How to Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed: 10 Ways to Cope (2022)

Published: March 17, 2021Updated: July 13, 2022

Published: 03/17/2021Updated: 07/13/2022

Written by:

Emily Guarnotta

PsyD

Reviewed by:

Rajy Abulhosn

MD

Written by:

Emily Guarnotta

PsyD

Reviewed by:

Rajy Abulhosn

MD
(Video) How to stop feeling overwhelmed right now | Mel Robbins

Feeling overwhelmed is a symptom of stress, which affects nearly one-third of Americans.1 Overwhelm is caused by the sense that your stress somehow outweighs your own coping abilities. When experiencing overwhelm, you may feel like you have too much on your plate, not enough time to get things done, or completely burned out.

If you are overwhelmed, you may experience other negative emotions at the same time, like anxiety, irritability, anger, or depression. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to cope with feeling overwhelmed, like changing your thoughts and habits, engaging in stress-relieving activities, and speaking with a therapist.

BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete abrief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you.

Choosing Therapy partners with leading mental health companies and is compensated for referrals by BetterHelp

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10 Ways to Cope When Feeling Overwhelmed

Recognizing what is causing your overwhelm, taking steps to reduce your stress, and engaging in relaxation techniques can help you cope with feeling overwhelmed. Remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. You cannot avoid these feelings entirely, but you can manage them.

Here are ten healthy ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed:

1. Identify What is Causing You to Feel Overwhelmed

First, get to the source of what is causing the overwhelm. Reflect on what areas of your life are contributing to your stress. Are you overwhelmed at work, home, school, or in your relationships? Now, consider what specifically is causing you to feel overwhelmed in these areas of your life. Write down the causes so you have a clear idea of your triggers.

2. Identify What Is Within Your Control to Change

Ask yourself, are any of these causes within your control to change? For example, if you are stressed about your morning commute, consider your options. Maybe you can wake up a little earlier, take a different route, or find ways to make it more enjoyable. In other cases, acknowledging and accepting your lack of control can be a powerful coping mechanism.

3. Practice Meditation

Meditation involves focusing your attention on something specific, like your breath, sounds, or sensations in your body. It may help you become more aware and less reactive. Studies on meditation have also found that regular practice helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.2 If you are a beginner, find a guided meditation online or set a timer for five to 10 minutes. As you practice, thoughts will inevitably arise; let them pass without judgement.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness, often confused with meditation, also involves being present. While the two are similar, mindfulness does not require a quiet space free from distractions.3 First, spend a few minutes noticing each one of your senses. What can you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell? Spend a few minutes on each sense. Rather than analyzing or judging what comes up, make an effort to be present. When thoughts come up, envision them as passing clouds.

(Video) How to Cope with Feeling Unfocused or Overwhelmed | Tim Ferriss

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Headspace is the leading mindfulness and meditation app with over 70 million members. Headspace offers guidance and exercises for all skill levels, including beginners. Free Trial

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5. Exercise

Exercising is known to release endorphins in the brain, which can help improve your mood.4 If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may seem challenging to add another task to your to-do list, but even 30 minutes of moderate exercise can provide benefits.5 Try to make it fun by exercising outdoors, attending a fitness class, or joining a sports team.

6. Avoid Drugs & Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol may alleviate stress in the short-term, but abusing them can cause long-term problems.6 If you think you may be dealing with an addiction, speak to your doctor and contact a mental health professional that specializes in addiction.

7. Connect With a Loved One

Make it a priority to maintain contact with your support system or connect with new people. This could involve spending time with a trusted friend or family member, joining an in-person or online support group, or participating in a social activity that interests you.7

(Video) Overwhelmed? Do This! An Antidote to Feeling Overwhelmed

8. Find a Creative Outlet

Consider different ways to get your creative juices flowing, such as art, writing, dance, music, or acting. Studies show that these types of creative outlets are associated with lower levels of stress.8 If you can, try to connect with your creative side at least once a week.

9. Write a Gratitude List

Feeling gratitude when you are overwhelmed is a powerful way to transform the way you think about stress.9 Write down ten things you are grateful for every morning or evening. It can include people, places, things, or even just the fact that you have clean drinking water and heat.

10. Consult a Therapist

If you find yourself struggling to cope with feelings of overwhelm, you may benefit from speaking with a therapist who specializes in stress management. They can help you identify the triggers for your stress, change negative thinking patterns, and learn healthier ways to deal with your feelings.

When To Seek Professional Help When You Feel Overwhelmed

If feeling overwhelmed is interfering with your life and causing you anxiety, you should consider seeking professional help. Signs of anxiety or an anxiety disorder include restlessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sleeping problems, and muscle tension.10 To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you must experience these symptoms nearly every day for at least six months.

Types of Therapy that May Be Helpful

Therapy, which is usually the first line of treatment for anxiety, can help you understand the causes of your symptoms as well as how to manage them.

