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Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Overwhelmed

Emotion Overwhelmed

When you want to write the emotion overwhelmed, it's important to "show" the emotion your character is experiencing through their physical reactions and dialogue, rather than "tell" it. In this article we provide you with inspiration so you can avoid emotion tells and immerse your readers in your story.

The emotion of being overwhelmed is typically characterized by a feeling of being completely overcome or inundated by a situation, task, or emotion. It often involves a sense of being unable to cope with the demands or pressures of a given situation or feeling like there are too many things to handle at once. This can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and even panic in some cases. In short, being overwhelmed is the feeling of being overcome by an intense or complex situation, leading to a sense of being unable to manage or cope effectively.

  1. Different Types of Overwhelmed
  2. Situations Associated with Overwhelmed
  3. Physical Reactions to Overwhelmed
  4. Thoughts Associated with Overwhelmed
  5. Atmosphere of Overwhelmed
  6. Verbs Associated with Overwhelmed
  7. Emotions Before Overwhelmed
  8. Emotions After Overwhelmed
  9. Telling Overwhelmed Examples to Avoid
  10. Practical Examples of Showing Overwhelmed
  11. Exercises for Showing Overwhelmed

Different Types of Overwhelmed

Here are some different types of overwhelmed:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paralysis
  • Powerlessness
  • Confusion
  • Stress
  • Exhaustion
  • Frustration
  • Helplessness
  • Discomfort
  • Insecurity
  • Pressure
  • Burdened
  • Stuck

Situations Associated with Overwhelmed

Here are some situations where a character might experience the emotion of overwhelmed:

  • A sudden and unexpected change in their life, such as losing a job, a loved one, or experiencing a major illness.
  • Being in a high-pressure situation, such as a deadline or a difficult exam.
  • Having too many responsibilities or demands on their time, such as taking care of children, a sick family member, or a demanding job.
  • Feeling like they are not in control of their life or their situation.
  • Trying to juggle multiple tasks or goals at once.
  • Experiencing a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster or a violent attack.
  • Being in a new or unfamiliar environment, such as moving to a new city or starting a new job.
  • Feeling like they are not living up to their own or others' expectations.
  • Dealing with financial stress or uncertainty.

Physical Reactions to Overwhelmed

Here are some physical reactions a character experiencing overwhelmed might have:

  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sweating or flushing
  • Clenched jaw or teeth grinding
  • Tense muscles or muscle aches
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Fidgeting or restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Procrastination or avoidance behavior
  • Irritability or snapping at others
  • Crying or emotional outbursts
  • Decreased appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or oversleeping

Remember, these physical signs and behaviors are not always present in everyone who feels overwhelmed, and some people may experience different symptoms. It's important to pay attention to your own unique responses to overwhelming situations and find healthy coping mechanisms that work for you.

Thoughts Associated with Overwhelmed

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing overwhelmed might have:

  • I can't handle all of this right now.
  • I feel like I'm drowning in all these responsibilities.
  • I don't know where to start.
  • I wish someone could help me.
  • Why does everything have to happen at once?
  • I feel like I'm failing at everything.
  • I just need a break.
  • I feel like I'm carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
  • I'm so exhausted, physically and mentally.
  • I can't keep up with everything.
  • What if I disappoint everyone?

Atmosphere of Overwhelmed

Here are some ways that you might reflect the emotion of overwhelmed in the atmosphere of your scene:

  • Use sensory details to describe the environment and the characters' reactions to it (e.g. the heat and humidity of a crowded market, the smell of cigarette smoke in a casino, the sound of sirens in a busy city).
  • Create a sense of chaos or confusion in the scene through the use of fragmented sentences or jumbled dialogue.
  • Use metaphors and similes to compare the environment to something overwhelming (e.g. the crowd was like a sea of bodies, the noise was like a tornado).
  • Have the characters physically react to the environment (e.g. sweating, heart racing, feeling dizzy or disoriented).
  • Use repetition to emphasize the overwhelming nature of the environment or atmosphere (e.g. "the noise never stopped, it just kept getting louder and louder").
  • Have the characters struggle to navigate the environment, either physically or emotionally (e.g. getting lost in a maze-like building, feeling intimidated by a powerful authority figure).
  • Create a feeling of claustrophobia or confinement through the use of tight spaces or crowds.
  • Use imagery to convey a sense of weight or pressure bearing down on the characters (e.g. the oppressive heat of a desert, the suffocating crowds of a subway station).

Verbs Associated with Overwhelmed

Here are some verbs commonly associated with the emotion of overwhelmed:

  • Gasping
  • Trembling
  • Collapsing
  • Fainting
  • Quivering
  • Freezing
  • Suffocating
  • Choking
  • Sinking
  • Crying
  • Panicking
  • Shaking
  • Stuttering
  • Hyperventilating

Emotions Before Overwhelmed

Here are some emotions that may come before a character experiences overwhelmed:

  • Anxious
  • Stressed
  • Frustrated
  • Worried
  • Confused
  • Nervous
  • Pressured
  • Burdened
  • Exhausted

Emotions After Overwhelmed

Here are some emotions that may come after a character experiences overwhelmed:

  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Despair
  • Paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Resentment
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Helplessness

Telling Overwhelmed Examples to Avoid

Here are some examples of telling the emotion overwhelmed in a sentence. You should avoid things like this:

  • She felt utterly overwhelmed by the amount of work she had to do.
  • He was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city, its noise and bustle.
  • The sheer scale of the problem left her feeling overwhelmed and helpless.
  • She was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from her friends and family.
  • The responsibility of caring for her aging parents was beginning to overwhelm her.
  • The enormity of the loss hit him suddenly, and he was overwhelmed with grief.
  • The realization that she had been lied to for years overwhelmed her with anger and betrayal.
  • The complexity of the situation was starting to overwhelm her, and she needed time to process it all.
  • The sheer joy of the moment overwhelmed her, and she couldn't help but burst into tears.

Practical Examples of Showing Overwhelmed

Here are some examples of showing overwhelmed in a sentence:

  • My hands shake as I struggle to sort through the pile of papers on my desk.
  • I take a deep breath, trying to calm my racing thoughts, but it only makes me feel more suffocated.
  • The sound of my phone ringing feels like an invasion, another demand on my already overloaded plate.
  • I stare blankly at the computer screen, unable to focus on the task at hand as my mind swirls with too many ideas.

Exercises for Showing Overwhelmed

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing overwhelmed:

  • Start by describing the physical sensations of being overwhelmed (e.g., heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, etc.).
  • Write a scene where your character has too many tasks to complete in a short amount of time and is struggling to prioritize and manage their workload.
  • Imagine a situation where your character is suddenly confronted with unexpected news that completely changes their plans and forces them to make difficult decisions.
  • Write a scene where your character is in a crowded, noisy, or chaotic environment that triggers their feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Create a character who is constantly worrying about everything and anything, and explore how this anxiety impacts their daily life.
  • Imagine a scenario where your character is in a position of leadership or responsibility and is struggling to manage the expectations and demands of others.
  • Write a scene where your character is faced with a crisis or emergency situation that requires quick thinking and action.
  • Create a character who is struggling to cope with a major life change (e.g., a divorce, a death in the family, a job loss, etc.) and explore how this overwhelming experience affects them emotionally and mentally.
  • Write a scene where your character is feeling trapped or powerless, unable to escape a situation that is causing them stress or anxiety.

Want more help with showing emotion instead of telling? You find more help in our full emotional thesaurus.

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