Feeling overwhelmed is a challenging and frustrating experience that affects us all at one point or another.
But if you are easily overwhelmed on a regular basis, have you ever stopped to ask why?
In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons why people get overwhelmed, and we’ll provide tips and strategies to help you manage these feelings.
Armed with this information, you will be able to put a plan in place for coping more effectively.
What is overwhelm?
Overwhelm is a feeling of being mentally or emotionally swamped, often resulting from a perceived inability to cope with the demands of a particular situation or set of circumstances.
It can manifest in many ways, including headaches, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and depression.
When it’s left unaddressed, overwhelm can lead to burnout: a state of emotional, physical, and mental fatigue that can impact a person’s ability to function effectively in their personal and professional lives.
Therefore, managing overwhelming feelings is essential for maintaining overall well-being and preventing long-term negative consequences.
10 Reasons You Get Overwhelmed Easily (And How To Address Each)
1. You’re doing too much.
Having too much to do can significantly contribute to feelings of overwhelm.
When a person has a long list of tasks or responsibilities that they need to complete within a limited amount of time, it can lead to a sense of pressure and stress. It can feel like you’re drowning; like the to-do list is never-ending.
This can be especially true when deadlines are involved and the person feels like they are running out of time to complete everything.
In addition, when people try to do too much, they may struggle with prioritization and time management, further exacerbating overwhelming feelings.
As a result, they may become disorganized and unable to focus, making it even more challenging to complete tasks efficiently and successfully.
When a person has too much to do, they may feel like they are constantly playing catch-up, trying to stay on top of everything without ever feeling like they are truly making progress.
If you are struggling with too much to do, it may feel like your life is spiraling out of control. This can lead to a sense of futility and hopelessness as you struggle to find a way to manage your workload effectively.
When people feel overwhelmed by what they must do, they may experience physical symptoms such as tension headaches, muscle tightness, and fatigue.
Additionally, they may find it challenging to relax and unwind, which can further impact their ability to manage stress and feelings of overwhelm.
Overall, having too much to do can be a significant source of overwhelm that can have far-reaching consequences for a person’s mental and physical health.
Therefore, it’s important to recognize when you’re doing too much so you can focus on improving the situation.
One effective way to address overwhelm is to prioritize tasks and responsibilities based on their importance and urgency.
This involves taking a step back, assessing what needs to be done, and breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
Setting realistic goals and expectations is also important, rather than trying everything simultaneously. This can help prevent feeling overwhelmed by breaking down tasks into smaller, achievable goals.
Another helpful strategy is to delegate tasks or responsibilities to others when possible. Delegating can help reduce workload and allow a person to focus on the most critical tasks.
Finally, it’s important to take breaks and practice self-care regularly. A few ideas to try are engaging in activities promoting relaxation and stress relief, like exercise, meditation, or leisure time in nature.
2. You’re going through significant life changes.
Major life changes can often lead to overwhelming feelings as they require a person to adapt to new circumstances and adjust their expectations and routines.
In clinical terms, you may be experiencing an adjustment disorder—which is defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as “The development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s).”
Whether it’s a new job, a move to a new city, or losing a loved one, major life changes can be disruptive, challenging, and disorienting. They can challenge a person’s sense of identity and require them to navigate unfamiliar situations, which can be stressful and overwhelming.
Additionally, major life changes can involve a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability, leaving a person feeling anxious and unsure of themselves.
When a person experiences a major life change, they may also experience a sense of loss or grief, which can further contribute to overwhelming feelings.
As a result, major life changes can be a significant source of stress that can impact a person’s mental and emotional well-being.
Examples of major life changes:
- Getting married
- Divorce or separation
- Starting a new job or career
- Losing a job or career change
- Moving to a new city or country
- Starting or ending a significant relationship
- Having a child or becoming a primary caregiver
- Dealing with a major illness or injury
- Experiencing the loss of a loved one
- Going through a major financial change, such as bankruptcy or winning the lottery
- Going back to school or pursuing additional education
- Retirement or transitioning out of a career
- Coming out as LGBTQ+
- Making a significant lifestyle change, such as becoming vegan or quitting smoking
- Recovering from addiction or substance abuse
- Changing one’s religious beliefs or spiritual practices
How to cope with major life changes:
An effective way to cope with major life changes is to acknowledge and accept the situation as it is rather than trying to resist or deny it.
This involves being honest with oneself about what is happening and recognizing that change can be difficult but ultimately necessary for growth and progress.
