People who are calm on the surface but overwhelmed underneath often display these 10 specific behaviors

Ava Sinclair by Ava Sinclair | January 11, 2024, 6:14 pm

We all want to be seen as calm, collected individuals. But are we really?

I get it. On the surface, you’re the picture of serenity. But underneath, you’re scrambling to keep it all together.

It’s like being a duck – calm on the surface but paddling like crazy under the water. Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. So many of us feel overwhelmed but put on a brave face to the world.

And here’s the thing – your behavior might be giving away your inner turmoil, without you even realizing it.

Today, we’re going to uncover some specific behaviors often displayed by people who are calm on the surface but overwhelmed underneath.

A word of caution though – this isn’t about pointing out flaws or making you feel inadequate.

Rather, my aim is to help you recognize these signs in yourself or others around you, and perhaps provide some insight into how you could manage better.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

1) You have a constant need to control everything

Let me share a little bit of what I remember when I first started my job. I had this insatiable urge to control every aspect of my work. 

I thought that if I micromanaged everything, it would make me feel less overwhelmed.

But here’s the thing – it didn’t. Instead, it made me more stressed. I was calm on the outside, always with a smile on my face, but inside, I was screaming.

If you find yourself needing to control every detail, if you find it hard to delegate or trust others with tasks, you might be overwhelmed underneath your calm exterior.

2) You’re a master of deflection

Deflection was my go-to strategy for a long time. “Hey, how are you doing?” someone would ask. And my automatic response would always be, “I’m good, thanks. But how about you? How’s that project coming along?”

Sound familiar?

This is a classic sign of someone who is overwhelmed but trying to appear calm. They often deflect attention away from themselves and their feelings because they’re worried about revealing just how much they’re struggling.

So if you find yourself constantly turning the conversation away from yourself or downplaying your own emotions, it might be time to take a step back and ask why.

3) You have trouble sleeping

The body and mind, despite appearing composed during the day, struggle to shut down at night due to the ongoing stress and anxiety. 

A study found that individuals who experience high levels of stress and anxiety are more likely to have trouble sleeping. 

4) You’re always there for others

It’s a beautiful quality to always be there for the ones you care about. You’re the shoulder to cry on, the listening ear, the counsel in times of trouble. But sometimes, in your quest to help others, you forget about taking care of yourself.

It’s like when they tell you during the safety briefing on an airplane to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you effectively help those around you?

It’s okay to take a step back and prioritize self-care. Remember, it’s not selfish; it’s necessary.

5) You struggle to say no

Now this one…this one hits close to home for me. I used to find it almost impossible to say no, especially at work. I’d take on every task, every project, every favor asked of me, despite already feeling swamped. I thought being agreeable and always ready to lend a hand would make me appear calm and in control.

But you know what? It didn’t. All it did was create a huge pile of responsibilities that I was in no position to handle effectively.

It’s important to remember that saying no isn’t a sign of weakness or incompetence. It’s about setting boundaries and respecting your own time and mental health.

6) You’re always busy, but not always productive

You’re constantly juggling tasks, but at the end of the day, you feel like you haven’t really accomplished much.

This can be a sign of underlying stress and overwhelm. You’re caught in a cycle of busyness, trying to keep up the appearance of calm and control, but underneath, you’re struggling to prioritize and focus.

7) You have a high tolerance for stress

Some people have an uncanny ability to function under high levels of stress. They appear calm and unruffled while handling situations that would make others crumble.

This might seem like a superpower, but it’s often more of a coping mechanism. These individuals are so accustomed to being under constant pressure that they’ve conditioned themselves to operate in perpetual crisis mode.

If this sounds like you, don’t be fooled by your own resilience. Even superheroes need a break. It’s essential to find healthy ways to manage stress and give yourself time to rest and recharge.

8) You downplay your achievements

I used to do this all the time. I’d achieve something noteworthy at work or in my personal life, and when someone complimented me, I’d shrug it off saying, “It’s nothing really.”

Downplaying your achievements is often a sign of being overwhelmed. You’re so caught up in trying to maintain control that you don’t allow yourself the satisfaction of celebrating your victories.

Keep in mind, it’s okay to take pride in your accomplishments. They’re a testament to your hard work and dedication.

9) You feel guilty for taking time off

Taking time off feels like a luxury you can’t afford. After all, there’s always so much to do.

But here’s the truth: rest is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Guilt has no place in self-care.

Taking time off to recharge is vital for your wellbeing and productivity.

10) You rarely ask for help

It takes strength to recognize when you’re in over your head and reach out to others.

Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of self-awareness and maturity.

It shows that you value the input of others and are open to learning and growth.

In conclusion

Being calm on the surface but overwhelmed underneath can be challenging to navigate. Recognizing these signs in yourself is the first step towards better managing your stress and finding balance in your life

The most important thing to take note of: it’s okay not to be okay all the time. It’s okay to ask for help, take breaks, celebrate successes, and prioritize self-care. 

You’re human after all.