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“I Can’t Take It Anymore” – What to Do When You Can’t Go On

Do you ever get the feeling you’re in way over your head? That it’s simply all too much? Are you desperate for peace and relaxation, but nothing could seem further away? It’s perfectly normal to think “I can’t take it anymore” in these situations, and it can even be helpful. This article explains why it’s such a common feeling, why we rarely express it and what you can do when you’re at the end of your tether.

“I can’t take it anymore” – you’re not alone with this thought

Many of us know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. Whether at work or in private life – sometimes it all becomes too much. But maybe you think you’re the only one who feels this way. Why does it seem like everyone else is holding things together? You’re struggling, while your colleague seems to be managing everything just fine. You feel hopeless, while your neighbour always seems so chipper. When you ask “How are you doing?” you rarely hear anyone say: “Lousy. I can’t take it anymore.” But the thought and feeling of being overwhelmed is far more common than you think. It’s just that in mainstream Western culture, we don’t talk about it.

Why we so rarely talk about it

Higher, faster, stronger. We live in a society that usually focuses on achieving as much as possible – preferably as quickly as possible. That makes it hard to say “I can’t take it anymore”. After all, we don’t want to show our weaknesses to others. We even refuse to entertain the thought or we brush it aside. But although it’s not a welcome guest at the party, this thought is actually trying to help us. It’s like a warning signal, an alarm function. It wants to protect us. It cries out: “Stop! You can’t go on like this!” In the stress of everyday life, this voice gets drowned out. But the emotional strain remains.

“I can’t take it anymore” – a common sign of depression

If you keep on hearing that cry of “I can’t take it anymore” for more than a couple of weeks, accompanied by other symptoms such as low mood, losing interest in your activities or feelings of hopelessness, you may be suffering from depression. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide. Sometimes, concealed behind the feeling “I can’t take it anymore”, are thoughts of ending your life or the wish to not go on living. When nothing seems to help and you can only see one way out. More than half of those suffering from depression have felt tired of life or experienced suicidal thoughts.

What can you do if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts?

If you are thinking about suicide, tell someone how you are feeling and seek out support. These thoughts are a common symptom of depression. Depression is very treatable and getting help is not a sign of weakness – quite the opposite in fact. Talk to your doctor, psychotherapist or psychiatrist. There’s also a German helpline you can call anonymously around the clock (0800-111 0 111). You can find international helplines in other languages than German here: International helplines provided by Telefonseelsorge.

If you are in an acute crisis, have suicidal thoughts and don’t know where to turn, you can go to a psychiatric clinic for help at any time of the day or night. Alternatively, you can call the crisis line (Kriesendienst) in your area or the ambulance service (112).

“I can’t take it anymore” – a common sign of burnout

You just can’t seem to clear your desk. Tasks are piled up to the ceiling. You feel drained and exhausted. Burnout describes a state of permanent exhaustion. “I can’t take it anymore” is also a typical thought when going through burnout. Your mind feels foggy, your concentration wanes – with the upshot that you can’t get as much done as before. You try to cope with the workload by putting more effort and more hours in. Paradoxically, your productivity drops even further and your stress level increases. So you become caught in a vicious circle. Why is that?


The story of the woodsman

A woodsman went into the forest with his axe and began chopping down trees with great gusto. On the first few days, the trees fell swiftly. But as time went by, the work became heavy and laborious. In his efforts to fell as many trees as before, the woodsman had to work twice as hard and slave away until late at night. Even so, he found that he was getting less and less done with each passing day. Irritated by this, the woodsman redoubled his efforts to up his output – but it was to no avail. A man came walking by and watched for a while as the woodsman hacked away, drenched in sweat. Then he asked: “My good man, I believe your axe may be blunt. Wouldn’t it make more sense to sharpen it and then carry on working?” The exasperated woodsman looked up from his work and snapped at the onlooker, “I’ve no time for that, I’m too busy cutting!”

What can you do when you’re running on empty?

The axe in the story is your body and your mind. If you use them continuously without taking rest, they can become “blunt”. You can “sharpen your axe” by taking time out, relaxing and doing something you enjoy.

Take time for rest

Be sure to give yourself sufficient downtime to create a balance between work and leisure. Allocate time each week for your interests, like cooking a delicious dinner or reading a novel. When you think, “I should be doing something right now”, remember: you are doing something! You are sharpening your axe, you are boosting your well-being, your health and even your productivity – by relaxing.

To have small moments of relexation throughout the day, you can additonally try the easy breath relaxation we introduced in our article on burnout prevention.

Talk to other people

Think about how you would feel if a friend told you they were feeling overwhelmed and said, “I can’t take it anymore.” How would you respond? Most likely you would offer them some comfort and encouragement.

Confiding in others is not always easy. Especially if you feel like it’s all too much for you, while everyone else is “functioning”. However, if you’re open about it, you might be surprised how many people understand and even share similar feelings.

Get professional support

If your troubles and thoughts like “I can’t take it anymore” persist, we recommend that you seek support from a professional. You are not alone with these feelings of being overwhelmed. Conditions such as depression or chronic fatigue can be treated. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one approach that has proven to be particularly effective.

Online courses for depression and burnout

Online courses have also been shown to help reduce symptoms. For example, we at HelloBetter have developed an online course for Depression Prevention and another for Stress Management. Among other things, our courses support you in building restorative activities into your daily routine. By consciously recharging your batteries, you can diminish the feeling of “I can’t take it anymore” and become refreshed and revitalised.

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Our articles are written by psychologists and reviewed by psychotherapists.