances that wouldn't typically bother you can become major sources of frustration. This heightened irritability can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings in your relationships.


Resentment: Feeling chronically overwhelmed and overstressed may lead to feelings of resentment. You might start resenting the demands and responsibilities that contribute to your overwhelm. You might also start thinking things like "why aren't they working as hard as me" which can lead to negativity and resentment towards others.


Lack of Presence: When you're overwhelmed, it's easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and worries. This can result in a lack of presence in your interactions with others. You may physically be there, but your mind is elsewhere, which can make your loved ones feel unimportant and unappreciated.


Neglected Self-Care: In the pursuit of managing overwhelm, self-care is often the first thing

sacrificed. Neglecting your own well-being can leave you feeling even more depleted, making it challenging to show up as your best self in your relationships.


Mitigating the Harms


So, what can you do to navigate the harm that chronic overwhelm inflicts on your relationships?

Self-Compassion: Just as in my previous articles on burnout and compassion fatigue, self-compassion plays a crucial role here. It's essential to acknowledge your own struggles and limitations. Give yourself the understanding and kindness you extend to others. I have said it before and I will say it again: When we are kind to ourselves it causes us to be kinder to others.

Open Communication: Communicate with your loved ones about what you're going through. Let them know that you're feeling overwhelmed and that it's affecting your interactions. Sharing your feelings can create understanding and empathy.

Prioritize Self-Care: While it might seem counterintuitive, taking time for self-care is an essential part of maintaining healthy relationships. When you nurture your well-being, you'll have more emotional resources to invest in your connections.

Set Boundaries: Learn to say no and establish boundaries to protect your mental and emotional space. Setting limits on your commitments can help you create a healthier balance between your individual needs and your relationships.

Chronic overwhelm is a common experience, but it doesn't have to undermine the quality of your relationships. By recognizing its harmful effects and taking steps to address it, you can foster deeper connections with your loved ones and navigate the challenges of life with greater resilience. Remember, your well-being is an essential part of maintaining strong and meaningful relationships.

Treating the Root


If you continue to struggle with feeling chronically overwhelmed, stressed, and run-down despite your efforts, working with a therapist can help you to get to the root of the problem. When we've been running on overwhelm for a long time it can be difficult to shift down to calm. Sometimes, it can even feel uncomfortable.


At Scenic Route Psychology we specialize in supporting clients and couples through chronic stress, burnout, overwhelm, and more. Book an appointment today if you're located in the Calgary, Alberta area.



A couple holding hands in a field.
A couple holding hands in a field.

How Chronic Overwhelm Harms Our Connections

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