Why You Feel Overwhelmed and What You Can Do About It

Feeling Overwhelmed

Have you wondered why you feel overwhelmed every now and then? Feeling overwhelmed is not an experience that is unique to just an individual, everybody goes through the experience at one point or the other.

What does it mean to be overwhelmed? The free dictionary dot com defines the word “overwhelm” in the following ways: "to overpower the emotions or senses of, to overcome with irresistible force, to overcome as with a profusion or concentration of something, to weigh or rest upon overpoweringly."

To feel overwhelmed in the context of this article means, to feel powerless about the challenges you are going through. It means to find yourself in a state where your problems are too much for you to handle.
As you keep reading, you will learn why you find yourself in that state and what you can do about it in the now and how to avoid it in the future.

Why do people feel overwhelmed by problems and challenges?  There are cases in my life when I have been overwhelmed by difficulties, but when I take a deep look at the entire situation I found out that most of the times, the experience of feeling overwhelmed is self-imposed.  The simple explanation for feeling overwhelmed lies in not having enough resources or time to meet the task at hand.
When you don’t have what it takes to meet a challenge, situation or task, you will feel overwhelmed. Just as I stated earlier, feeling overwhelmed is what we impose on ourselves.

For example, let’s assume you are running a three months course and you are to write exam in the third month. To pass the course requires that you read all the recommended textbooks for the course. Now, let’s assume that due to carelessness, you didn’t read at all in the first two months, and waited until two weeks to the exam before you start reading. Having it in mind that passing the course is a necessity, what do you think would happen to you?
Obviously, you will be overwhelmed, because of the so many things you need to learn and commit to memory within a short period of time. You will become confused and feel overwhelmed due to the pressure to pass the exam and the need to cover all the recommended textbooks, without which you may end up a failure.

This applies to your finances, and coping with your needs. It applies to reaching certain milestones in your life. When you get to a stage in life, and you don’t have what it takes to live up to what the society expects of you at that age, you will feel overwhelmed.  Just imagine a 28 years old man, who neither has any skill nor formal education. He’s broke and still living with his parents. At his age, he ought to have left his parents’ house, and be independent, if possible started his own family. If such a young man is to consider how his life ought to be against the reality of his condition, how do you think he’s going to feel? He will definitely feel overwhelmed.

Also Read: 8 Strategic Ways to Deal With Self-Doubt

How to guard against feeling overwhelmed

What is the way out of feeling overwhelmed?

If you have ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed about challenges or tasks. There are two basic ways to handle it and each method is determined by whether you are currently feeling overwhelmed or you are trying to prevent it. The way out can be divided into two, Reactive and Proactive method.

1. Reactive Method

As the name implies, it means how to react or manage feeling overwhelmed when you are having the experience.  When you don’t have enough resources at hand to meet certain challenges or tasks, there is really nothing much you can do. When you are in that state, focus on the things that are really very important, and sort them out first. Leaving other things behind may have it consequence, you must accept to live with those consequences in the now. The consequence is the punishment for your lackadaisical attitude towards your life or things you ought to have done.

2. Proactive Method

“Prevention,” they said “is better than cure.” One major habit that often put us in the state of feeling overwhelmed is the habit of procrastination. We often fail to plan and prepare ahead of time, but prefer the “fire brigade” approach to issues. And in most cases, we are left confused and overwhelmed by so many things that we need to do within a very short time.

The key to avoiding this is to engage in strategic planning. We have to plan ahead of time, so that we would be able to prepare for certain future event that must take place in our lives.
A young man for instance, who have not develop relevant skill to earn will find it difficult to cope with adult life. In adulthood, he would need to be independent, but how will he cope without money when he gets to that phase? He would have to struggle, doing all sort of menial jobs so as to enable him to cope. He would feel overwhelmed with the financial demands that adulthood brings.

Also consider an adult who has worked all his life and make no preparation for retirement. What do you think would happen when he retires? Definitely, he would feel overwhelmed by the challenges of coping with life after retirement, but assuming he has put things in place before then, there wouldn’t have been any problem.

The best way to handle feeling overwhelmed is to learn to prepare ahead, and learn to do things when they ought to be done.
If feeling overwhelmed has been the order of the day in your life, you have to crush the habit of procrastination. Learn to plan ahead, and implement your plans.  
Next time you want to procrastinate, remember the word of Christopher Parker:
 “Procrastination is like a credit card: It is a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
In your finances, always save against the raining day. Stop waiting to act until problems come. Prepare and work ahead of time to ensure that you are not cut in the web of having to do so many things within a very short period of time.  If you can effectively apply this, you will experience more calmness, ease and peace of mind. You will rarely have any need to feel overwhelmed.

Live consciously and take charge of your life.

Over to You

Why do you think we feel overwhelmed and how do you think it can be tackled? Feel free to share your knowledge with me and other readers in the comment section.

