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When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

quote, kindness is acknowledging your overwhelm

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the kindest things you can do for yourself is to simply acknowledge how you’re feeling — without judgment or criticism or launching into a litany of shoulds (as in I should know better. I should do better. I should get everything done.)

Acknowledgment may simply look like this: Wow, I’m really overwhelmed. And that’s OK.

It’s amazing how liberating it can be to recognize our stressed-out state. Doing so conveys that you’re listening to your own feelings. You’re allowing yourself to be heard.

(Because if we can’t listen to ourselves, how can we expect someone else to? Or how can we empathize with someone else when we can’t even put ourselves in our own shoes and acknowledge our personal pain?)

Also helpful is to journal about your overwhelm. Overwhelm is murky, messy, big, overpowering. It’s a shadowy silhouette. A piercing tension between your temples. A range of emotions. A stomachache.

Overwhelm can show up in many ways, triggered by many things.

Journaling about your overwhelm helps you pinpoint it. Bring it into the light. Bring it down to size. And make sense of it.

Recently, I felt overwhelmed. I felt it all over my body. I felt a slew of sensations and emotions: tension, pressure, frustration, anxiety, anger. So I started writing. Quickly. Furiously.

I started every sentence with: “I am overwhelmed about…”

I just let all the feelings, fears, fury spill onto the paper. Quickly. Furiously.

I spilled, until the tension and frustration eased. Until I’d written specific reasons I was overwhelmed. Until I could pinpoint the overwhelm and minimize it.

Maybe this technique will help you, too.

Maybe you’d also like to go further. If so, take one thing that overwhelms you, and figure out what you’ll do about it.

Pick the biggest thing that’s weighing on you. Or pick the smallest thing, so you can solve it quickly and feel better quickly.

When looking at the stressor, consider if it’s something that can be changed externally (by changing your environment). Or internally (your inner world).

Maybe it’d help to adjust your mindset. Or meditate and genuinely take a break. Or maybe it’d help to move your body and get clarity on how to fix the situation.

Maybe it’d help to reach out and talk to the person who’s contributing to your overwhelm. Or relinquish several responsibilities or say yes to something you really want to do.

Overwhelm can seem big and dark and impenetrable. Acknowledge that you’re having a rough time. Reveal what’s bothering you in your journal. Then when you’re ready, consider the other kind and compassionate ways you can reduce that overwhelm and move forward.

What helps you in dealing with overwhelm?

When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2013). When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Nov 2013
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