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What is overwhelm?

The feeling of overwhelm can be described as a state of being emotionally or mentally overloaded, often accompanied by a sense of being unable to cope with the demands or pressures of life.

Whether it's work-related stress, personal obligations, or simply the constant barrage of information and stimuli, overwhelm can have a significant impact on our well-being.

In this article, we will explore what overwhelm is, its causes, and strategies I have found effective in managing and overcoming it.

An overwhelmed woman
  • What are symptoms of overwhelm?

    These are the most common symptoms of overwhelm I see:

    Heightened anxiety

    Difficulty concentrating

    Freeze response



    A sense of being out of control

  • What causes feelings of overwhelm?

    Overwhelm is triggered by several factors, both internal and external. Again, these are unique to the individual and on different days, different things can be triggers. I certainly find if I am feeling run down or there is a lot going on, other contributing factors make it more likely I’ll feel overwhelmed.

  • External factors that can cause overwhelm can include:

    • High workload

    • Information overload

    • Unrealistic expectations

    • Major life events such as moving or starting a new job

    Internal factors that can cause overwhelm can include:

    • Perfectionism

    • Lack of boundaries

    • Self-doubt

    • Difficulty in managing time effectively

    Recognising the signs of overwhelm

    Learning how to identify our own signals is crucial for effectively managing overwhelm. Some common indicators include:

    Feeling constantly stressed

    Struggling to complete tasks

    Becoming forgetful

    Experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns

    Withdrawing from social activities

    It’s essential to listen to your body and mind, acknowledging the signs, and taking steps towards finding balance and reducing these feelings.

    an overwhelmed woman
  • Top ten strategies for managing feelings of overwhelm

    • Delegate

      1. Prioritise and delegate

      Start by identifying tasks that are most important and focus your energy on completing them first. Delegate tasks that can be handled by others, freeing up your time and reducing the overall workload.

      Setting goals

      2. Set realistic goals

      Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Set realistic goals that are achievable within a specific timeframe, giving yourself a sense of accomplishment and reducing the feeling of overwhelm. 

      self care

      3. Practise self-care

      Make self-care a priority by engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being. This can include exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, pursuing hobbies, or seeking support from friends and family.

      Couple out walking

      4. Establish boundaries

      Learn to say no to additional commitments when you are already feeling overwhelmed. Setting clear boundaries and learning to prioritise your own well-being is crucial for managing overwhelm.


      5. Manage information overload

      Limit exposure to excessive information by organising and filtering what you consume. Unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists, prioritise essential notifications, and take regular breaks from social media and news platforms.


      6. Look for support

      Reach out to trusted friends, family or professionals as sometimes talking about your overwhelm can provide a fresh perspective and you may get helpful advice.


      7. Practise mindfulness

      Cultivate mindfulness by focusing on the present moment and accepting your feelings without judgment. Engage in deep breathing exercises or try mindfulness meditation to help calm your mind and reduce stress.


      8. Improve time management

      Use time management techniques such as creating a schedule, setting deadlines, and breaking tasks into manageable chunks. Effective time management can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed by providing a structured approach to work and daily life.


      9. Celebrate progress

      Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Recognising your progress can boost your confidence and motivation, helping you to overcome feelings of overwhelm.

      ask for help

      10. Professional help

      If feelings of overwhelm persist and significantly affect your daily life, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance, support, and valuable coping strategies to help you navigate through overwhelming situations.

    As we have seen, overwhelm is common and can stem from various internal and external factors, leading to a range symptoms. However, by understanding the causes of overwhelm and implementing effective strategies, it is possible to manage and overcome this challenging state. 

    Remember, everyone’s journey is unique, and it’s important to find what works best for you. By taking steps to manage overwhelm, you can enhance your well-being, increase productivity, and enjoy a more fulfilling life. Embrace the process, be kind to yourself, and remember that you have the power to overcome overwhelm and thrive.

  • You might be interested in:

    • Brighter Therapy and Coaching Blog

    • I post regularly on mental health topics, recommendations and tips to help you live your best life. Read more blog posts here. 

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