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  • Our Body’s Response to Overwhelm

    Feeling overwhelm is known to most of us.

    That feeling or state when we experience intense emotion that is difficult to manage and affects our ability to think and act rationally or perform efficiently. 1


    When too much is happening and we can’t keep up

    Outside influences we cannot comprehend

    Society and others expectations that are not congruent to us

    Something out of our control

    Traumatic experiences

    Many new parents, especially mums experience overwhelm post childbirth. Being a new parent is an amazingly powerful experience. However, the incredible feeling of protection for this new little being, the intense learning and a variety of emotions never before experienced, meeting the needs of your new baby, extreme tiredness, the desire to be the perfect mum or dad, demands of others - other children, family, friends, perceived society expectations, and financial concerns, all add to the intense degree of overwhelm you may experience.

    Overwhelm also increases when we are tired and fatigued. Those suffering the frustration of chronic or adrenal fatigue become aware how quickly overwhelm can affect them.

    Post concussion or head injury creates a syndrome where individuals experience an overwhelming sense of physical and mental fatigue. Like any nerve injury, the injured brain takes time to heal and will not be rushed. One may be able to complete simple tasks and routine activities within a quiet environment but when the brain is asked to do more, it ‘shuts down’.


    The body and brain is saying ‘enough’, you are no longer going to do whatever it is you are doing. The brain will shut down its thinking part, the frontal cortex, and revert to the subconscious brain. Many call this brain fog, foggy brain syndrome, or if pre or post birth, baby brain. The extent of overwhelm stress, dictates how much shut down of non vital brain functions will occur. We find it difficult to remember and think clearly, which then increases our vulnerability and leads to varying degrees of anxiety, fatigue and tiredness. In extreme circumstances just the vital centres of the brain stem, that part of our brain that deals with our survival, will remain operational and we find ourselves in a fight, flight or freeze response.


    When we are stressed to such a degree as to affect our survival, our body will take the necessary action to protect us. Innately our cells want to survive and they know how to do this. So our body is constantly assessing, are we safe or unsafe? When we feel unsafe, we activate our stress response and switch off non essential functions.    



        Overwhelm can be understood

        by looking at

        the two phases that are occurring 2


    When we are stressed, our mind, body, and brain is in Stress Phase and the sympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system is active. We are physically and psychologically busier, our mind is constantly thinking about the issue concerning us, we feel      nervous, tense, our hands and feet are cooler, our heart beat and breathing rate is faster, and we usually find it difficult to sleep. In most instances, this stress activates a response from an earlier traumatic memory in our life, hidden deep within our subconscious.                         

    When we find a solution to the problem, a Regeneration Trigger is activated and we enter Regeneration Phase. Now our parasympathetic nervous system takes control and our body, mind and brain rests. We feel tired, our thinking becomes more fuzzy and confused, our heart rate and breathing slows, our hands and feet feel warmer, and we may feel a sense of relief. Headaches are also typical of this phase.

    Ongoing stress and overwhelm invariably leads to physical illness.

    Understanding our body response to overwhelm can help us pay attention and know it is just a process.

    A clever biological response trying to keep us safe and in better health.


    • Be aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, stress triggers, and beliefs
    • Recognise and respond appropriately to your body’s needs  3

    • Rest when you need to      
    • Eat food that nurtures and nourishes your body
    • Get out into the sunshine and fresh air
    • Drink plenty of fresh clean water over the day and each morning drink 2 full glasses of water. Healing in our body occurs in a fluid environment - bringing vital nutrients to cell and removing waste products     


    • Develop a morning and evening ritual that calms and relaxes you:

          Find and express gratitude for everything you have and are

         Do gentle exercise to start and finish your day - stretches, Yoga, Qi gong, Tai chi,  

         Meditation, walking in nature. warm bath with added Magnesium (Epsom Salts) …

    • Any time you begin to feel overwhelmed, stop, and while breathing deeply in and out for a count of 6, visualise a place or memory comforting to you
    • Schedule important or more stressful tasks at times when you have more energy
    • Avoid overload
    • Consider keeping a weekly planner and fatigue journal
    • Exercise, especially what you enjoy, increases oxygenation to your cells and aids ability to think
    • Take time to rest, reflect and calm yourself even if a only for few minutes several times a day
    • In the evening at least an hour before sleep, turn off all electronic screens and wifi, avoid bright lighting, consider wearing blue blocker glasses, have a warm bath, listen to calming music, meditate ….. whatever calms and settles you
    • Go to bed before 10 pm and aim for minimum 8 hours sleep at night

    • Talk with caring empathetic others - family or friends
    • Learn to say ‘no’ when others expect more than you want to give
    • Learn to love, accept, and forgive yourself
    • Discover your inner child, the little one inside you who remembers how to play, laugh and create the fun activities you enjoy

    • Find what excites you, something that ‘makes your heart sing’ and practice it every day.

    There is much you can do yourself but when traumatic memories arise, the help of an experienced practitioner may be the most gentle and therapeutic path to restoring your health    Contact Nurturing Naturally Coaching, Matrix Reimprinting


    1. (2015). Emotional Overload.

    2.  Diagram adapted from META-Health University image, META-Health University.

    3.  Lifestyle Prescriptions Diagram from META-Health University.

    4.  Cook. A.