It’s also important to seek support from family, friends, or a therapist who can provide emotional and practical support during the transition.
Additionally, practicing self-care is crucial during major life changes, as it can help reduce stress and promote feelings of well-being. This might involve engaging in exercise, meditation, or journaling activities.
It’s also important to maintain healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding excessive alcohol or drug use.
Finally, it’s important to be patient and kind to oneself during major life changes, recognizing that it may take time to adjust and adapt to new circumstances.
3. You’re coping with grief.
Grief is a natural and typical response to the loss of someone or something significant to a person.
However, it is a complex emotional experience that can involve a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion.
Grief can be triggered by a variety of losses, including the death of a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or the loss of a job or home.
When a person is experiencing grief, they may feel overwhelmed by their emotions and find it challenging to manage their day-to-day activities.
Grief can lead to overwhelming feelings because it is a highly emotional and intense experience. When a person is grieving, they may struggle with sadness, anger, or despair, making it difficult to focus on anything else.
They may also experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue or insomnia, making it hard to function normally.
Additionally, the grieving process can be unpredictable and variable, making it difficult for a person to anticipate and manage their emotions.
Moreover, grief can be a long and complex process, and it can take time for a person to adjust to the new reality of their life. This can be particularly challenging when the loss is unexpected or sudden.
A person may feel like their world has been turned upside down and struggle to find their footing in the aftermath of the loss. As a result, grief can be a significant source of stress and overwhelm that can impact a person’s mental and emotional well-being.
How to cope with grief:
An important thing a person can do when experiencing grief is to acknowledge and express their emotions. It’s essential to permit oneself to feel whatever emotions come up, whether it’s sadness, anger, or confusion.
It’s also important to seek support from friends, family members, or a therapist who can offer emotional support to help process those feelings.
Another helpful coping strategy is to engage in self-care practices. This can involve caring for one’s physical and emotional well-being by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
Participating in stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or journaling can also help a person work through the physical and emotional symptoms of grief.
Finding ways to honor the lost person or thing is also essential. This can involve engaging in rituals, such as lighting candles or creating a memory box, which allows a person to remember and celebrate their loved one.
Giving oneself time and space to grieve and not rush the healing process is also important.
Finally, it’s vital to seek professional help if necessary. Grief can be a long and challenging process, and it’s not always easy to cope with alone. If a person feels like their grief is becoming overwhelming or interfering with their daily life, it is a good idea to seek out the support of a mental health professional.
4. You’re experiencing relationship conflict.
Relationship conflicts can be a big source of stress and overwhelm for many people.
When a person experiences conflict in their relationships, whether it’s with a partner, family member, or friend, it can trigger a range of emotional responses, including anger, frustration, and sadness.
These emotions can be intense and challenging to manage, making a person feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Additionally, relationship conflicts can be ongoing and persistent, making it hard for a person to relieve their stress. They may find themselves constantly thinking about the conflict or trying to resolve the issue, which can lead to exhaustion, fatigue, and burnout.
Moreover, relationship conflicts can also trigger physical symptoms, like headaches or muscle tension, which can exacerbate a person’s stress levels.
Relationship conflicts can impact a person’s sense of identity and self-worth. If a person is experiencing conflict with someone they care about, it can be challenging to maintain a positive self-image and feel confident in themselves.
This can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and stress as a person struggles to cope with the emotional toll of the conflict.
Relationship conflicts can be a significant source of stress and overwhelm, and addressing and resolving them is very important. Seeking out the support of a therapist or counselor can help to learn effective communication and conflict resolution skills, which can help to reduce stress and improve relationships.
In addition, participating in self-care practices, such as exercise, meditation, or spending quality time with supportive friends and family, is also essential to help manage stress and maintain emotional well-being.
How to cope with relationship conflicts:
Coping with relationship conflicts can be challenging, but several strategies can help people manage their stress and maintain their emotional well-being. Here are a few tips:
Practice effective and safe communication: One of the best ways to cope with relationship conflicts is to practice effective communication. This involves listening actively, expressing oneself clearly and calmly, and avoiding blame and criticism. Communicating in this way can reduce the chances of misunderstandings and disagreements, which can help prevent conflicts from escalating.
Prioritize self-care: When dealing with relationship conflicts, take time for self-care. This can involve participating in activities that bring joy and relaxation, like exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. Self-care can help reduce stress levels and improve emotional well-being, making it easier to manage conflicts.