Here are two kinds of therapy used to treat anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): teaches coping skills — like mindfulness and deep breathing — and helps you change negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to your anxiety11
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): focuses on accepting negative emotions associated with depression, anxiety, and addiction by using mindfulness and behavioral strategies12

How to Find a Therapist

The most common ways to find a therapist are contacting your health insurance company for a listing of in-network providers, asking your primary care physician (PCP), getting a recommendation from family and friends, or using an online directory. Once you find a therapist that seems like a good match, call or email them for a brief consultation to determine whether you’d like to move forward.

In some cases, you may be able to reach your goals in just a few sessions, but many people find that staying in therapy long-term helps them stay on track. Studies have found that about half of people in therapy recover in 15 to 20 sessions.13 Talk to your therapist periodically about your goals and expectations for length of treatment.

Cost of therapy varies depending on healthcare, the therapist’s credentials, years of experience, and location. In general, therapy can range from $50 to $250 per session without insurance. If you have insurance, it may cover all or a portion of costs. Some therapists also offer a sliding scale, which is a reduced fee based on income.

Final Thoughts

You are not alone when it comes to dealing with negative feelings like stress and overwhelm. In fact, nearly one-third of people report having these feelings at any given time.1 If you are searching for answers on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed, remember that there are steps you can take to cope with these feelings. Consider practicing mindfulness or meditation, exercising, connecting with a loved one, or reaching out to a therapist for help.

Additional Resources

Education is just the first step on our path to improved mental health and emotional wellness. To help our readers take the next step in their journey, Choosing Therapy has partnered with leaders in mental health and wellness. Choosing Therapy may be compensated for referrals by the companies mentioned below.

BetterHelp (Online Therapy)BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you. Get Started

Online-Therapy.com – Receive help for anxiety. The Online-Therapy.com standard plan includes a weekly 45 minute video session, unlimited text messaging between sessions, and self-guided activities like journaling. Recently, they added Yoga videos. Get Started

Brightside Health (Online Psychiatry) – If you’re struggling with anxiety, finding the right medication can make a difference. Brightside Health treatment plans start at $95 per month. Following a free online evaluation and receiving a prescription, you can get FDA approved medications delivered to your door. Free Assessment

Headspace (Meditation App)Headspace is the leading mindfulness and meditation app with over 70 million members. Headspace offers guidance and exercises for all skill levels, including beginners. Free Trial

Choosing Therapy’s DirectoryFind an experienced therapist specialising in anxiety. You can search for a therapist by specialty, availability, insurance, and affordability. Therapist profiles and introductory videos provide insight into the therapist’s personality so you find the right fit. Find a therapist today.

Choosing Therapy partners with leading mental health companies and is compensated for referrals by BetterHelp, Online-Therapy.com, Brightside, and Headspace

(Video) How to Stop Being Constantly Overwhelmed

Infographics for Dealing with Overwhelm

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How to Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed: 10 Ways to Cope (11) How to Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed: 10 Ways to Cope (12)

13 sources

Choosing Therapy strives to provide our readers with mental health content that is accurate and actionable. We have high standards for what can be cited within our articles. Acceptable sources include government agencies, universities and colleges, scholarly journals, industry and professional associations, and other high-integrity sources of mental health journalism. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy.

  • American Psychological Association. (2007). Stress a major health problem in the U.S., warns APA. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/10/stress

  • Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., … & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis.JAMA Internal Medicine,174(3), 357-368

  • Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness interventions. Annual Review of Psychology,68, 491-516

  • Jackson, E. M. (2013). Stress relief: The role of exercise in stress management.ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal,17(3), 14-19

    FN5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October). How much physical activity do adults need?. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October). How much physical activity do adults need?. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

  • Keyes, K. M., Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Grant, B. F., & Hasin, D. S. (2012). Stress and alcohol: Epidemiologic evidence.Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 34(4), 391-400

  • Taylor, S. E. (2011).Social support: A review.In H. S. Friedman (Ed.),Oxford library of psychology. The Oxford handbook of health psychology(p. 189–214). Oxford University Press

  • Martin, L., Oepen, R., Bauer, K., Nottensteiner, A., Mergheim, K., Gruber, H., & Koch, S. C. (2018). Creative arts interventions for stress management and prevention—A systematic review.Behavioral Sciences,8(2), 28

  • Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2004). Gratitude in practice and the practice of gratitude.Positive Psychology in Practice, 464-481

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

    (Video) Feeling stressed and overwhelmed. This is what's helping me.

  • Borkovec, T. D., & Ruscio, A. M. (2001). Psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder.Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,62, 37-45

  • Arch, J. J., Eifert, G. H., Davies, C., Vilardaga, J. C. P., Rose, R. D., & Craske, M. G. (2012). Randomized clinical trial of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) versus acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for mixed anxiety disorders.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,80(5), 750

  • American Psychological Association (2017, July). How long will it take for treatment to work?. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/length-treatment

Videos

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