How to Handle Feeling Overwhelmed

We all get overwhelmed in our lives and feel that we are juggling too many chores, work, financial issues, or emotions.  All of which can add stress and impact our thinking and our bodies.    If we add enough pressure, mentally and physically, we lose control of our wellbeing.

Overwhelmed is synonymous with stress.   Not all stress is bad for us as it can help motivate us to move forward and accomplish a project.   It’s still stressful while doing it, and in this situation, we are clear it’s for a definite purpose, which ultimately makes us feel good.

For many of us, stress is a normal state we live in, so we don’t always recognize that we are stressed.  Anyone who has lived in NYC absorbs stress, yet to function, you block out the symptoms and move forward.   When I moved to North Carolina, where life is gentler on the senses, I finally recognized the level of stress I was maintaining to function in New York.   New York City has many wonderful experiences, and unless you are involved in the excitement and enjoyment, you may only be experiencing the daily grind.

Meaning of Overwhelm

To be entirely overcome in mind or feeling, to feel overpowered by external forces, inner emotional feelings, and an excessive amount of anything.

Experiences Causing Overwhelm

Many drastic life experiences elicit an overwhelmed feeling, such as the death of a loved one, illness, divorce, too much work or losing a job.    We also become overwhelmed by emotions such as anxiety, guilt, or fear, as well as anger.

We can feel overwhelmed by having many things on our plates at one time, and this is probably a more common reason for the stress that hinders our wellbeing.

Symptoms of Overwhelmed

Stress is aligned with feeling overwhelmed.   Stress impacts all aspects of our lives from work, physical or emotional wellbeing which hinders our ability to think and move forward in your life.   Some symptoms:

  • Feel threatened by your belief that someone doesn’t like you
  • Can’t quiet your mind and anxiety is active a lot in your day
  • Feeling you are not good enough
  • Believing you can’t do something
  • Zoning out on distractions such as TV, internet or video games
  • Not being able to make a decision
  • Procrastination is a strong indication of feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling angry or agitated continuously
  • Constant worrying – seeing the negative in many areas of your life
  • Forgetfulness
  • Overeating or drinking too much
  • Wanting to isolate yourself
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach issues, infections, grinding your teeth, and feeling tired all of the time

NOTE:  Under Physical Symptoms — before assuming it’s generated by being overwhelmed, first contact your doctor to make sure none of the symptoms are indicative of an actual physical issue.

Think about your symptoms and how they build stress in your life.

How to Handle Feeling Overwhelmed

Each of us acts differently with being overwhelmed as some march forward with all their anxiety to get things done, and others stop right in the middle of the overwhelming feeling.   Whichever style you have, it’s still important to step back and find the necessary tools to reduce stress.

One tool that works for many people is to start a practice of mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgment, and becoming aware of what is happening around us.

Mindfulness has its roots in spiritual communities, though it is integrated more in everyday life for many people as a tool to reduce stress and be more productive. Mindfulness helps us pay attention to what is occurring in the present and to make corrections that support our well-being.

Mindfulness Practice

Choosing mindfulness means you will put aside time to sit quietly and practice being mindful. That is the only way you can set the foundation for being more in the present with yourself, your work, and other people in your life. When you are present at the moment, no matter how stressful the situation seems, you are creating a foundation of wellness.

Decide to set aside each day at least twenty minutes to sit quietly with your thoughts. If sitting quietly for 20 minutes seems challenging in the beginning, set a goal for 5-10 minutes.  As you become more comfortable with the practice, you can add additional minutes to your quiet time. When you sit, release the expectations that you must have no thoughts while you practice.  You will have thoughts along with moments of calm as this is part of practicing mindfulness. The focus of mindfulness is to be aware of your thoughts. As you sit with your thoughts, you recognize you are thinking and allow the thoughts to move forward.

Decide an excellent time to practice mindfulness and try to be consistent with that time.

You gently breathe in and out, allowing this quiet time to reduce the noise you carry around with you. How does this practice lessen noise?  Like any new endeavor, practice builds those “awareness muscles.” Awareness of your thoughts, without judgment, provides you with the opportunity to be present to what is occurring at the moment. This knowledge will give you greater clarity in your day-to-day situations.

When being mindful, you might be focusing on one’s breath, breathing in and out. When a thought pops up, you can acknowledge, “I am thinking.” This acknowledgment doesn’t attach itself to the thought, but instead, you become more aware that you are thinking.  Then you go back to noticing your breath.

Why is it important to create a mindfulness practice? The more you learn to be present with your thoughts, the more you increase your ability to focus on what is essential and what are thoughts that need to pass through you.

You can use this new level of awareness to observe your behaviors. You can learn to let go of thoughts that no longer serve you and make room to create a foundation of wellbeing.

