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Emotionally Overwhelmed? How Therapy Can Help

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
May 20, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

While you may not be able to fully escape the stress from the current pandemic, you also don’t need to resign yourself to feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, loneliness, or depression. If you are emotionally overwhelmed, therapy can help you to cope better.

At a minimum, therapy can offer you a safe space to pour out, and get support for, all of your struggles. Unlike talking with a friend or relative, you don’t need to worry about overwhelming or taking care of your therapist. Instead, for that golden hour, you can be the sole focus of attention and caring. In addition, therapy offers an opportunity for you to learn to:

Respond to your feelings in a healthy way. People often see difficult feelings as something to fear. They try to deny or avoid them. Or, they look for someone else to protect them. These attempts to cope distance them from their own experiences. As a result, they end up feeling anxious, lonely or depressed. Therapy can help you learn to acknowledge, accept, and even befriend your emotions. You may not feel good, but your experience will feel right – much like how you feel right, but not good, when you grieve the loss of someone you loved.

Stay in the present. Another way people try to avoid upsetting feelings is to escape to the past or the future. You might find yourself caught up in the urgent wish that you, the government, or someone (anyone) had done things differently. Or, you might be powerfully pulled to worries about the future that you can’t do anything about. As an antidote to this tendency to time travel, therapy can help you to remain present – both enjoying the good that life has to offer and accepting and coping with whatever difficulties cannot be avoided.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is especially hard to take care of yourself when faced with stress, especially when it’s as overwhelming as a world pandemic. You’ve heard all about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy. Get sufficient sleep. Exercise regularly. Engage in positive activities. Maintain a regular schedule. If you are doing these things, you’ve earned a pat on the back. But if you aren’t, therapy might help you to make behavior changes that could greatly improve your health. 

Identify separate stressors and problem-solve. You may be faced with so many problems that have arisen from recent life changes that you are at a loss for where to begin – even if you are hoping they’ll be temporary. With the support of a therapist, you can separate the various difficulties, enabling you to problem-solve them one at a time.

Manage relationship issues. If your relationships have felt strained during lockdown, you are not alone. Therapy can help you to better manage these issues – either through individual or couples treatment.

Untangle the past from present. The distress you are feeling may stem from current COVID-19 related stresses, or those stresses may just be exacerbating other struggles that were there before. For instance, if you have always guarded yourself against being hurt (maybe because of a childhood history of abuse?), the pandemic might be heightening those fears. Therapy can help you disentangle and work through reactions that are more about past troubles than the current situation.

As you think about the possibility of trying therapy, you may be unsure of whether it can really help you. If that’s the case, try calling a therapist or two to talk with them about how therapy might help. Although you might survive without therapy, why not give it a try if it could help you thrive?


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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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