Set boundaries: Sometimes, setting boundaries can help manage relationship conflicts. This involves being clear about what one will and will not tolerate in a relationship and communicating these boundaries assertively but respectfully. By setting boundaries, a person can reduce the likelihood of conflicts arising and protect their emotional well-being.
Seek support: Seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can help manage relationship conflicts. Talking to a friend or family member can provide emotional support and help a person gain perspective on the situation. In addition, a therapist or counselor can offer practical advice and guidance on effective communication and conflict-resolution skills.
Be willing to compromise: It is essential to be willing to compromise when dealing with relationship conflicts. This involves being open to hearing the other person’s perspective and finding a solution that works for both parties. By being willing to compromise, a person can reduce the likelihood of conflict and maintain positive relationships.
5. You have financial stress.
Financial struggles can be a significant source of stress and can overwhelm individuals.
The constant pressure to make ends meet, pay bills, and manage debt can cause anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness.
Financial difficulties can also lead to a sense of isolation and shame, as people may feel embarrassed to discuss their situation with others or fear being judged.
Additionally, financial struggles can impact other areas of a person’s life, such as relationships, health, and overall well-being, adding to the burden and stress.
Financial difficulties can be emotionally and mentally challenging, and individuals need to seek support and guidance to help alleviate some of the burdens.
Tips to eliminate financial stress:
- Create a budget.
- Prioritize your expenses.
- Seek support.
- Practice self-care.
- Find ways to earn extra income.
- Look for ways to save money.
- Avoid impulse purchases.
- Take advantage of financial assistance programs.
- Stay positive.
- Educate yourself.
6. You have unresolved trauma.
The UK Trauma Council describes trauma as referring to “[…]the way that some distressing events are so extreme or intense that they overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, resulting in lasting negative impact.”
Traumatic events can leave deep scars that affect how individuals perceive themselves, others, and the world around them.
Unresolved trauma can also trigger various symptoms, including anxiety, depression, anger, and feelings of isolation. These symptoms can become overwhelming and interfere with daily life, making working, socializing, or carrying out everyday tasks difficult.
In addition, unresolved trauma can make individuals feel helpless, stuck, and unable to move forward, exacerbating overwhelming feelings.
How to cope with unresolved trauma:
Coping with unresolved trauma can be challenging, but there are steps individuals can take to manage overwhelming feelings and promote healing.
First, seeking support from a mental health professional can be a crucial step in addressing trauma. Therapy offers a safe and supportive environment to process emotions and develop coping skills.
Self-care practices, like exercise, meditation, and spending time in nature, can also help manage overwhelming feelings.
Additionally, building a support system of trusted friends and family can provide a sense of connection and validation.
It’s also important to recognize triggers that may evoke trauma memories and develop strategies to manage them, such as deep breathing, grounding techniques, or calming activities.
Finally, education about trauma and its impact can help individuals understand and normalize their experiences, which reduces feelings of isolation and shame.
With patience, persistence, and the proper support, individuals can cope with unresolved trauma and move forward positively.
7. You have a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety can cause a person to experience feelings of overwhelm.
Persistent feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension characterize anxiety. These feelings can become intense and overwhelming, making coping with everyday tasks and responsibilities difficult.
In addition, people with anxiety may experience physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and shortness of breath. They may also have negative thoughts, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating, further exacerbating overwhelming feelings.
As a result, anxiety can interfere with daily life, making it challenging to carry out work, socialize, and other activities.
How to navigate mental health conditions to deal with feelings of overwhelm:
Navigating mental health conditions can be challenging, but there are steps individuals can take to manage symptoms and reduce feelings of overwhelm.
Finding support from a mental health professional is very helpful in managing mental health conditions. A therapist can provide tools and strategies to manage symptoms and offer a safe and supportive environment to discuss feelings and emotions.
Building a support network of trusted friends and family can also provide validation and a sense of connection.
Self-care practices like exercise, healthy eating, and getting good sleep can also help manage symptoms and reduce overwhelming feelings.
It’s essential to recognize triggers that can exacerbate mental health symptoms and develop strategies to manage them.
Mindfulness practices like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can also help manage symptoms and promote relaxation.
Finally, educating oneself about the mental health condition and its impact can help reduce feelings of stigma and shame and provide a better understanding of how to manage symptoms.
8. You aren’t consuming a healthy, balanced diet.
Malnutrition can significantly impact a person’s physical and mental health, including feelings of overwhelm.
When the body does not receive the nutrients it needs to function correctly, it can lead to physical symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, and headaches, which can interfere with daily life.
