How Do I Stop Feeling Overwhelmed And Anxious?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated June 10, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people report feeling overwhelmed and anxious at times. Multiple responsibilities at work and in one's personal life, as well as concerns about physical health and uncertainty about the future, may all contribute to stress. Whether it manifests as physical symptoms – such as an upset stomach and difficulty breathing – or emotional distress, feeling anxious can impact daily life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. 

While there are many helpful ways to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms when they arise, sometimes intense anxiety can indicate an underlying condition. For example, people living with anxiety disorders and panic disorders may experience overwhelming thoughts and display a physical reaction to them. If you often feel overwhelmed, it may be beneficial to learn whether your symptoms indicate an anxiety condition. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Overwhelmed by anxious feelings?

How to cope when you're feeling anxious and overwhelmed

Stress can impair your physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Among its effects, stress can manifest as forgetfulness, rigid thinking, difficulty concentrating, constant worrying, and poor judgment. Stress can also act as a trigger to depression in some people. There are a few helpful ways to reduce stress and anxiety when they arise—, both in the short and long term. 

Setting boundaries

Aim to limit how much you can accomplish at any given time. Sometimes saying "no" can give you a little more time to yourself to recoup and relax. Identifying the exact sources of stress may be helpful when negotiating ways to reduce responsibilities that negatively affect you. For example, taking on an extra project can impact your sleep quality if you're already juggling multiple responsibilities. Another way to set boundaries is to delegate some tasks to others. 

Keeping perfectionism in check

While trying to do everything well is laudable, sometimes the mere act of completion and doing the best you can is enough. Learning to recognize your limits may alleviate the stress of having everything perfect (which is often unrealistic). Perfectionism is also linked with procrastination, which may add even more stress to the equation. 

Practicing mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is often used with therapy for anxiety, and many mental health professionals integrate it into their practice. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness allows you to shift the mind's focus to the present moment by concentrating on the breath and bodily sensations. 

When practicing mindfulness, let thoughts come and go without judgment while using the breath and the body as anchors. Many online tutorials can guide you through the basics of mindfulness meditation, such as this free 40-day mindfulness course

Using relaxation techniques

Unlike shallow breathing, filling your lungs with air has been shown to help reduce tension and stress. Deep breathing involves taking slow deep breaths through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. The stomach rises and falls while you repeat this process a few times. 

Exercising and spending time in nature are known to elevate mood and lower stress. Multiple studies indicate that walking in nature can significantly reduce stress and anxiety symptoms. It may also have healing effects on the body and mind. Finally, practice self-compassion when you are struggling with self-doubt. Self-compassion is linked with increasing one's overall sense of psychological well-being. 


When anxiety feels overwhelming

Many (if not most) of us feel anxious and overwhelmed at certain times. However, when these feelings are intense and persistent, it may indicate an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Experiencing attacks, which involve intense fear when encountering a situation
  • Feeling nervous, tense, or restless a lot of the time
  • Worrying incessantly while simultaneously desiring to avoid the source of fear/worry
  • Having difficulty concentrating or controlling one’s thoughts
  • Struggling with fatigue or sleep disturbances
  • Sweating, trembling, shaking, or other physical symptoms

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), agoraphobia, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, substance-induced anxiety disorder, and unspecified anxiety disorder, among others. When symptoms interfere with daily life or affect functioning, speaking to a doctor or licensed therapist is recommended.

The main treatments for anxiety disorders are medication and psychotherapy, used alone or in combination. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is considered one of the most effective psychotherapy approaches for anxiety disorders. 

The role of post-traumatic stress disorder 

The American Psychological Association (APA) describes posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a psychiatric disorder that may affect people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, potentially impacting one's entire sense of being—emotional, physical, social, and spiritual. 

Traumatic events include war, a natural disaster, intimate partner violence and abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual), a serious accident, and other extremely distressing events. However, treatment is highly individualized, and some people do not necessarily require treatment. In the latter case, symptoms may subside over time

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form (i.e., physical, sexual, emotional), reach out immediately to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Professional responders are available 24/7 to assist you with questions or resources. You can visit the website, call 800-799-7233, or text START to 88788.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) describes fear as the body's natural "fight or flight" response to perceived or encountered danger. People who have experienced trauma may experience a wide range of emotions, which in some cases, may last a long time. The intensity of symptoms may also change over time. The Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of PTSD as follows:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares, and/or intrusive memories of the event, are typically distressing and vivid.
  • Emotional distress and physical symptoms are reminders of the traumatic event, such as feeling a sense of overwhelming guilt or shame.
  • Detachment, avoidance, emotional numbness, and difficulty maintaining relationships.
  • Pessimism, difficulty experiencing positive emotions, and a sense of hopelessness.
  • Cognitive impairment, including difficulty concentrating or recalling aspects of the event.
  • Lack of interest in former activities.
  • The propensity to become irritable or have emotional outbursts.
  • Quickness to become frightened or startled due to a heightened sense of danger.
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as driving too fast or drinking in excess.

Other related conditions include acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, and reactive attachment disorder. Some anxiety disorders can also present similar features to PTSD. 

Mitigate anxious feelings in online therapy

If you feel overwhelmed by anxious and stressful feelings, discussing your symptoms with a therapist may be helpful. CBT is known for incorporating anxiety and stress-management techniques, such as mindfulness, into its practice. It may also be offered in an intensive format, which may be beneficial if you want to experience results faster. CBT may also be used for trauma. Depending on your symptoms, other therapies may also be recommended, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or prolonged exposure therapy. 

Overwhelmed by anxious feelings?

Whether online or in person, you can discuss feelings and symptoms with a licensed therapist, letting them in on the challenges you are presently facing. An online therapy platform such as BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist with whom you feel comfortable. 

This online modality allows you to contact your therapist by phone, video call, or online chat—they will then get back to you as soon as possible. Such a format may be helpful when navigating uncomfortable feelings at night or at an otherwise inconvenient time. 

If you are considering online therapy, it may be helpful to know that it has been shown to be as effective as in-person therapy. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 studies examining the impact of internet-delivered interventions for treating symptoms of GAD, researchers affirmed that online therapy effectively reduced symptoms and relieved existing gaps in obtaining mental health care.


In our lives, there will likely be many times when things feel overwhelming. While some of these challenges present us with opportunities to learn and grow, other instances – especially when stress is prolonged – can have negative impacts on our physical and mental health. 

There are some effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety when they arise, such as practicing relaxation techniques and mindfulness meditation. However, when feelings persist or feel overwhelming, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist who can help manage and address symptoms of anxiety, stress, and other mental health conditions. Reach out to BetterHelp to learn how its flexible format and experienced network of practitioners can support you in overcoming feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.

Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started