Stop What You Are Doing

For all those people who say “I’m too busy” to stop what I’m doing, then you need to read the following post by Debbie Millman, “Busy is a Decision.”  After reading this post, I realized that I use the “I’m too busy” thought to explain why I can’t do something.  I recognize that I was procrastinating doing what is essential to my wellbeing by keeping myself busy.

Busy doesn’t mean it’s important,
only that you decided to do it at the time you did it.

Why is it important to stop what you are doing and start to evaluate what is meaningful for you?

If you don’t understand what is impacting your life, you can’t change it.

If you are feeling anxious about doing this, you need to take deep breaths and dig deeper to figure out what is overwhelming you.

Write down everything you do, as well as what you think you should do.  Sometimes the “shoulds” take more of our energy, than what we are doing.   It heaps on a bunch of “To Dos” that we carry around in our heads which create anxious thoughts overshadowing what we are doing at the moment.   That is why it’s essential to step back and decide what is important and what can be dropped.

If you want to reduce stress/overwhelm, you need to decide what you can or want to do because we technically we can only do one thing at a time well.

Keep It Simple

To decrease stress, you need to simplify what is the most critical focus in your life. For example,

You are a single parent with two kids, have a house to maintain, need to feed the kids as well as yourself, pay the bills, and your full-time job is demanding.  Even if you have a partner to share the load, you both could have demanding full-time jobs.   Maybe finances are limited, and you are always juggling your bills.   None of the above is unusual as many people have to deal with all of the above at the same time.   If you experience a major adverse event during the mix of daily living, you are about ready to explode emotionally.

Does the above sound familiar?  So how can you simplify above?

Here are some areas you can make changes to reduce stress in your life:

  • Declutter your house as clutter adds to feeling overwhelmed. Another task to do? If you do 15 minutes at the end of your day, when your brain is not at it’s best, you can make a difference in your home as well as create a good feeling about what you are doing.
  • Eliminate 24/7 technology for work or your pleasure. 24/7 takes energy, time, and reduces your ability to do what is essential.
  • Learn what your responsibility is at work, what you can do and can’t do. Learn how to say ‘no.’
  • Financially – look at how you are spending your money and stop wasting. If you buy lunches at work, bring your lunch.
  • Housekeeping – get others to help and don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer, otherwise, not to do something that makes their life easier, and they will get the message quickly.

It’s your life, and you need to advocate for yourself,
as others won’t step in and do it for you.

Support Buddy(s)

If you are experiencing significant overwhelmed feelings, this is a perfect time to reach out to others – friends, family, or professional support.

We need to talk it out, brainstorm what can change and create the next steps to reduce the stress that is mounting each day.    Sometimes it’s even about letting someone go who is demanding more of you than you want to give to them.

A support buddy can be there just for you, or they too are looking for someone to help them reduce stress in their life.   You can keep each other accountable to stay on course in “saying no” to activities that don’t add value to your life.

If a professional is required, don’t hesitate to reach out and find someone.   You need to support your wellbeing.


Most of us forgo self-care when we are overwhelmed as we feel we don’t have enough time to take care of ourselves, or are missing the motivation to care for our wellbeing.

Self-care includes finding the right support during this stressful time, making sure you get enough sleep and eating healthy.  All of the basics to our health and without health, we have less energy to deal with the challenges overwhelming us.

Let Go

Wouldn’t it be great if we can say “let go,” and all of our worries, stress, and activities float away never to be seen again?   Letting go can be difficult, though not impossible.

If you did your work above and listed all of the activities and beliefs around what you should be doing, you can take one small item and either delegate it, or let it go.


I’m a believer that we don’t celebrate enough in our lives; instead, we place struggling higher than celebrating.   Celebrations are not just for holidays and special days, but rather for small changes we make each day to add value to our life or the life of someone else.

If you decided to say “no” to helping someone because you are committed elsewhere, uncomfortable feelings might surface as this is unusual behavior for you.  The other person may not be happy with you, yet you have decided on self-care.

After acting on this decision, find some way to celebrate your new behavior.   A small way could be to take a long bath, read a book, watch a movie, start to learn something new and anything else you can think of that pleases you…an ice cream cone???

It’s about honoring your decision to change and to let go of stress and embracing wellbeing.  Besides, celebrations usually bring smiles to our lives and smiles, lessen our stress.

Final Thoughts

How is stress impacting you?   Are you willing to search out another way to live your life?    Are you ready to make some small change to empower yourself and help move towards a life that supports your wellbeing?

Women’s Group Topics

Women know how to do overwhelmed as we are challenged when it comes to nurturing ourselves.    What is excellent about a women’s group is that we can help each other by nurturing each other.  How can we nurture each other?  Each member in the group lists what they need to change, and the group maintains an accountability log to remember what is important.

Be well,


Other Posts You May Be Interested In
Mirror Work
What Are You Tolerating?
Do You Feel Powerless?


Do you want to download a PDF copy of both of these books, then go to:







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