In addition, malnutrition can affect brain function, leading to cognitive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and brain fog. These symptoms can become overwhelming, making it challenging to carry out daily tasks and responsibilities.
Therefore, eating a balanced and nutritious diet is vital to avoid malnutrition and promote physical and mental well-being.
Tips for getting proper nutrition:
- Eat a variety of whole foods.
- Plan meals ahead.
- Stay hydrated.
- Limit processed foods.
- Read food labels.
- Seek guidance from a registered dietitian.
- Eat mindfully.
- Consider supplements.
- Practice moderation.
- Incorporate physical activity.
9. You struggle with perfectionism.
Being a perfectionist can lead to feelings of overwhelm because of the constant pressure to achieve high standards.
Perfectionists often set unrealistic expectations for themselves and may struggle to delegate tasks or seek help when needed, leading to a heavy workload and a lack of work-life balance.
When life doesn’t go as planned, or when mistakes are made, perfectionists may become highly critical of themselves, leading to negative self-talk and feelings of anxiety and stress.
Pursuing perfection can also cause individuals to prioritize work or achievement over self-care and relaxation, leading to burnout and exhaustion.
Learning to let go of perfection and embracing imperfection can help reduce feelings of overwhelm and promote a healthier and more balanced approach to life.
Tips for coping with perfectionism:
Set realistic goals: Instead of striving for perfection, set achievable and realistic goals. Break larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind, practice self-love, and be compassionate to yourself, acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and it’s okay to be imperfect.
Challenge negative self-talk: Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself, and replace them with more positive and realistic ones.
Focus on progress, not perfection: Celebrate small accomplishments and recognize progress rather than only focusing on the end result.
Embrace failure: Accept that failure is a natural part of the learning process and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Practice self-care: Make time for activities and routines that bring joy and relaxation, like hobbies, exercise, or spending time with loved ones.
Seek support: Talk to a therapist, counselor, or trusted friend or family member about your perfectionism and its impact on your life.
Learn to delegate: Accept help from others and delegate tasks when possible to avoid overloading yourself.
Manage expectations: Set realistic expectations for yourself and others and communicate them clearly.
Embrace imperfection: Recognize that perfection is not attainable and embrace imperfection as a natural and essential part of life.
10. You’re lacking quality sleep and proper rest.
Lack of sleep can cause feelings of overwhelm due to its impact on both physical and mental health.
Sleep is crucial in regulating mood, attention, and cognitive function. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, it can result in irritability, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating.
Additionally, the body needs adequate rest to restore energy levels and promote physical health.
Sleep deprivation can lead to physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches, which can interfere with daily activities and contribute to overwhelming feelings.
Lack of sleep can also negatively impact the immune system, making individuals more prone to illness.
To avoid feelings of overwhelm due to sleep deprivation, it’s important to prioritize getting enough restful sleep each night, establishing healthy sleep habits and routines, and seeking help if chronic sleep problems persist.
Tips for excellent sleep:
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Plan to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
Create a bedtime routine: Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep, such as taking a warm bath, reading, or meditating.
Make your sleep environment comfortable: Create a sleep-conducive environment, such as keeping the bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
Reduce and limit screen time before bed: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can significantly disrupt sleep, so limiting their use before bedtime is best.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise improves sleep quality and can help you fall asleep more easily.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both can interfere with sleep, so it’s a good idea to avoid or, at the very least, limit them, especially in the hours before bedtime.
Manage stress: Stress and anxiety can severely interfere with sleep, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress, like practicing relaxation techniques or seeking therapy.
Avoid large meals before bed: Eating a heavy meal before bedtime can interfere with sleep and cause discomfort, so eating a lighter meal earlier in the evening is best.
Consider sleep aids as a last resort: If sleep problems persist, consult with a healthcare provider about the appropriate use of sleep aids, as they should only be used as a last resort and under the guidance of a professional.
Avoid napping during the day: Having a nap can create problems with nighttime sleep, so it’s best to avoid naps or limit them to 30 minutes.
Overwhelm can be overcome.
Feeling overwhelmed is a common experience, and it can be challenging to know how to manage it.
However, with the proper tools and strategies, navigating these feelings and coming out the other side is easier.
Whether it’s practicing self-care, seeking support from loved ones or professionals, or making lifestyle changes, there are many ways to tackle overwhelm and regain a sense of balance and control.
Remind yourself it’s okay to ask for help, slow down, and take things one step at a time. Then, with patience, perseverance, and a willingness to try new approaches, you can overcome overwhelm and find peace and fulfillment in your life.