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Why Am I Feeling So Overwhelmed And What Can I Do About It?

Hannah Cericola 

Being inundated by thoughts and emotions related to stressors can be strenuous and time-consuming. Often, people who are overwhelmed feel as though they are struggling to cope with responsibilities and find it difficult to function. At Symmetry Counseling, we understand that being flooded with emotions, thoughts, responsibilities, and day-to-day tasks can easily overwhelm a person and cause irrational thoughts, paralysis, disproportionate reactions, withdrawal, pessimism, mood changes, and physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or headaches. That is why we are here to help you ground yourself and find your footing in today’s stressful world. Contact us today to get paired up with one of our licensed counselors and take back control of your day-to-day life. 

How to Tell When You Are Overwhelmed 

Daily life is busy. Work, relationship difficulties, health concerns, environmental or political matters, major life changes, and conflicts with personal relationships are common stressors that often overwhelm individuals. We are constantly surrounded by work, school, finances, family, friends, intimate relationships, and societal changes, which can make us feel like we are consumed by overstimulation. We must take time to recognize and accept that we are feeling overwhelmed. But first, we need to know the signs of being overwhelmed. 

Paralysis occurs when you face a freeze response, causing you to feel paralyzed and unable to operate. For example, you may find yourself delaying stressful tasks like cleaning your room or finishing up an important research essay. When overwhelmed, you have disproportionate reactions to minor stresses. For example, you may find yourself cursing at yourself when you cannot locate your wallet. Withdrawal is a common sign of feeling overwhelmed as you may isolate from friends and family, feeling as though they cannot help you during these difficult times. Feeling angry, anxious, crying, feeling hopeless, and helpless are ways in which your mood shifts when overwhelmed. You may find it tough to make decisions, solve problems, and concentrate when under pressure. 

Coping Skills For When You Are Overwhelmed

It is important to know that everyone copes with stressors differently. So, it’s salient to keep in mind that what works for you might not work for someone else. We all have unique strengths and domains that are tough for us. Others find it easier to manage stress, while some find it more difficult to cope. The first step in coping with feeling overwhelmed is to recognize and accept the feeling and the situation you are in. Once you acknowledge feeling overwhelmed, take a step back from the stressor and allow yourself time to reflect on the issue, become vulnerable with your support system about what you are experiencing, and then revisit the stressor. 


When overwhelmed it can feel like you are overstimulated with thoughts and emotions. One second, you may be thinking about a deadline at work, and next, mapping out how you will get to the store before it closes, and then think about how the dishes are overflowing. When you become aware of these fleeting thoughts grab a piece of paper and pen and start to write down every thought that is occurring. Once it feels like you have wrote down everything you have been overfilled with, start to cross off everything that is not in your control. Once you have narrowed down your list, circle one action you will take on. For example, if you are working toward that deadline or constructing a way where the deadline is not draining you. Once you have taken action on your circled item, give yourself praise for compartmentalizing and accomplishing your goal. Journaling is a great resource for individuals as it helps create order in a world that may feel like chaos. 

Mindfulness Exercise 

Mindfulness exercises have been beneficial to individuals feeling overwhelmed. The “5,4,3,2,1 exercise” is a technique that is grounded in mindfulness and can assist you in soothing your nervous system. This exercise allows you to use your senses to connect you to the environment and distance yourself from the disarray in your mind. Once you recognize and acknowledge feeling overwhelmed, step back and start noticing things surrounding you. Slowly start to list five things you can see, four things you can touch or feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Repeat this as many times as you feel is necessary and bring your attention to how you feel afterward.

If you have exercised coping mechanisms for feeling overwhelmed and they have not been successful consider speaking to a mental health professional like those at Symmetry Counseling. With the help of a licensed therapist, you can work on identifying the primary cause of what is causing you to feel overwhelmed, and they can help offer individualized coping strategies. Contact us now to get paired up with a licensed professional and start feeling more grounded today!

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