Feeling Overwhelmed: Strategies For Coping

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed at times—especially in seasons where we are already compromised or otherwise exhausted. If this resonates with you, we want to take a moment and encourage you with the thought that it is possible to work towards a fuller, more vibrant life, even if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now. 

This can be especially true with the regular practice of supportive strategies (such as lifestyle changes or online therapy). Below, we’re exploring what overwhelm is and why it happens, along with useful tips to help you cope with the feeling while minimizing stress. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Experiencing overwhelm?

What is overwhelm? 

Overwhelm is a feeling or state where a person experiences intense emotions, stress, or pressure, often more than they can handle or manage effectively. 

This can result from various situations such as facing too many demands, encountering complex challenges without sufficient resources, or dealing with intense emotional events. 

When overwhelmed, you may feel swamped, stressed, anxious, or unable to cope with their current circumstances, which can impact their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In cases where stress or overwhelm are not effectively managed, it may lead to burnout.

Understanding the reasons behind overwhelm

There are many reasons why a person may experience overwhelm. Some of the most common include: 

  • Work-related stress
  • Family-related strain 
  • General dissatisfaction 
  • Difficulties related to one’s emotional and physical health 

How to manage overwhelm

No matter what the root cause of your overwhelm may be, there are available supportive strategies that can offer some degree of relief. We’ve listed a few below for your consideration: 

1. Define your priorities

When you feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to take a break and take inventory of any outstanding bodily or emotional needs. You can also use this time to define your current priorities, possibly offering you a more attainable path forward, even in the midst of task saturation. 


2. Manage your energy

Many people are willing to work longer hours by sacrificing an hour of sleep—however, if you feel overwhelmed, that may not be helpful. Feeling constantly overwhelmed can affect concentration. When you get enough sleep, however, whatever you are able to do can generally be done to a higher degree of quality and mastery—and you’ll be better able to combat overwhelmed feelings.

3. Maintain your hobbies and develop new ones

Overwhelm can be caused by moving from one demand to another without stopping for a breath. Making time for activities that are just for fun and relaxation can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

4. Appreciate your unconditional worth

If you feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to take time to recognize the intrinsic, inherent value that you bring to the table. If you are performance-oriented, you may believe your worth is tied to how much you accomplish and how well you achieve it, for example. This perspective can be unhealthy and inaccurate and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

5. Engage your senses

If you begin to feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to take a step back, ground yourself in your environment and see what your senses have to say. Not only can using your senses combat the feeling of being overwhelmed, but doing this can also reduce pain and inflammation according to recent research.

6. Make a to-do list

Some can feel overwhelmed in instances where the mind is “bogged down”—which can happen when the mind is working actively to remember everything that it needs to. Making a to-do list can be a helpful way to release this mental burden.

7. Clean your space

Simple cleaning tasks can help to force your mind to focus on the present, possibly helping you move away from overwhelmed thoughts. Many may use this technique as a form of grounding. 

Experiencing overwhelm?

8. Delegate tasks

Sometimes when you feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to delegate tasks to family, friends, and coworkers. They can help you to work through your to-do list while keeping you on track and goal-oriented—possibly reducing stress associated with the state of overwhelm you may be in. 

9. Learn to say no 

If you feel overwhelmed from having too much to do, it can be helpful to practice saying “no.” Additionally, focusing on tasks and projects that are uniquely designed for your capabilities can prevent you from getting overwhelmed.

10. Stop the rush of multitasking

Did you know? Scientific research has suggested that the brain can’t effectively multitask—at least, not well. The quality of your work can greatly decrease if you try to do two things at once, and you can then become overwhelmed. 

Rather than overcommitting and overdoing your efforts, you may consider focusing on one thing at a time. Working in this way can help you to move as efficiently and effectively as possible.

11. Develop a strong support system

Finding people whom you can turn to through life’s ups and downs can be helpful, building a sense of community while simultaneously reducing overwhelm. 

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

When to seek help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be worth considering online therapy. Therapies like CBT are known to be effective for managing a range of mental health concerns, and can be delivered either in-person or online.  

Studies have found that online therapy offers comparable benefit for the management of mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder and depression. Many in the experimental group also indicated that it was cost-effective compared to other methods of intervention they had experienced.


Overwhelm can affect many in many different ways. While lifestyle changes, balance, and other techniques can be effective in reducing stress and overwhelm, some may find that extra support from online therapy is needed to truly feel relief. Online therapy has been scientifically suggested to be just as effective as in-person treatment. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
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