Listen to most people over forty talk for any period of time nowadays and you are likely to hear someone say they feel overwhelmed. We live in a society today that encourages overwhelment. We pack so many activities into our everyday lives; we rush from one place to another; we continue to acquire new possessions, some of which demand that we develop new skills to use them. And in order to maintain this lifestyle, which often doesn’t really make us happy, we need more; more money, time and/or support. When you feel this way on a regular basis you know that your needs aren’t being filled and you need to do something about it before it becomes a major problem. Although overwhelment can result from doing too much it usually has it’s roots in your emotions.

When you feel exhausted or stressed on a regular basis you could be going against your essential nature. Kelly is by nature a very placid, laid back type of person, and she worked in a job that required her to continually push herself. She was expected to meet short deadlines on a regular basis so she was always rushing and this meant that she was never able to work at a pace that suited her personality. As a result she felt chronically exhausted. Some of that exhaustion was physical but most of it resulted from her emotions. When she monitored her daily emotions she discovered that she spent a lot of her day feeling angry or resentful towards her employer.

I define overwhelment as a state we enter when we deplete all of our reserves and we are running on empty. Most of us can do this for a short while, the problem today is that many people are living this way on a regular basis and when we do this we have to live with the consequences. Left untreated overwhelment can become chronic fatigue and depression, or it can lead to the development of other health problems.

See if you can see yourself in one of the cycles mentioned below:

The cycle of a person who meets her own needs
Wakes up feeling good and is often excited about the day ahead
Can work very hard but takes regular breaks, even short one, to recoup
Schedules time on a daily basis for things she enjoys
Asks for what she wants
Says ‘no’ when unreasonable demands are placed upon her
Takes time for herself when she feels she has done too much
Works at creating balance on a daily basis
Eats healthy food and exercises regularly
Ends the day with energy

The cycle of a person who is overwhelmed
Does not look forward to the day
Often races from one thing to the next, or some days can’t do much because she is too exhausted
Keeps working with very few breaks
Feels like she is always pushing herself
Often feels resentful or angry
Spends a lot of time filling other people’s needs
Often feels she makes the wrong decisions
Feels frustrated so ends up doing something that bring comfort such as eating or drinking
Often grabs fast food
Stops and starts exercise programs
Falls asleep in front of TV
Ends the day feeling exhausted

Overwhelment usually starts out as tiredness. If we ignore the tiredness and continue to push ourselves through it we experience stress. Stress left untreated leads to a state of overwhelment. This is a low energy state that creates more of the same until we take the time to value ourselves and to trust.

In order to break the cycle you need to know what triggers the feeling of being overwhelmed. In the beginning it may have been a series of events, for instance you may not have spoken up when your boss made unrealistic demands and you never said what you really thought until it became a major problem. Or, it may be that as a mother you try to be superwoman, filling everyone else’s needs and forgetting your own. Once you are in the cycle however, any small event, like a tradesperson not turning up when expected, can set off a strong emotional response that is out of proportion to what happened.

You can break this cycle by filling your own needs if you know what they are. In Kelly’s case she left her job and went into a business of her own. To some people this may appear to be a choice that would cause her more stress but Kelly was sure it was the right choice for her as her new career enabled her to work at a much slower pace. When you fill your own needs you automatically move into high energy emotions, which in turn make it easier for you to achieve your desires.

Sometimes though it’s not that easy because you are so caught up in a cycle that you need to do something drastic to interrupt the pattern. I went through a stage where my daughter was very ill for a prolonged period of time and I felt absolutely overwhelmed by all of the demands placed upon me that I knew I had to do something drastic to change this cycle, so I went on holidays to Sedona in the U.S. I found about Sedona by typing healing places into the search engine on my computer. Sedona is located in Arizona and is American Indian territory. It is one of the most beautiful, and peaceful places I’ve ever been to. I needed such a contrast to my everyday life in order to gain some perspective. It was a magical trip and one that changed my life. I experienced a level of calmness I didn’t know existed and I knew I wanted to experience again. It was after this trip that I changed one of my being values to ‘calm’. Being a calm person is a lovely way to live.

That trip made me realise that I’d felt overwhelmed for years and I hadn’t been consciously aware of it. The way I chose to live my life allowed me very little time to be me. As a child I was very gentle, calm and easy going. As an adult the demands of my life meant that I was constantly juggling, multi-tasking and without realizing it this often made me feel angry and exhausted. Getting away from my normal routine allowed me to take stock and do some planning so I could get back to the real me.

One of the first thing I did was create habits and structures that supported me. That meant a little more work initially setting up and experimenting with new routines and new ways of acting but it was well worth the effort. I do not commit to anything now, even something simple like driving my daughter to a party, without thinking about the consequences for me. So I have developed the habit of saying, Let me think about it. My daughter now asks me to do something for her then says, ‘I’ll leave you to think about it’. I think about the consequences of every choice. This becomes a habit after awhile so it is not as onerous as it sounds. I reflect at the end of each day so I catch myself before I go too far off track and I deal with my emotions as I experience them.

When you acknowledge that you have control over your life and you stop blaming other people or luck for the situation you’re in, then you are ready to face your fears. When you do this you will find that you have one of three opportunities.

Author's Bio: 

Anne Hartley is the author of four books Love The Life You Live, Life Lessons, Love Your Money Love Your Life and The Psychology of Money. Anne also works as a life coach and trains others to be life coaches using her values-based approach. She lives and works on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia and coaches and trains students by phone anywhere in the world. If you would like to receive her free newsletter you can visit Anne’s website at or write to Anne at