How to deal with feeling overwhelmed

Table of Contents

When you get asked to define overwhelm, how do you explain it? How to deal with feeling overwhelmed: this means when you feel buried or are drowning beneath a huge list of everyday situations or tasks which affects your mental health and well-being, feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Psychological effects can be headaches, migraines, anxiety, aggression, depression & some behavioural changes.

Overwhelm is common in today’s busy world, and without relief, the pressure becomes overwhelmed with thoughts of ‘I feel very overwhelmed’, or ‘I am overwhelmed by some emotional stuff at home’, These words can spin round and round in your mind.

So, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed which has affected your ability the think, feel and act effectively and productively at work? Effects of emotional overwhelm:

  1. What are the actual long-term behavioural effects of overwhelm – psychological effects, emotional struggles?
  2. Can we separate & isolate the psychological effects from overwhelm, and will they work in real life?

Your behaviour is controlled- knowingly or unknowingly by reinforcement and encouragement. Your heightened emotional state of being overwhelmed makes you feel:

  • Nervous and anxious: i.e fear of what is going to come. Your overwhelm may trigger a fear response, and you might lead to multiple panic situations
  • Have mental barriers to your self-confidence leading to fears, worry, procrastination, indecision, doubt, un-certainty of doing difficult tasks at work or attempting a new project
  • A culmination of negative thoughts – mental and physical unease, making you angry at unnecessary things and unable to focus at work as you fear your manager will not see you as a hard worker.

You will start to overthink, and your mind will do a merry-go-round. Still, what you need to start to say ‘it’s not going to be as bad as I think’, ‘it won’t last long, and I can cope with it’, ‘I am getting better & need to go to rebuild my confidence’, ‘if I do get bad feelings, I know they won’t last long, and I can cope with them’. As the overwhelm starts to calm down, you will realise that worry doesn’t help.

How to deal with feeling overwhelmed

This is a skill that starts with concentrating on what is going on with you and why are you feeling the way you feel. You can tolerate overwhelm as you have managed it many times before. Remember to relax and think positively. This is just overwhelm with fear and anxiety, it is an unpleasant feeling but you have never been ill. Concentrate on what you have to do. The feelings are unpleasant but not harmful or dangerous—one step at a time. The feelings always pass away. Practice positive affirmations like: ‘I can be pleased with the progress I’m making’, ‘I achieved that, and I’m getter better’ ‘I coped with that, and I did that well’ If you keep this up, you will get good at dealing with your triggers, and it should be easier next time.

‘The time to relax is when you don’t have any time’

—- Sydney Harris—

Try using this STAR method:

S: Survey what is going on for you at the time you feel overwhelmed

T: Take a deep breath about 3-4 times

A: asking yourself why are you feeling the way you feel, and where in your body are those feeling centered

R: Refocus your attention on something positive, reframe those negative thoughts to something positive


And Try this Relaxation technique for how to deal with feeling overwhelmed:

Relaxation is a skill: The ability to relax is not always what comes. Naturally, it is a skill that must be learnt, like playing the piano. The flowing exercises are designed to help you learn to relax. The progressive deep breathing muscle relaxation exercise is a method where you slowly take deep in-breaths to the count of 7 and long out-breaths to the count of 11. When you can relax using this exercise, you can begin to get used to the routine, which will come naturally over time. This will gradually become an everyday daily routine, and you will be able to relax at will as you need to.

Why is Relaxation helpful?

  • When stressed, the muscles in our bodies tense up, and this muscular tension causes uncomfortable bodily feelings, such as headache, backache, tight chest and so on.
  • These aches and pains of tension can cause mental worry, making us even more anxious and tense.
  • Tense people often feel tired.
  • Relaxing slows down the systems in the body that speed up when we get anxious.
  • If we can learn to turn on the bodily symptoms of relaxation, we can turn off the symptoms of tension. They are two sides of the same coin: you can’t experience feelings of relaxation and tension simultaneously.

Feeling overwhelm is an emotion that you can feel if you have taken on too much and feel out of your depth. The answer is to declutter your mind and body, focus on one task at a time, and ask for help (support is there, and a mental health facilitator will show you how to deal with feeling overwhelmed). Ensure you take time for self-care – recharge your batteries, and take one step at a time.

How to deal with feeling overwhelmed is a great subject when coping with everyday challenges. This will boost your self-confidence and finding the time to take care of yourself. Get in touch if you want to chat or learn more about me.

Andrea A Smith
Andrea A Smith

I help Individuals and Organisations to manage workplace stress, anxiety & overwhelm. By building long-lasting resilience, having a step-by-step guide for forming habits that stick and creating an anti-burnout culture: individuals and teams can improve their performance and productivity. To feel happier, healthier and in control of your emotions and life.