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Why am I feeling so overwhelmed?

Karolina Jasko


Individuals vocalize feeling overwhelmed pretty often. It is a common word in our vocabulary. But do we really know what being overwhelmed means? Do we know why it happens? And do we know how to conquer the feeling? Chances are you may not be able to answer yes to all three of those questions. In this blog post, I’ll navigate you through the answers to these three questions. 

People often times associate the feeling of overwhelm with stress, and then stress with anxiety. All three of these can indeed be connected, but they all have different meanings and different extremes. Overwhelm is usually a bit more than stress. It is a feeling you experience when everything all of a sudden feels like it is more than you can handle, and it all feels like it’s about to come crashing down. We often times do not think we can cope with the feelings of overwhelm, and we even begin to feel overwhelmed about our overwhelming. Feeling overwhelmed can occur for a short period of time, or it can extend through to a long period. Sometimes a buildup of seemingly small issues and hardships can add up, especially if they all come on fairly close to one another. There is usually something that ends up being “the cherry on top” of it all, that causes you to feel the defeat. The way we feel when we’re overwhelmed is different for everyone. People can experience physiological and psychological symptoms. Some individual’s hearts begin to race and they find it difficult to regulate their breathing. Some individuals begin to feel aches, pains, and even feel dizzy. Commonly individuals can experience moodiness, crying easily, irritability, and withdrawal from activities or individuals that we typically enjoy. Some individuals find it hard to stay focused, and some even feel anger or guilt.

So now that you know a little bit about what overwhelm is, it’s important to understand more about why and when it happens. There is an ongoing list of things that can cause overwhelm, and it can be unique to every individual considering all of our lives, challenges and tolerances are different. That being said, common reasons for feeling overwhelmed can include: your job, the occurrence of a traumatic experience, a life transition, perfectionist tendencies/qualities, and a lack of sleep. I’m sure when you read or hear these, you can relate to at least one, and at the very least understand why they can bring up feelings of stress and overwhelming for an individual. We end up getting triggered or burnt out by one of these reasons.

Now the most important part of this blog post is for you to understand how you can conquer feeling overwhelmed. The very first step is identifying that you are feeling overwhelmed. Or even better yet, being able to notice your triggers and be able to pay attention to our bodies and minds so that we are able to be proactive in navigating these feelings. Meditation, breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation exercises can be incredibly helpful when working with feeling overwhelmed. Speaking to a therapist can also enormously benefit you for many reasons. Not only does it give you a space to process your feelings and emotions, but it allows you to work with someone on figuring out what coping mechanisms will work for you since everybody is different. Coping mechanisms and therapy are not a one size fits all approach. You need to be able to understand and identify what works for you in order to best help yourself. Some tips for helping with feelings of overwhelm are: setting boundaries for yourself and with others, taking breaks, focusing on one thing at a time & writing it down, and scheduling in time for yourself to prioritize self-care.

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