How to cope with feeling overwhelmed as Oti Mabuse details ‘dark days’ on Strictly

Oti Mabuse, pictured, has shared some of the reasons she left strictly, including sometimes feeling overwhelmed. (Getty Images)
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Strictly's Oti Mabuse has shared why she quit her role as a professional dancer on the BBC One show, revealing she experienced some "dark days", which she found "overwhelming".

Mabuse, 33, who is currently pregnant with her first child, also said that she'd spent days "crying in the shower" as she struggled to cope with the intensity of trying to train her partners and help them to improve.

Speaking on the All Change podcast, the Dancing On Ice judge was explaining how some people questioned her decision to quit the hit show, when she'd enjoyed such success.

"I was met with a lot of, 'Why would you leave? You're happy, you are at the top of your professional game, your personal game. You won the show. Why would you leave?' And I was like, 'Because of that'.

"That is the wrong question to ask, 'Why would you leave?' The right one is, 'What's next?'"

Mabuse praised her husband, Marius Lepure, for helping her to get through the "dark days" during her seven years on the show.

She recalled how her partner had seen her crying in the shower with her "clothes on" because the competition was "so hard" and so overwhelming".

"I said to him, 'do you think I'm finished?' and he was like, 'yeah I think'," the star added.

Read more: Can you take a sick day from work for mental health reasons? (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

What causes us to feel overwhelmed?

From work pressures to family needs, life admin to social commitments, as jugglers of a number of spinning plates it's very easy to feel overwhelmed by everything on your to-do list.

But it isn't just about the number of tasks we have but also the weight each task carries in our minds.

According to psychologist Barbara Santini the feeling of overwhelm often arises when there's a mismatch between our perceived demands and our perceived capacity to meet those demands.

"Think of it as a scale," she explains. "On one side, we have our tasks, responsibilities, and challenges. On the other, we have our resources, which include time, energy, skills, and support systems. Overwhelm creeps in when the scale tips heavily on the side of demands."

But why can't we seem to cope with the same busy-ness we were ok with before?

"As I often tell my clients, context matters," Santini continues. "Our capacity to deal with life's demands isn't static; it evolves based on a myriad of factors."

Woman dealing with feelings of overwhelm. (Getty Images)
There are many causes of feeling overwhelmed. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Factors impacting feelings of overwhelm:

  • Emotional reservoir: We might have been coping with stressors for a while until our emotional reservoir depletes, leading to a sudden onset of overwhelming feelings.

  • External changes: Changes in our external environment, like a new job or personal loss, can add unexpected pressures, shifting the balance.

  • Internal shifts: Our values, goals, or priorities might change. What once felt meaningful might now feel taxing or misaligned, adding to the overwhelm.

Santini also believes getting older also has a role to play in feeling this way.

"As we age, our cognitive and physical capacities undergo changes, which might make us more susceptible to feeling overwhelmed," she explains.

"Furthermore, with age comes a deeper understanding of life's fragilities, making us more emotionally sensitive to challenges."

Read more: The most common mental health conditions – and where to get help (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

How to cope if you're feeling overwhelmed

Shrink fear

Often the things we are really afraid of may not be quite as frightening as they seem. "Try to talk positively to yourself and keep everything in context," explains Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist.

Park worries

Go back to any concerns once you have achieved a few goals. "This way of thinking is a powerful way to manage your diary for short periods," Dr Shaw explains.

Do one thing

When we feel overwhelmed, we need to stop and ask; what is ONE thing I can do right now to reduce my overwhelm, worry and stress levels. "This is a great question to continually ask yourself throughout the day," advises psychology and neuroscience expert, Ruth Kudzi.

"By checking in regularly and reflecting, it helps us to identify what is overwhelming us and our triggers too, this allows us to intervene early."

Woman breathing  to cope with feeling overwhelmed. (Getty Images)
Breathing can help you to cope when you're feeling overwhelmed. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Breathe yourself calmer

"Sounds simple, but whatever you’re doing, stop and take some deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth," advises Kudzi.

"You can even try something like box breathing/square breathing– breathe in for four, hold for four, exhale for four and hold for four… and repeat. This technique distracts the mind as you count; it relaxes you and calms the nervous system, and decreases stress in your body."

Set boundaries

Kudzi says setting boundaries is essential for our wellbeing. "You don’t need to apologise or over explain - if you do, people will think you’re doing something wrong - but you’re not," she advises.

"Always be direct and clear when communicating that you can’t do something. Don’t worry if people aren’t happy about it - people may respond negatively to you setting boundaries, but don’t feel guilty. Remind yourself this is an act of self-love - we set boundaries to limit our exposure to stress and overwhelm."

Read more: Where to get mental health help as Roman Kemp issues plea to government (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

Prioritise self-care

This isn't a luxury; it's essential. "Whether it's a hobby, meditation, or simply a walk – it helps recharge your mental and emotional batteries," Santini adds.

Watch: Calm anxiety with deep breathing techniques

Break tasks into manageable chunks

Don't stare at the mountain focus on the immediate step. "Breaking tasks down makes them feel more achievable," Santini suggests.

Seek support

Talk to someone you trust. Sometimes, just voicing our feelings can offer clarity. "Consider seeking professional help if overwhelm persists," Santini adds.