Mental Health

Feeling Overwhelmed? Here’s What To Do To Cope.

Why You Feel Like This

Feeling overwhelmed happens to the best of us. 

That uncomfortable feeling you get when there’s too much on your plate, or when big or small inconveniences impact you in close succession - that feeling is normal. If you find yourself stifled by over-commitments or paralysed by obligations, this article is for you. 

When there is more input coming in than the output you can deliver, it’s easy to doubt yourself. Overwhelm can occur briefly or for more extended periods. However, feeling overwhelmed is not the same as being stressed; stress can be a good source of motivation (ie temporary higher adrenaline levels to complete tasks at hand) while being overwhelmed hinders you from taking the right action to handle the situation you are in. 

Common Causes Of Overwhelm

  • Excessive workload

Dealing with a lot on your plate? Or maybe you work in a high-stress environment? This can definitely throw you into an overdrive.

  • Trauma

Drastic changes caused by experiences (relationship issues, financial struggles,  life-altering diagnoses, etc) can alter your coping mechanisms.

  • Major life changes

Finding yourself in a new environment (moving to a new place, starting a new job, getting married, etc) can set you off into an overwhelmed state.

  • Lack of sleep

Not getting enough sleep significantly affects your ability to cope.

Everyone's ability to cope varies, and what overwhelms one person might not bother another. When you're overwhelmed, the way you respond to changes and challenges  can exacerbate the situation and make things worse. Feeling overwhelmed is  unpleasant, and the key is to quickly reset yourself so that you can recuperate and return to a manageable state. 

Here are four tips to help you calm down and deal with any scenario you're in the next time you're feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Stop what you are doing (No, really. Just stop.)

    Take just 5 to 10 minutes to pause, and if possible, remove yourself from the source temporarily to gain your footing. 

  2. Take a breath

    Literally. Take a deep breath. Maybe another. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to self-calm. 

    Shift the attention to your breath. Use your chest or stomach as an anchor to keep yourself present. Take notice of how your body feels as you breathe in and out.

  3. Observe yourself and your surroundings

    As you’re breathing, notice the sensations in your body (e.g., “I notice that I feel my neck is tense”). 

    If a thought comes and distracts you, don’t panic; observe that thought (e.g., “I notice I have a thought that I’m not going to meet the task deadline”). 

    You can also notice your emotions (e.g., “I notice I feel overwhelmed”). This process helps you to zoom out of your thoughts and refocus.

  4. Proceed

    Once you gain a little control of your current state of mind, choose the next best step for you. Maybe you’re sleep-deprived and need rest. Instead of pushing yourself to complete the task, take a nap.

Next Steps

Feeling overwhelmed is normal if it happens occasionally and you find that you can recover easily with a few of the self-care methods outlined above. However, not all overwhelm is created equal - and if you find that you cannot cope and bounce back, consider speaking to a professional mental health coach or practitioner. Naluri offers in-app digital health coaching that includes access to psychological support, as well as one-on-one in-person or virtual consultations with mental health practitioners that can tailor strategies and therapies to help you thrive. For immediate support, free counselling support is available around the clock via phone or WhatsApp. If you want to talk, we want to listen. 


- Amni Izam -

(Amni is a Naluri Mental Health Coach specialising in stress management. She helps people evaluate their lives across several aspects of their lives (work, home, emotional, and physical well-being) and develop positive coping strategies.)