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When You Are Feeling Overwhelmed

Updated on October 29, 2017

Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling Overwhelmed

We have all had the feeling of being overwhelmed. Not knowing where to start or what to do next. We feel tense, stressed, anxious. We procrastinate. We feel trapped and powerless, with unclear thoughts, and we don’t think we have enough personal resources to go forward.

When everything seems important and our list of things is large, feeling overwhelmed is very natural. When we feel overwhelmed, we don’t know where to start, and this can cause us to feel anxious.

When we feel anxious, our mind can get overwhelmed. This causes stress on our emotions and our body. It can reduce our energy, and strain us physically. This causes our brain to turn off in an attempt to cope with stress. In turn chemical changes in our brain occur, which affects our neurotransmitters, and hormones, and changes the way we think and feel. Stress makes it hard for us to focus. When we feel anxious, we focus on the anxiety, which perpetuates the anxiety, allows more feelings of being overwhelmed.

How to Not Feel Overwhelmed

Tips to alleviate that feeling of being overwhelmed:

  • So when you are feeling overwhelmed, start with seeing if there is someone else that can do some of these things for you. Delegating will relieve you of some of the burdens you have.

  • Be conscientious about how you are spending your time. Often we get sucked into doing unproductive tasks and then we don’t know where the day went. Tasks are still left undone and the overwhelming feeling grows.

  • Make sure you have fun and take joy in the time you spend doing things. But do it wisely, not just because it is a distraction from the things you have to do. When you do things to support your mental, physical, and emotional well being, you will end up being more productive.

  • Assess what you are doing and how you are spending your time. Think about the things you regularly do that may actually be a waste of time. If the things you are doing add little value for you, maybe you need to take a look at what you are actually doing. Ask yourself how important this task really is and what would happen if you didn’t do it.

  • Carve out 15 minutes a day to think about pleasantries and gratitude in your life to rejuvenate yourself. This will help you be more energized and creative towards challenging situations. This will allow you to have a fresh look about the obstacles that have been stumping you.

  • When you feel pressured and stress, it can be helpful to vent to people who are close to you. Expressing you feelings in a constructive way will help give you some relief. Be cautious, as constant complaing can make you feel helpless, victimized, and angry. Look towards supportive people to hlep you think things through and gain insight for solutions and resolutions to the things on your mind.

  • This is one of the most important things to do to avoid those overwhelming feelings. SAYING NO. It is easy to end up being overcommitted, overly responsible, and handling more than you can when you do not set reasonable boundaries. Before you answer yes to a request someone has asked of you, think about what this means for you. Before you say yes, you can reframe the answer by explaining their request may be difficult for you, with the things you have to do and perhaps there is another way to get this done.


How to Prioritize

When everything on your own list is important, you need to prioritize your list. Complex projects are best broken down into smaller tasks, and prioritized. Then expect to reprioritize as things evolve and change.

Knowing how to prioritize will improve the success of getting things done.

  • List all the tasks you need to do. Don’t try to put it into an order. Just create a dump list that states everything you need to do.
  • Separate imminent vs important. Urgent tasks need immediate attention. You will know which fits into this list because there would be negative consequences if they are not done within a certain timeframe.

  • Then look at what is important to do and what you need to focus on.

  • Order your tasks by what takes the most effort to complete. Experts in productivity suggest tackling the bigger tasks first. Intersperse these big tasks with smaller ones so you will feel a sense of success from your efforts.

  • Being flexible is integral to allowing your priorities to change.

  • Stay focused on the tasks you have promised yourself and others to complete.

  • Anything else on your list that is not imminent or important should be taken off the list to help your efficiency in concentrating on what needs to be done.

  • Just start. Just do it. Little by little and step by step you will clear path through all the things you have to do.

The Negative Effects of Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed has negative effects. It can cause anxiety. It can paralyze our thoughts, stunt our creativity, and cause us frustration. We can become fearful and feeling overwhelmed can tax our personal resources. We may feel we don’t have enough energy, enough time, and not enough ability to get everything we need to do in a day. We may feel we could fail, disappoint others, and feel powerless and incapable. Feeling overwhelmed can cause procrastination. We can get caught up in tasks that don’t really matter in an attempt to distract ourselves from the obstacles we don’t know how to deal with. .

Here are some tips to help change your thought processes:

  • Become aware of yourself in the present moment. You can do this by utilizing your 5 senses. Start by looking around and stating 5 things you can see. Then list 5 things you can hear. Touch 5 things. Become aware of 5 things you can smell. Then name 1 thing you can taste right in the moment.

