What to do when feeling overwhelmed with life


Life gets overwhelming sometimes. Between work, school, social obligations, spending time with family, or supporting others, you will likely find yourself feeling overwhelmed. In order to manage a rush of overwhelming feelings, take a moment to stop and breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing or “deep breathing,” is defined as “an efficient integrative body-mind training for dealing with stress and psychosomatic conditions.” Deep breathing involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the belly, and deepening of inhalation and exhalation (Front Psychol, 2017). Focusing on your breathing will provide a temporary solution to overwhelming feelings. While these breathing exercises may be quick fixes, the source of these feelings needs to be addressed.


Acknowledge your feelings: The more you try to fight overwhelming feelings, stress, and anxiety, the worse they will get. It is important first to identify overwhelming feelings. Think:

  • Why am I overwhelmed?

  • Do I have too much on my plate?

  • Is there anything I can do to lessen my workload?


Ask for help: People may think it is a sign of weakness to ask for help from others, but delegating tasks that can minimize your to-do list and will be beneficial in the long run.


Create a “to-do” list and “don’t do” list:

  • Your alone time is valuable. If you are invited to an event, or someone asks you to do something you simply do not have time for, don’t be afraid to say “no.” Forming healthy boundaries are essential to ensure you do not overbook yourself.

  • Create a to-do list to get the overwhelming thoughts out of your head. Translating scrambling thoughts in your head onto a tangible piece of paper will allow you to visualize your to-do list.

Self-care: In today's society, it is sometimes believed we should not take time for ourselves. Adversely, think about the instructions you are provided on a plane before flying. If there is an emergency situation on a plane, you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. With this in mind, we must take care of ourselves before we take care of others.


Art Therapy Directive: You simply cannot pour from an empty cup. If you continue to give until you have nothing left, you will be left feeling empty. Try this art therapy directive that targets taking time for yourself:

1. Draw a cup of your choice (it can be any type of vessel such as a vase, coffee cup, etc.)

2. Inside the vessel, draw what you need to "fill your cup.”

3. Ask yourself the following: What did you draw in your cup? What does this type of vessel mean to you? How do you keep your cup full? Do you feel that people/ activities take away from keeping your cup full?


Wrote by:

Erica Savello

Creative Arts Therapy Intern


References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

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