Feeling Overwhelmed: How To Navigate Overwhelming Feelings

By: Michael Puskar

Updated September 20, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Debra Halseth, LCSW

We all get overwhelmed at times, and usually it passes soon enough. But for some of us, this feeling comes more often. This article will give the definition of overwhelm along with useful tips to help you cope with feeling overwhelmed and minimize stress.

Before diving into these tips, we'll explore what feeling overwhelmed means.

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Overwhelmed?

You're probably most familiar with hearing the term "overwhelmed with grief." This is one of the examples of feeling overwhelmed that is easy to identify. Another example that you're feeling overwhelmed is when symptoms of stress arise. When you feel overwhelmed, stress can develop as a result of the overwhelming thoughts that are now causing you to physically stop what you're doing and take deep breaths.

What makes today's world the perfect place for overwhelmed feelings? If you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. There are practical, actionable ways to stop feeling overwhelmed with life.

Know the Definition of "Overwhelmed"

Congratulations. You've already accomplished half the battle. You're reading this article because you identified that you're feeling overwhelmed. Taking the time to recognize that you're experiencing stress and feeling overwhelmed, can help you address these feelings directly.

But what exactly is the meaning of overwhelmed? Quite simply, it's feeling like you have too much to do and not enough mental energy to do it. So, if you feel like you are on a sinking ship, devoid of mental energy, or not sure how to move forward, you're probably overwhelmed.

Understand Why You Feel Overwhelmed

You might think you feel overwhelmed because you have too much on your to-do list. But, if you're feeling overwhelmed, this is a state of mind, not a condition. You can feel overwhelmed when there's not much to do, and you can feel bored when there is too much to do. If your mind is racing, and your thought processes are overcome with irresistible urges to run away or bury your head in the sand, chances are you feel overwhelmed.

The mind races from one exciting or troubling possibility to another, and you might begin to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed can have a powerful effect on your mental state and prohibit your relaxation response from providing you with relief.

You can take steps to help overcome feelings of being overwhelmed. The steps will teach you how to solve problems by turning to positive thoughts when you feel overwhelmed. Read the personal growth steps for feeling overwhelmed below. As you read them, identify 2-3 that resonate with you and make you feel as though you can accomplish them.

  1. Define Your Priorities

When you feel overwhelmed, it's time to take a break. Taking a break prevents you from being overcome completely by circumstances. When you feel overwhelmed, start by identifying what matters most. 

2. Manage Your Energy (Sleep)

Many people are willing to work longer hours by sacrificing an hour of sleep, but if you feel overwhelmed, that is not recommended. Feeling constantly overwhelmed can affect concentration. When you get enough sleep, whatever you are able to do will be higher quality, and you'll be better able to combat overwhelmed feelings. 

  1. Surround Yourself with Energy Builders

If you are overwhelmed at work, be sure to surround yourself with people who are supporters of your personal growth. People who focus on negativity are energy suckers, and if you're overwhelmed, you need energy builders. Energy builders will lift your spirits when you feel overwhelmed.

  1. Maintain Your Hobbies and Develop New Ones

You could be feeling overwhelmed from one demand to another without stopping for a breath. Making time for activities that are just for fun and relaxation is a part of a healthy lifestyle and can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Appreciate Your Unconditional Worth

If you feel overwhelmed, chances are you haven't taken the time to acknowledge your intrinsic value. If you are performance oriented, you may believe your worth is tied to how much you accomplish and how well you achieve it. This unhealthy perspective will leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

  1. Take Strides to Overcome the Feeling of Stress Quickly

When you're overwhelmed, your stress response is likely activated.  For this reason, it's important to face stress head on to manage it effectively when you're overwhelmed.

  1. Engage Your Senses

The moment you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a step back, ground yourself in your environment, and see what your senses have to say. If you feel overwhelmed, you might be disconnected from your senses. Not only does using your senses combat the feeling of being overwhelmed, but it also reduces pain and inflammation. The practice of mindfulness is a helpful strategy for grounding yourself against overwhelmed feelings.

  1. Make a To-Do List

Maybe you're overwhelmed because your mind is bogged down by the sheer act of trying to remember everything. When you write down what you need to do, you release this mental burden. 

  1. Cultivate Gratitude

Feeling overwhelmed can be an indication of blessings in your life like a family and a job. A practice of gratitude can help you appreciate the positive aspects of your life and protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Clean

There's a logical reason why some people clean when they're overwhelmed. Simple cleaning tasks force your mind to focus on the present, helping you move away from overwhelmed thoughts.

  1. Delegate Tasks

Sometimes when you feel overwhelmed, it's time to delegate tasks to family, friends, and coworkers. Collaboration can be a rewarding tool against feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Learn to Say No

If you feel overwhelmed from having too much to do, learn to say no. Focusing on tasks and projects that are uniquely designed for your capabilities can prevent you from getting overwhelmed. 

  1. Stop Multitasking

It turns out the brain can't really multitask. The quality of your work will greatly decrease if you try to do two things at once, and you can become overwhelmed. Don't divide your focus or make yourself feel overwhelmed. You'll be much more efficient and effective if you focus on one task at a time.

  1. Be Mindful

If your mind is racing, learn to slow it down through practicing mindfulness. The art of mindfulness is a powerful tool for focusing on the present moment, which can protect you from feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Ask yourself, "Is It Really Necessary?"

Evaluate whether a task is really necessary. Take a moment to see if you're feeling overwhelmed by self-imposed deadlines or tasks.

  1. Take a Step Back

If you feel overwhelmed, it can help to take a step back and objectively examine the situation. But objectivity may not be possible when you're overstressed or overtired. After a quick nap or meditation, your life will seem less hazy and doomed.

  1. Develop a Strong Support System

Last, but certainly not least, find people whom you can turn to through life's ups and downs. Close friends will help you when you're overwhelmed and vice versa. 

Sometimes talking to an in-person or online counselor can help give us the emotional support needed to deal with being overwhelmed. 

BetterHelp Can Help You When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

If you’re considering online therapy, you can meet with an online counselor at a time that’s convenient for you and wherever you feel most comfortable. Below are reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Working with Jerry has been helpful to realize that some of what I'm trying to do or change feels really overwhelming, and that feeling can be normal but also that it can be dealt with. He has a good balance of reflecting back what I've said in challenging ways, but also giving me suggestions on how to adjust my thinking to be healthier."


"I am very pleased with Natasha's help - she is insightful, smart and a good listener. She gave me very useful advice and listened with empathy, making me feel empowered to make some changes in a time when I was feeling overwhelmed."

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Conclusion - Strategies To Cope When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

Hopefully, these strategies will give you the starting point you need to cope with any overwhelming situation that comes your way. Living happier and healthier by keeping stress and other negative emotions at bay is possible – all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.


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