By refocusing your thoughts and grounding yourself to your senses, you will be interrupting your negative thought processes and gain some mindfulness.

  • Create some order around you. When things are orderly, you can create a calmness within you. This will help you move forward. It can be the things within your arm’s reach. This will help feel a small sense of accomplishment and help you focus on the tasks you want to tackle.

  • Make the priority list so you know what needs to get done by separating the imminent, important and unimportant things to do.

  • Avoid multitasking. Our minds are not designed to do several tasks at once.

  • Finish a small task. By doing something, even small, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and this will keep you motivated.

  • Try to not follow your impulses. Write down the new ideas you remember to do, but don’t necessarily follow to do it. Stay on track to what you want to achieve.

  • Look at your To Do List. Streamline it by grouping similar tasks together. For example, put all your phone calls together. You could also write your list according to a time schedule. For example, put the big projects together in the morning, when your energy level might be at its peak. You could group your list according to ABC importance.

  • Remove yourself from the situation. Take a deep breath. Ignore what you need to do and look at what triggered your feelings of being overwhelmed. It is important to identify your triggers.

How Feeling Overwhelmed Affects You

When We Feel Overwhelmed

When we are feeling overwhelmed, acknowledge feeling overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, we lose control, and lose the clarity we need to get things done. Then we become non productive. Then we get negative feelings, and start to feel anxious.

When we feel overwhelmed, we feel like we can’t handle the situation. But the reason we are feeling this way is because of our own perspective. If we change our perspective, we can change our feelings. This is why it is important to separate our emotions from the experience and then challeng ourselves to look at things differently.

More Tips to Get Over Feeling Overwhelmed

More tips to cope with feeling overwhelmed:

  • If you want to tackle the situation yourself, take a personal inventory of your abilities, strengths, knowledge, tools you have, skills, and support you have. Then figure out how can use your personal resources to help yourself get through the situation in a positive way.

  • When you know your capabilities, you can figure out how to use your potential to work through things efficiently and effectively, and rationally. You can then decide to break the projects into smaller tasks, or may come up with a new, creative way to manage what you need to do.

  • Take full responsibility for what needs to get done and take the steps to start moving forward. Acknowledge what you can’t control, and do what you can do. Focus on one small step at a time. Mini tasks lead to major accomplishments.

  • Realize there will always be things and aspects you can’t control . These things should not distract you from all the other things you could be doing constructively right now. Start somewhere with even with the smallest step.

  • Action is the cure for procrastination and for feeling overwhelmed. Step by step, inch by inch, task by task is the only way to get back in the driver’s seat and steer yourself away from overwhelming feelings.

  • Once you stop the feelings of being overwhelmed, you will feel more decisive, your struggles will be less, your thoughts will be more optimistic, and your actions will motivate you to do more.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your World

Feeling Overwhelmed is a Conscious Decision

When we stop the feelings of being overwhelmed, we will struggle less about making the right decisions. Believe it or not, feeling overwhelmed is a conscious decision we make. It is about how we are choosing to respond to the situation before us. If we respond in a positive and constructive way, we, we move forward. If we respond in a negative and unhelpful way, we put constraints on ourselves, and cause us to feel stuck, trapped, and emotionally stunted.

We all have more resources than we realize. When we tap into our potential, our passion, and the core of who we are, obstacles cand be tackled and that pervasive feeling of being overwhelmed disappears.

With a different way of thinking, we can develop new habits, and new thought processes. We gain a sense of empowerment, reduce our frustration, and gain a sense of control in our lives. New habits can breed positive progress. What you think you do. If you allow yourself a new perspective, the overwhelming feelings will go away.

Change your thinking, change your world.

Feeling Overwhelmed

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How to Get Beyond Feeling Overwhelmed


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      24 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I remember the feeling well. I had to drastically change my life eleven years ago, that or die, and that change in attitude and approach to living signaled the end of feeling overwhelmed for me. It made a huge difference.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      24 months ago

      Thanks Denise for your helpful tips. They are good ones. Action is the enemy of procrastination, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed, so doing something, no matter how small is far better than doing nothing. I appreciate your comments

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      24 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is no fun to feel overwhelmed! These are great tips. I especially like breaking tasks up into smaller segments. I use a 15 minute rule. If I can do it in 15 minutes, then I have divided the big tasks into small enough segments. I also like to mix difficult tasks with easier ones. I will work on a difficult task, then take a break and do something easier. That really helps me feel better about myself!


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