Feeling Overwhelmed?

In my private practice, I often assist clients who report feeling overwhelmed in life. Feeling overwhelmed involves feeling highly anxious and disorganized, bombarded with obligations, depleted of energy, and feeling unproductive. The person’s mind is often overloaded with unhelpful / negative / unrealistic thoughts and they experience very strong emotions. Although everyone feels overwhelmed from time to time, it can also be a sign that the person is suffering from an anxiety disorder, depression or burn-out.

There are some helpful things that you can do when you are feeling overwhelmed. First, recognize when you are feeling overwhelmed and take a short break to relax and send yourself some positive messages (i.e. “It’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes, a lot is going on right now”, “I feel overwhelmed right now but this won’t last forever”). Then, I recommend making a list of the most salient stressors (obligations, unresolved problems, conflict situations, etc.) followed by the items that are less stressful but still part of the equation.


Arguing with spouse (some control)

House won’t sell (not a lot of control)

Haven’t filed my tax return yet (full control)

Need to plan the family trip still (full control)

Still haven’t taken the dog to the groomer (full control) #1

Need to go back-to-school shopping with the children! (full control) #2

Breaking down these stressors will determine where the stress lies and what items are within your control and what is outside of your control. Always start by tackling the items that are the less onerous and within your control, one at a time, and reward yourself when they are complete. You can number the tasks that you are going to focus on first as I did in my example above.

For the items that are outside of your control, it’s important to change your thoughts about the circumstances. Transforming thoughts into more helpful/realistic thoughts instead of unhelpful/negative will reduce your level of anxiety and make you feel more emotionally equipped to deal with the issues at hand.

I also recommend taking a “relaxation break” when you’re feeling overwhelmed and doing a 10-20 minute meditation as a kind of mental re-set. There are several excellent meditation/relaxation podcasts that you can download for free. This activity will reduce anxiety and lead to more mental clarity and focus.

Have a great long weekend everyone!