7 Signs of Overwhelm and What to Do About Them

Getting my doctorate was overwhelming.  Surprising? 
No, not for most people, but it was for me.

I was the kind of person who rose to a challenge and loved working hard. 
That irritating person in college who had to get permission from the registar's office
to take extra classes each semester, handed everything in on time, got great grades,
and was happy about all that? 

That was me.

Had I known what the signs of overwhelm were, I may have been able to keep myself
from developing burnout, which cost me weeks of lost productivity, if not more.

So if you're finding yourself uninspired about the upcoming day or week or month, 
you may have figured out that you're feeling overwhelmed. 

However, the following signs of overwhelm may surprise you.

7 Signs of Overwhelm and What to Do About Them:

  • Anxiety
    Anxiety is all about the future.  If you feel anxious about all the work you have to do, you may find your heart and mind racing.  The fear of potentially not being able to do everything may be causing the problem.  Focus on doing one thing at a time.
  • Feeling Heavy
    Working all the time to catch up on the too much work you have to do may have you feeling the burden of overwhelm.  Start scheduling in something you love to do.  Life is more than work.
  • No Enjoyment
    Not loving a life and career that usually makes you happy is a clear sign of feeling overwhelmed.  Your brain needs time to process, and self-reflection will reveal the big picture and reconnect you to why you made your life choices. 
  • No Focus
    The brain needs time to process change and information.  If it doesn't get this time, you're not going to be able to focus since you're overloading your body's central processing unit.  Schedule breaks and commit to taking them.  
  • Stress
    Being stressed out long-term has serious physical consequences.  Get out of your chair every half hour.  Do some physical activity every day, even if it's only 20 minutes.
  • Physical Problems
    It's common for mental and emotional issues to manifest physically, particularly in the form of pain.  While it's important to go to the doctor for physical problems, you may want to ask yourself if they could be related to overwhelm and start slowing down and delegating your workload.
  • Mood Swings
    Stress will effect your hormones, and hormones can effect your mood.  Feelings like resentment, guilt, and anger may be signs of self-abandonment, resulting from continually ignoring your own needs or putting others' needs above your own.  Make sure to start setting and enforcing boundaries.


Dr. Nancy Williams is a music educator and leadership & life coach who specializes in helping overwhelmed leaders create cultures of joy and empowerment.  Grab her free guide "5 Steps for Overcoming Overwhelm" here.

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