overwhelmed by life

What to do when you’re overwhelmed by life

So, you’ve popped in here because you’re overwhelmed by life? Well my dear friend, I’ve got news for you – you are not alone. No matter how good life is, it will inevitably become stressful. That’s the way it is. And it’s pretty great because it’s like that. I mean, you can’t really appreciate the good without the occasional bad. Life gets too busy, too stressful, and too overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t handle it. You’ve handled everything else up to this point, you can handle this too. But if you constantly feel like life is kicking your butt, there are ways you can combat the overwhelm.

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Identify what’s overwhelming you

To be fair this seems obvious. And you’re probably sitting thinking, “everything is overwhelming me – that’s just my life”. I get it. I also get that you’re probably very wrong. Anxiety, overwhelm and all those stressful feelings have a way of blowing everything out of proportion.

overwhelmed by life

So you need to take control back from your emotional side and put the reasonable side of you to work. What is the root of your overwhelm? Is your to-do list too full? Have you said yes to too many commitments? Has an encounter with someone really upset you so you’re trying to ignore the situation? Until you get to the root reason for your overwhelm, you’ll just be putting a band aid on something that needs more attention to heal.

Make a list

Yeah, you probably already have ten or so lists floating around. I know. But try writing one extensive list of all the pesky thoughts floating around in your noggin. All the to-dos, the errands, the things you should be doing, and the little nagging thoughts that are upsetting you. I call it a brain dump.

Once you have a very overwhelming list in front of you, throw it away *note, do not actually throw it away – recycle it, obviously*. Or get yourself a handy dandy reusable notebook like this one. (You get to microwave it and reuse it over and over)! Yeah, I’m serious. Part of the issue is overthinking and focusing too much on these little things. You got them all out and gave them their moment to be acknowledged. But your list probably isn’t reasonable or fair to you. And you are a human being. You can’t do everything.

Now, make a second list that’s actually practical. Categorize it however you want – by importance, by the area of life it affects, whatever – and then start plugging away at it.

How do eat an elephant? One bite at a time.


Take a moment

Take a hot second to breathe. Put yourself in a time out if you need to. Remove yourself from the situation, take a deep breath, and take a moment to calm yourself.

Adults are simply toddlers that have been taught more expectations and understand how to act in different settings. You have a toddler who is super overwhelmed *hem, which usually looks like a temper tantrum hem*? You remove them from the situation and give them a time out. And then they calm down and get their heads out of their asses for a bit. Adults are the same. Give yourself a time out. Get a snack and take a breath.

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Acknowledge your physiological needs

Speaking of taking a pause, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, pause and think about your physical self care needs. When our bodies are out of whack, we tend to get our emotions all mixed up too. Which is part of the reason why Hanger exists. So if you’re freaking out about everything that needs to get done, ask yourself if your body needs anything. Take a nap, hydrate, have a snack, or take a quick walk. Overwhelm can often be combated just by listening to what your body needs.

It’s only 4 things!

First of all, look at this tweet…

Second of all, take a moment to realize how wonderful it would be if we all could think like this little girl. Well, we freaking can! If you’re so overwhelmed, simplify the problem. Things may be hard, they may not be easy to accomplish, and it might take a lot of your time to get it all done. But when you break it down to a 3 year old level, things aren’t all that awful. It’s only 4 things after all.

Evaluate the situation – are you being realistic

Often times we simply expect too much from ourselves. If you constantly feel overwhelmed by life, you might be putting too much on your plate. You might have expectations of yourself that you would never expect from someone else. We are often our own worst critics.

So ask yourself the question “am I being reasonable?” or “would I expect my friend/sister/colleague/etc to be able to do all of this in the amount of time I’ve given myself?”

Also, understand that life changes, sometimes in the blink of an eye. You may feel perfectly capable to do it all, but then you get the flu + your car breaks down. Or maybe you get into a huge fight with your mom about your life choices.

Possibly a great opportunity comes up and you just have to take it, pushing other things to the back burner. That’s okay. Let me say that again, that. is. okay. Life loves to throw a good curveball and by keeping your expectations reasonable for yourself, you’re more likely to be able to roll with the changes.

