Why Am I So Overwhelmed? 10 Common Reasons

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Too much to do, too little time.

Sound familiar?

If you’re feeling swamped with responsibilities and like you just can’t handle all the things on your plate, you’re not alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 18 percent of the population in the U.S. has an anxiety disorder – that’s approximately 40 million people.

While certain types of stress can be helpful (necessary, even), the chronic stress associated with our jobs and our modern-day lifestyles can take a toll on our health.

This type of stress has not only been linked to mental health issues such as anxiety, but also to a whole host of physical conditions including cancer, obesity, and heart disease.

It’s no wonder the World Health Organization calls stress “the health epidemic of the 21st century”.

The scientific evidence just confirms what you already know deep down to be true – it’s critical to address what’s causing your stress/overwhelm before it severely impacts your health.

So, let’s get to the root of what’s making you feel so overwhelmed! Everyone is different, but here are 10 of the most common reasons:

Why Are You So Overwhelmed?

1. You don’t have your priorities straight

why are you so overwhelmed

Overwhelm is often caused by not knowing what needs to get done versus what you can let go of.

Take stock of your to-do list. Which things must be done?

Before you answer, “all the things!”, remember that you are a human being, not a machine. You can do anything, just not everything all at once.

If you try to do it all, you will be jack of all trades, master of none. Starter of all projects, finisher of none. Planner of all goals, accomplisher of none … You get the idea.

So, you must decide.

What’s truly important to you?

Your time is your most valuable asset. It’s limited. And it’s non-renewable.

Which things are worth your time? And which things are keeping you from accomplishing those worthwhile things?

Once you figure out what’s most important to you and what you want to achieve, focus only on those priorities and let the other stuff go.

You won’t be so overwhelmed because you preserved your time, energy and emotions for the only things on which you can really afford to spend them – your priorities.

*Related post: How to Create a Personal Development Plan- The Ultimate Guide

2. You have the wrong mindset

I used to laugh at my ex-boyfriend when he said, “time is an illusion”.

But thinking back now, I realize he actually had a good point!

Our experiences in life are largely shaped by our perceptions. They are what we make them – there is no universal, objective truth. 

Things are only really “good” or “bad” because of the way in which we perceive them.

Hence, we all have different opinions, preferences and beliefs, and we all make different choices.

One of those choices has to do with why you may be feeling so overwhelmed.

The famous adage, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” really sums it up best.

If you look at the things on your To-Do list as chores, responsibilities, obligations then you will only feel more burdened by them.

But if you instead see them as things you “get to do” or “want to do” instead of “have to do”, then all of a sudden, they’re not burdens – they’re blessings.

How can you make this mindset shift?

1. Gratitude- Expressing gratitude for all that you have helps you to put everything in perspective. Being mindful and focusing on what you’re grateful for makes you realize what truly matters in life.

2. Your why- Remember what you’re fighting for. Your why gives you the resilience and motivation you need to persevere when the going gets tough and the courage to walk away when its time. It can also give you the insight necessary to change any limiting beliefs that are making you feel so overwhelmed.

3. You’ve got toxic people in your life

toxic people are overwhelming you

It’s hard enough trying to make it in this world without people pulling you down.

If you’ve got toxic people in your life, no wonder you’re so overwhelmed.

Not only are you dealing with your own stressors but you’re also having to deal with someone else’s garbage on top of it all!

For this reason, examine the people in your life.

Are they positive? Helpful? Supportive?

Or are they toxic?

Toxic people come in many varieties. For example, there’s the:

  • “Debbie downer”
  • Drama magnet
  • Emotional vampire
  • Hater
  • Narcissist
  • One-upper
  • Passive aggressive judger
  • Pretentious critic
  • Self-centered megalomaniac
  • User
  • … the list goes on and on!

    Part of the reason (if not the only reason) you are feeling so overwhelmed may be because these toxic people are sucking all your time and energy.

