Why Do We Feel Overwhelmed and How it Can Affect Us

Feeling overwhelmed is something that everyone goes through from time to time but being overwhelmed can also be a symptom of generalised anxiety disorder

People who have an anxiety disorder will feel overwhelmed more often than those who do not have an anxiety disorder in most cases. This makes it important for those with anxiety to learn to manage their feelings of being overwhelmed so that it does not affect their daily routine. 

What Does Being Overwhelmed Feel Like?

When someone with anxiety is feeling overwhelmed during intense anxiety, their brain moves chemical resources and triggers chemical responses in the areas of the brain that are perceived to be most vital or important. 

People who are overwhelmed can have trouble concentrating, be unable to focus, have uncontrollable emotional responses such as crying, or experience a complete hopelessness. 

Panic attacks can also happen when someone is overwhelmed. Panic attacks make a person feel doom, like they are suffering from something terrible or going to die. Other symptoms include:

  • Racing heart
  • Feeling weak or faint
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers
  • Sweating or having chills
  • Chest pains
  • Feeling out of control 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feeling of choking
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

People who suffer from severe panic attacks will experience four or more symptoms. 

What can I do when everything feels too much?

One thing that people who suffer from anxiety can do to control their feelings of being overwhelmed and possibly having a panic attack is to use mindful methods of calming their thoughts and getting control over their feelings. Some of these techniques include:

Grounding Technique: 5,4,3,2,1

This technique takes the focus off your symptoms and feelings and onto the outside world. Take a deep breath and look around you then:

  1. Name FIVE things you see around you. …
  2. Name FOUR things you can touch around you. …
  3. Name THREE things you hear. …
  4. Name TWO things you can smell. …
  5. Name ONE thing you can taste.

Sing a song

‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ works exceptionally well as it helps regulate your breathing while simultaneously helping your brain recognise that you’re not in fight/flight/freeze/fawn mode. After all, who sings nursery rhymes when they’re in real danger?

Move your body

Dance, go for a walk or jog, do some exercise or housework, go for a walk in the garden without shoes. Start to be mindful of your body including your breathing, the way each step feels on your bare feet, the wind against your face. Take note of the sounds, smells and temperature around you. Notice your body and the difference between when you first started, to what it feels like when you are moving. 

Reorient Yourself in the Present

Having a panic attack can break you away from reality. Ask yourself these questions: 

Where am I right this moment?

What suburb am I in?

What is the name of today?

What is today’s date?

What month are we currently in?

What is the present year?

How old am I?


Focusing on our breath is one of the simplest and most effective ways of returning to calm.

Try breathing in slowly and deeply for a count of 5, and then exhale slowly and deeply for 5 counts

Close your eyes and try imagining you are blowing a balloon. Take a deep breath to fill your lungs and blow into the imagined balloon slowly. Some people find breathing into a paper bag to be useful. Always remember to use your diaphragm and try to fill your core with breaths. 

If you find yourself overrun by intense emotions and are having difficulty with feeling overwhelmed to the point where your daily routine is being disrupted, you should consider talking to a psychologist that can help you diagnose any health issue you may have and begin learning to manage your feelings. 

If any of these words resounded with you and you would like to reach out, book in with use today and speak to one of our wonderful psychologists. 

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