Listen up, we all get overwhelmed from time to time, it’s a common human experience.
But, what’s the cause?
Anything and everything from work to personal relationships to a combination of factors.
And when it happens, the feeling of being overwhelmed will manifest in various ways.
With that in mind, let’s look at 13 behaviors that people display when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Here we go:
1) They procrastinate
Do you know what I do when I have too much on my plate and it all feels like too much?
Instead of systematically finishing task by task, I put everything off, even the simple stuff.
And even though I know that procrastination will only make things worse and lead to more tasks piling up, I can’t help it.
All in all, when someone is overwhelmed in life, they tend to leave stuff for later. The hope is that things will be easier later and that they will feel less overwhelmed.
2) Their sleep patterns change
I don’t know about you but I can certainly relate.
When it all becomes too much I find myself tossing and turning in bed all night, unable to sleep despite being exhausted.
And when I finally fall asleep a bit before dawn, I have nightmares.
Being overwhelmed can definitely mess with one’s sleep.
And while some people will struggle with insomnia and nightmares, others will find themselves sleeping too much.
In short: Feeling overwhelmed can lead to sleep disturbances which can, in turn, impact one’s overall mood and cognitive function.
3) They’re irritable
In my experience, being overwhelmed definitely makes us more prone to frustration and irritability.
- We’re stressed because we’re physically or emotionally overwhelmed.
- We’re tired because we’re unable to sleep.
- We’re worried about what will happen if we don’t manage to do everything on time.
It’s no wonder that little things that we’d normally brush off suddenly annoy us.
4) They withdraw
Another sign that someone is overwhelmed is that they isolate themselves from their friends and family, and avoid socializing.
- They have no time for fun and games.
- They’re tired and irritable and in no mood to socialize.
- They’re sick of people offering useless advice on how they can unburden themselves.
But here’s the thing, while social withdrawal can provide a temporary escape, in the long run, it will only make one feel isolated and lonely.
5) They forget stuff
I recently found myself so overwhelmed that I was forgetting things like taking my medication!
You see, I rescued a puppy from the street. And as great as that sounds, it was a full-time job – like taking care of a baby.
I had to take him out to do his business every few hours – day and night – and feed him and make sure he was doing okay.
On top of that, I had to walk my two grown dogs and play with them, work, cook, clean, buy groceries, take my grandma to the doctor…
I barely had time to sleep.
So guess what – I would forget things.
I would leave the stove on or forget to take my daily dose of meds!
6) They go through an emotional rollercoaster
When it all gets too much, it seems like it’s never gonna ease up, like things will be that hard forever!
That’s certainly how I felt with the puppy, especially when it started to bark non-stop and make a mess around the house.
I was desperately trying to find someone to adopt it so I could get back to my normal life but no luck.
I’m not gonna lie to you, I cried a lot.
I felt so alone…
Well anyway, that’s how it is when people get overwhelmed by life. They’ll have outbursts of anger, sadness, or frustration, sometimes seemingly out of proportion to the situation at hand (I mean, it was just a puppy).
This emotional rollercoaster can be confusing for both the person experiencing it and the people around them.
7) They experience physical symptoms
Did you know that being overwhelmed can take a heavy toll on our bodies?
The stress and anxiety someone feels can manifest themselves as headaches, stomachaches, back pain, and muscle tension.
These physical symptoms serve as a reminder that emotional well-being and physical health are closely linked.
There’s actually a very interesting book on the subject called The Body Keeps the Score if you wanna learn more.
8) They overeat or undereat
Another sign that someone is overwhelmed in life is that they change their dietary habits.
Some people will eat too much or eat unhealthy foods, while others will skip meals and say they have no appetite.
Personally, I fall into the first group – I’ll turn to food for comfort when I’m stressed, depressed, anxious, or sad.
These eating habits are definitely not the best way to cope with things. Which brings me to my next point…
9) They neglect self-care
When someone is feeling overwhelmed, self-care often takes a backseat.
As I already mentioned, they may overindulge in foods or skip meals, but they may also neglect exercise, stop engaging in hobbies they once enjoyed, and even skip doctor appointments (who has the time?).
This neglect will keep them feeling exhausted, depleted, and pretty much overwhelmed in every sense of the word.
10) They seek constant distractions
When it comes to being emotionally overwhelmed, a lot of people look for a way to escape.
You’ll find them constantly looking for distractions.
They’ll binge-watch TV shows, spend hours swiping on social media, or days playing video games – anything to avoid facing their feelings.
I’ve definitely turned to TV to distract me from negative feelings on more than one occasion.
The problem is that while distractions provide temporary relief, they’re a form of escape and don’t address the problem.
11) They have a hard time making decisions
Decision-making can be stressful, even when you’re not overwhelmed.
I mean, what if you pick the wrong option or make the wrong decision?
What if it leads to a disaster?
And when you’re overwhelmed, it becomes even more difficult to decide, everything seems so complicated.
It can be hard to make even the simplest decision – like what to wear to work!
Trust me, this can be frustrating and paralyzing and hinder progress in various aspects of your life.
12) They neglect responsibilities
I don’t do this but I can certainly understand why some people would neglect various responsibilities when they’re overwhelmed.
Okay, I lied, I do neglect some stuff – like cleaning the house!
But it makes sense if you think about it.
When you’ve got too much on your plate, you’re not going to prioritize chores, are you?
13) They’re sensitive to criticism
Finally, the last sign that someone is overwhelmed by life is that they become hypersensitive to criticism, even if it’s constructive and well-intentioned.
And yes, being so defensive can put a strain on one’s relationships, but from the perspective of the person being overwhelmed – they’re just doing their best and they feel like they’re drowning in a sea of problems.
Someone may think their constructive criticism is akin to throwing the person a life vest when in fact it feels like they’re pushing them under the waves.
The bottom line
Being overwhelmed should not be taken lightly as it can have serious consequences on one’s behavior, mood, and overall well-being.
If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone you care about, it’s important to address the problem.
Talk to someone you trust – a friend, family member, or therapist, and tell them what’s going on.
Unburden yourself and let them help you find a way to cope with whatever is making you feel so overwhelmed – be it physical or emotional.
*Oh and if anyone is wondering what happened to the puppy – after two and half months of being fostered by me I finally found him a forever home!