Why Men Feel Overwhelmed

Do you feel overwhelmed?

Has overwhelm been a familiar feeling throughout your life, or perhaps it is something that has arisen more recently? Either way, it can have a significant impact on your sense of well being, ability to engage with others, or even to remain effective at home, school, university, college or at work.

Why do men suffer overwhelm? There isn’t one particular reason but men can sometimes be particularly susceptible to feelings of overwhelm due to a high societal pressure to be the main breadwinner, to be responsible for the financial well being of the family or because of other expectations that they are trying to meet. Sometimes it can be the result of a combination of pressures all peaking at the same time. Overwhelm can be considered a form of stress or anxiety.

Overwhelm can be caused by the immensity of a particular situation, project, job or event that you are trying to engage with, or manage. The particular situation can seem so huge that you feel unable to move. If someone, for example, asked you to complete a list of 1000 tasks, there is a good chance that you might look at the request and consider it unachievable and therefore not actually engage with it.

We all experience overwhelm in different ways. These include, but are not limited to, a sense of anxiety, a numbness, a need to distract ourselves, a sense of fear, and physiological responses such as a drop or tightness in our bellies. Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed we can become critical – either critical of ourselves for not being able to manage, or critical of others. We are also likely to feel a strong sense of self-doubt.

Yourdictionary.com defines overwhelm as ”to make helpless, as with greater force or deep emotion; overcome; crush; overpower”.

The helplessness that we feel is often a core part of the experience of overwhelm. Because we feel helpless, we don’t even know where to start or how to move – hence we can feel completely stuck or out of control. When this feeling of helplessness combines with the feelings of responsibility that men are often groomed to feel, the results can be extremely challenging – because men often don’t understand feelings of helplessness or how to address them.

Telling someone that you’re feeling helpless is often not something you can imagine doing, because you’ve most likely learnt that you’re meant to be strong, resilient and able to handle anything. We can therefore try to figure things out on our own – which unfortunately can exacerbate the problem.

There are a range of different ways to overcome overwhelm, and some will be more effective than others, depending on whether it’s a short-term or long-term problem.

These include:

  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed about a project or task, it can help to chunk things down and just focus on the first one or two steps, rather than the whole project or task at the same time. It’s also important to be clear about the concerns that you can affect/change versus the concerns that you aren’t able to influence. If we focus a great deal of energy on things that we can’t impact, it can lead us to a place of overwhelm.
  • Ask someone for help. Having someone you can share the burden with can help to relieve a great deal of the pressure
  • Seek some professional help – particularly if overwhelm is a common theme in your life. A counsellor or coach that works with men will be able to support you to understand and address the patterns that lead you to feel overwhelmed
  • Practice saying ‘no’. This is particularly useful if we take on too much at the same time
  • Meditation practices have been proven to be effective in reducing a range of stresses and anxieties
  • Take time out – this could be for a few minutes or even a day or two. Sometimes approaching the situation fresh after a break can allow you to find a different perspective

When overwhelm leads to stress or anxiety it can begin to have negative impacts on your sense of happiness and wellbeing. Taking a small step to reduce that stress is critical. If you’re not sure where to start then make that first step a reaching out to someone who can help.


Harley Conyer



Category : Blog & Fatherhood & Featured & Manhood & Procrastination & Stress Reduction & Young Men

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