    So, recognize these toxic influencers for who they are and cut them out of your life for good.

    Life is too short to be fulfilling someone else’s agenda.

    Remember, you are supposed to be focusing on what’s important to you and what you want to accomplish. Protect your time, energy and emotions!


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    4. You don’t have enough support or you insist on doing everything yourself

    When you don’t have a strong support system, everything in life is more difficult.

    There’s no one to help you through your difficult times. No one to celebrate your victories.

    Over time, this can have an effect on your well-being.

    Even the most introverted of us needs support.

    If the people in your life are not willing to support you or help you in any way that they can, you may want to question whether they are worth having in your life at all.

    It's time to get rid of those relationships to make room for better, more supportive people that will help you to not get so overwhelmed.

    On the flip side, maybe you have tons of people who are there for you.

    Or at least, they want to be.

    The only problem is, you won’t let them!

    If you insist on doing everything yourself, sooner or later you will burn out.

    If you don’t feel comfortable assigning responsibilities to others, ask yourself why.

    Why don’t you want anyone to help you?

    Is it that you’re afraid they won’t do the task correctly? Is it that you think you could do it better?

    Remember, the more time and energy you dedicate to one task, the less you will be able to dedicate to another.

    So, evaluate your workload to see if there are any tasks you can delegate to increase your efficiency and help you to be less overwhelmed.

    Reasons You're So Overwhelmed

    5. You can’t say no

    Confession time.

    Sometimes, I have trouble saying no.

    Do you have that problem too?

    I think it’s usually because we’re scared that we’ll hurt someone’s feelings or that someone will think badly of us.

    But if you’ve been feeling stretched too thin, then saying no is something you’re going to have to be ok with.

    Because always saying yes and over-committing yourself will only lead to burnout.

    It’s up to you to set your own personal boundaries. Only you know what you can healthily handle and what’s too much.

    If you feel like your life is too chaotic at the moment, don’t say yes when someone asks you to add something else to your list.

    Most likely, they will totally understand. And if they don’t, oh well – you’ve only got this one, short life to live and you can’t afford to spend it on things that aren’t important to you.

    It helps me to remember that when I say no to something that’s not important, I am effectively saying yes to something that is.



    6. You’ve got too much clutter

    so overwhelmed due to clutter

    If your environment is cluttered, you might feel overwhelmed just from that physical representation of chaos.

    Don’t get me wrong! Clutter has its place - research shows that cluttered environments inspire creativity.

    However, if you’re trying to focus on something and you’ve got multiple stimuli in your immediate environment, you are forcing your brain to divide its attention.

    Your brain is not meant to multitask. When you force it to do so, it doesn’t work as efficiently. We become more distractible and less productive.

    If you’ve got a lot of unfinished projects around you, that can also add to your stress levels.

    And clutter makes it more difficult to find things, which in turn can make you late – all little things that can make you feel frazzled.

    Physical clutter is not the only kind that can accumulate. Mental clutter may also be to blame for your overwhelm.

    If you find it difficult to sleep at night or keep track of all the things you’ve got going on, try doing a brain dump.

    I do it all the time and it really helps to relieve the stress that comes with mental clutter.

    7. You’re a perfectionist

    It’s one thing to always do your best and take pride in your work.

    It’s another to feel like your value is only derived from achieving a certain goal or upholding a certain standard.

    If you have a habit of starting many things but not finishing any of them, perfectionism may be at least part of the reason why you’re so overwhelmed.

    Perfectionists tend to procrastinate or avoid certain challenges altogether if they feel like they won’t be able to have a “perfect” performance or outcome.

    They typically spend too much time trying to make everything just so according to their lofty (sometimes unattainable) standards and too little time actually getting things done.

    I love this quote from Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook: “Done is better than perfect.”

    If you’re a perfectionist, you might want to make that your new motto!

    Remember that the end goal is not the only thing of value – the journey, the process, experience regardless of the outcome is just as important, if not more.

    Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding failure. Like it’s something to be ashamed of or a reflection on our self-worth.

    But, it’s not. Failure is actually a badge of honor. It’s proof that you tried. It’s valuable information for your next attempt.

    There is no need to fear failure – failure is simply a stepping-stone to success. As Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.”

    8. You’re not taking care of yourself 

    self-care prevents overwhelm

    Your body needs fuel.

    If you’re not giving it what it needs, you will start to become overwhelmed because you are not able to function properly.

    You already know that you should be eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.

    But, you may not realize just how important self-care is.

    The mind-body connection is undeniable.

    The foods you eat have a direct impact on your mood. Certain foods can spike anxiety while other foods can calm you down.

    If you are not providing an outlet for all the stress hormones your body is releasing, they may accumulate in your body and eventually make you sick.

    And when you sleep, your glymphatic system clears out neurotoxic waste, nerve cells rewire themselves, blood is detoxified, muscle damage is repaired, and the immune system is regulated and bolstered.

    If you aren’t taking care of yourself in this way, you may notice that you reach the point of diminishing returns.

    Meaning, no matter how long or hard you work, you just aren’t seeing the results you used to. Feeling ineffectual in this way can certainly lead you to feel overwhelmed and burnt out.

    The solution is to start placing more importance on self-care. Your body is trying to send you a message, so listen.

    Especially if you're a HSP or empath, you need time to recharge. 

    Make time for yourself – you can’t pour from an empty cup.

    Here are some ideas for what to include in your DIY Self-Care Box.

    9. You’re spending too much time on social media

    In this age of information overwhelm, we have to be picky about which things we choose to put our time and energy into.

    Social media can suck you down a never-ending rabbit hole like nothing else!

    You intend to log on for a few minutes and next thing you know, it’s been hours and you have no idea where the time went.

    Not only that but seeing all those glorified snapshots of other people’s lives has really taken a toll on your confidence and happiness.

    Can you relate? If so, it might be time for a social media detox.

    Be conscientious about what you let into your mind. Be protective of your time and your emotional well-being.

    If you’re not sure how much time you are actually spending on social media (or watching TV), try tracking your time for a while.

    Over the course of a day or a week, make a note of when you log in to which social media platforms and when you log out. This will provide you with insight into where you should cut back.

    10. You’re not giving yourself enough time to think 

    breathe and think to prevent burnout

    When is the last time you did nothing?

    Idle time is regarded so negatively nowadays – like, if you have free time, you must be slacking, you could be doing more. You might even feel guilty or selfish for taking a break.

    But, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Constant busyness is counterproductive.

    Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you are accomplishing anything worthwhile. And just because you’re taking a break doesn’t mean you are not accomplishing anything worthwhile.

    Your brain needs down time to process information and recharge.

    Give yourself the time you need to think or else it’s just a matter of time before you'll get overwhelmed.

    If you struggle with doing nothing, try incorporating mindfulness into daily tasks like showering, eating, or walking.

    The more you do this, the more you will be able to find your calm during high-stress situations and the more you will be comfortable with doing nothing but living in the present moment.

    Taking a few moments to practice breathing exercises or yoga throughout the day also helps me tremendously when it comes to reducing my stress levels.

    When we are stressed out, we can fall into the pattern of taking shallow breaths from our chest.

    Instead, try inhaling deeply through your nose and allow your stomach to expand. Hold the breath there for a few seconds and then exhale through pursed lips. Remain still for a few seconds before beginning again.

    It’s amazing how much this simple practice reduces stress. So, whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, remember to just breathe.

    Over to you … what is making you feel so overwhelmed? Tell me in the comments!


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    About the Author

    Kalliope Archondis, JD, LLM. 👋Hi! I'm Kalli, lawyer turned freelance writer and founder of 3dsuccess.org, a personal development blog dedicated to helping you reach your goals and achieve your definition of success - without all the stress & anxiety. You can read more about me & 3D Success here.

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