Manage your to-do list

I’m going to say this again and I’m going to say it loud. YOU. CANNOT. DO. EVERYTHING. You’re a human being. You only have so many hours in a day and so much energy you can expend. A to-do list of 1 billion and counting things to do is going to kill you.

manage your to do list

Keep your to do list to at MOST 7 things per day. 2 big things, 2 medium sized things, and 3 smaller less important things. When you put 30 things on your daily to do list you’re going to end up disappointed. The sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing your list, can help us type A women to feel less overwhelmed by life.

Plan + Organize

Plans are great for helping you out when you’re overwhelmed by life. Being organized is stressful times is a lifesaver. When you combine the two, you become unstoppable. Having an outline of what your day will look like and knowing where your keys are before you need them nips overwhelm in the bud before it even has a chance to blossom. When you have a general ideas of what to expect, those unexpected surprises don’t seem quite as overwhelming.

Remove some of the issues

When I was initially learning how to overcome that constant feeling of overwhelm, I procrastinated a bit by deciding to declutter. And by that I mean I got rid of probably 75% of my things. And boy, did it help me.

Sometimes outside stimulus just contributes to that feeling of being overwhelmed by life. Everything feels overwhelming and you feel like you’re trying to juggle too many balls. Your phone is always buzzing, making you feel like you’re being pulled in 100 different directions. You’ve committed to too many meetings this week when you promised your mom you’d do lunch too, making you feel unbalanced. Your house is always a mess because you have too much to do and too much stuff, which frustrates you when you can’t find anything (that was me).

Here’s a crazy thought….REMOVE SOME OF THAT EXTERNAL STIMULUS! Focus on what matters most right now and get your overwhelm under control. Saying no to things isn’t a bad thing. Rescheduling isn’t always the end of the world. Getting rid of all your stuff probably won’t kill you. Turning off your notifications doesn’t delete them. If you want to feel less overwhelmed, you’ve got to stop adding extras to overwhelm you.

Your cup is empty

You cannot pour from an empty cup. So you know what you need to do? Prioritize some self-care. Even the best machines need a tune up here and there. Also, by taking some time for you to recharge and relax, you’ll lower your stress hormones. Lower stress hormones = less stress = feeling less overwhelmed by life.

Self care doesn’t have to be long or hard to add to your busy schedule either. It can be as simple as taking a 5 minute break in between tasks to get a cup of tea or to stretch. It can be putting away your work at a certain time to allow yourself to relax before bed. It doesn’t always need to be face masks and bubble baths.

Your living too far ahead

Ever heard of destination happiness? If you haven’t it’s basically saying that you’ll be happy when…. You’ll be happy when you get your own place. You’ll be happy when you get that promotion. Or you’ll be happy when you fine “the one”. Well if you haven’t guessed, that doesn’t work out in our favor. Thinking too far ahead can sometimes just lead to extra (unnecessary) overwhelm and waste so many moments you can spend being happy now.

The big picture is a good thing to examine. Focusing on it and worrying about it all now isn’t going to do anything for you except add to your overwhelmed feelings. None of us know everything that is to come in our lives and the only power we have to control what happens is by taking it one step at a time. In other words, take things day by day.

Have a plan for your future but don’t expect every single detail to work out exactly how you want it to. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment and your taking all the spontaneity.


When you’re so overwhelmed by life all you want to do is get as many things done as you can as fast as possible. So, we end up trying to multitask. We respond to emails while trying to finish a proposal. We make the phone calls we need to do on our drive home. We clean our apartment and try and catch up on the shows we missed.

Stop. Multi-tasking has been proven over and over not to work. Being busy isn’t the same as being productive. When you’re productive, you get shit done. When you’re busy, you may get some stuff done but probably not as much and probably with way more stress.

Multi-tasking causes more of that stress because our minds are not physically designed to do it. By changing tasks so quickly and before each is complete, it disrupts the neural pathways. When these pathways are disrupted, your brain cannot function as efficiently as it can when focused on one task at a time.

In other words, by multi-tasking you are causing your brain stress. When your brain is stress, you’re going to be stressed.

Final thoughts…

When you’re overwhelmed by life it can be rather hard to figure out what to do to make it easier. Life is going to get busy. It’ll get stressful. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make it easier on yourself. So take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that you’ve got this, girl. Conquer today. Conquer tomorrow. You are in control to how you respond to the overwhelm.

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