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  1. Excellent post! Very thought-provoking and even guilt-inducing in some ways. I can identify with feeling overwhelmed in a few areas, but I still try to focus on the positive and take proactive steps to overcome negativity.

  2. Hi k.Lee Banks,

    Wow! The adjectives you used in rating my post are amazing. Feeling overwhelmed is what we all experience but we can make a difference by taking charge of our lives. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Well-written article and solid advice Taiwao. I'm a bit obsessed when it comes to organizing so for me the #1 way to prevent overwhelm is planning and effective priorities. But there's another factor, and that's to leave ourselves a buffer zone because every once in awhile we'll find ourselves blindsided by an unexpected detour. It isn't good or bad, it's just life. A good analogy would be like if you leave for that important meeting 15 or 20 minutes early you're far less likely to stress out if you hit unusually heavy traffic. :-)

    1. Hi Marquita,
      Thanks for your wonderful contribution.Just as you suggested, planning and effective priorities are great ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed. I feel leaving a buffer zone for ourselves is still under planning. Thanks once again

  4. Great post. I find that being overwhelmed is a symptom. For me I refocus and eradicate this,symptom by stepping into the present moment and letting all the disruptive rubble slip away. If it means taking baby steps again, so be it. I never liked giant steps anyway.


  5. Great post. I find that being overwhelmed is a symptom. For me I refocus and eradicate this,symptom by stepping into the present moment and letting all the disruptive rubble slip away. If it means taking baby steps again, so be it. I never liked giant steps anyway.


    1. Hi Paula,
      There are times I have applied your strategy, it works. Thanks for contributing to this post.

  6. Hello Taiwao, It is so easy to get overwhelmed here online! Everywhere you go people are trying to push something on you.. Buy This, Get That!! I think it is so important to just keep those blinders on so to say!
    Great Share My Friend
    Chery :))

    1. Hi Chery,
      When you are being distracted by so many things, the best thing to do is to focus only on what matters. Do away with things that won't add value to your life.
      Thanks for commenting here.

  7. Overwhelm is not the most pleasant feeling, but it is also not the end of the world. And if you see them as an opportunity to practice, to learn, to get better, then it can actually be good news. It is your teacher, and this is your time to be mindful.

    Rachel Lavern

    1. Hi Rachel,
      You are right. Feeling overwhelmed is the outcome of past mistakes, mostly procrastination. The experience can teach us what to do and what not do to.
      Thanks for commenting.

  8. Love these tips for what to do if you are feeling overwhelmed Taiwo!! So important to learn how to fix that feeling of overwhelm :) Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Joan,
      I am glad to know you learned something by reading this post. Thanks for dropping your comment

  9. Everyone at some time experiences circumstances that are out of our control, which disrupt our normal living/work patterns. However well we plan ahead, the unexpected can come along. (illness of a close family member for example) So I like the way you talk of the reactive method as a way of dealing with such situations without feeling overwhelmed.

    1. Hi Sue Bride,
      It is very true that the unexpected do happen sometimes despite our plans.
      Thanks for your contribution to this post.

  10. Overwhelm is becoming more and more prevalent the more we rely on technology I think. We all need effective strategies for dealing with it in order to see success in life.

    1. Hi Ruth,
      Your comment is so on point. With so many technologies around, there are so many things calling for our attention which may make us feel overwhelmed
      Thanks for your contribution.

  11. Beautiful post.
    Yes, I am being proactive in the major areas of my life that matter - diet, fitness and business.
    I have eliminated many negative foods and after taking a 10 day Purium cleanse, I have decided to continue because after I stopped taking their delicious power shake, I realized I was starting to feel more tired. Even though I'm eating well, I don't always get the full nutrition and I just can't take a million vitamin pills each day.
    For exercise, I am determined to walk 1,000 miles in 2017 plus working out with weights and other exercise.
    For my business, I am speaking on numerous love and relationship virtual summits and I am in the process of getting ready to host my 3rd summit, Men and Love, which will go live on March 20th. So, while scheduling and doing my video interviews and creating the web pages for the speakers, today I sat down and finished listing my income (from different sources) for my taxes. I need to do that a little bit at a time, listing the various expenses, etc. If I wait until the last minute, on any of these goals, I will surely be overwhelmed.


    Dr. Erica

    1. Hi Dr. Erica,
      Thanks for taking your time to expantiate more on this post. You did a great job.

  12. Hi,
    Just this last week I have been totally overwhelmed by a completely unexpected turn of events in the care of my elderly Dad. We first of all had to fire-fight the immediate situation and then take steps for moving forward. Moving forward was looking impossible until we managed to identify 4 different options for him and he chose one. Hoping life can settle down again into its normal routine.
    I don't want to be in that situation again, but there wasn't really anything we could have done to prevent it, so we just had to react!
    Joy - Blogging After Dark

  13. Hi Joy,
    Sorry for what happened. When we are overwhelmed by circumstances, we can't really do much. The only option is to react. We can only handle the situation with what we have in our disposal, and manage it as much as we can.
    Thanks for your comment.