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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Overwhelmed: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Dec 23rd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Jan 26th, 2023

It’s not easy to cope with feeling overwhelmed. You’re probably thinking: “Uhhh, no shit. I feel like I’m totally losing my mind, can’t get it together and everything is falling apart around me! Because i am so fucking OVERWHELMED and don’t know how to not feel like this.” Okayyy, let’s take a moment to pause here. 

You’ve got a lot going on right now. But it’s gonna be okay! It’s important to recognize where exactly your overwhelmed feelings are coming from in order to get them under control. It could be that you’ve got too many responsibilities on your plate and it’s been a struggle fest trying to manage them all at the same time. The list of things in your life that have become overwhelming just keep piling up, like that huge stack of laundry you’ve been avoiding… 

It can be too much to handle on your own sometimes, but you’re not alone! Everyone feels overwhelmed now and then it’s part of being a human being. Let’s dive thru feeling overwhelmed and how you can get through this emotion like a pro!

A Deeper Look at Feeling Overwhelmed

According to GoodTherapy.org, being emotionally overwhelmed is “a state of being beset by intense emotion that is difficult to manage. It can affect your ability to think and act rationally. It could also prevent you from performing daily tasks.” Okay, so obviously there’s lots to unpack there.

So, what causes us to feel emotionally overwhelmed? It turns out, a lot of things! The most common one is stress, which can be a result of a busy schedule that you’re struggling to keep up with, a demanding workload, relationship problems and even trauma that you may have experienced. When all of these stressors build over time and become too much for you to manage emotionally, it causes you to feel totally overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed can be caused by so many different events in our lives. Maybe you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, and you’ve suddenly had to take on a ton of new responsibilities at the same time. Or maybe you have started a new job in a new city, and you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and worry that you’ll mess something up and everyone is gonna hate you. It could be that you’re just trying to juggle so many things at once, but you’re burning the candle at both ends. And not the good kind of therapeutic, lavender scented candle. Just an emotionally overwhelmed candle. Okay, that was a really bad metaphor. But you get the idea!

No, you’re not a freak or a total failure for feeling overwhelmed. Again, we all feel this way sometimes! It’s virtually impossible not to get overwhelmed, ‘cause let’s face it — life can be rough. Our emotions can act as signals, reminding us when we need to make some changes and remove those stressors. Preferably before we completely lose it! But if you do lose it, that’s okay. We’re still here for you.

How Feeling Overwhelmed Shows Up Mentally

Your mental wellbeing can definitely be compromised when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re expelling so much extra energy on everything that’s making you feel this horrible emotion. After a while, your mind gets really tired! Overcoming overwhelm isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination and it can end up hurting your mental health. How exactly? Let us count the ways… 

  • Increased anxiety
  • Feelings of anger, irritability, guilt, or fear
  • Struggling to complete tasks
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or focusing
  • Withdrawing socially from family and friends
  • Panic attacks

Feeling emotionally overwhelmed for a long period of time can be a sign of anxiety or depression. If these symptoms continue, we highly recommend seeking the help of a mental health professional.

How Feeling Overwhelmed Shows Up Physically

Since feeling overwhelmed and stress are closely linked, it’s no surprise that their physical symptoms look pretty similar, too. They’re basically like a pair of mean siblings that like to go wherever the other is. They can’t seem to be apart (and we wish that they just wouldn’t show up in general). Here’s some physical signs you might experience when you’re overwhelmed AF:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Muscle tension
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache/digestive problems
  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping/insomnia
  • Weakened immune system

Being overwhelmed isn’t healthy for your mind or body, so stop that shit! Just kidding (but not really), we know that it’s not simple. But we just want the best for you and for your body and mind to be ok. 

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Overwhelmed

We know that feeling overwhelmed can be… a lot. That’s probably the understatement of the frickin’ year. But we’ve got some coping strategies for you, so don’t worry! You’re gonna get through this. Try ‘em out and see for yourself!

1. 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise

Engage all five senses and mindfully notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Go in any order that makes sense for you and your current situation no pressure

2. Find a positive distraction

Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Watch an episode of a show that never fails to make you laugh. Clean out your closet. Listen to a podcast. Break out a puzzle. Do whatever takes your mind off things and sparks a ‘lil joy! You deserve it.

3. Engage in compassionate self talk

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to fall in the trap of being not-so-nice to yourself. Instead, turn that negative self talk around and say some positive things to yourself! Remind yourself that this emotion is temporary and that you’re gonna get through it, because you’re a strong and capable human. I feel overwhelmed at this moment, but I can get through it. I have overcome challenges before. There is no doubt in my mind that I am strong.

4. Practice deep breathing

Try it with us! Breathe innn… and breathe outtt. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing has actually been proven to lower anxiety and reduce stress. Plus, deep breathing slows your heart rate and provides your brain with enough oxygen to chill out a bit… which you could use right about now.

5. Reach out for support

You don’t have to work through this feeling alone. When you need to talk through this whirlwind of emotions you’re experiencing, lean on the people you trust. Sometimes just having someone to listen to us and validate how we’re feeling makes all the difference!

Trust us, we know how hard it can be to feel overwhelmed. But hang in there! You can get through this feeling, one step at a time! We believe in you, friend.

Read More: Online Therapy 101, How to Get the Most Value From Your Therapy Appointments,