Helpless, hopeless, pointless, shut down, exhausted and a deep desire to go on a semi-permanent Netflix binge are just some of the delights you can expect to experience when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelm occurs when you’re mentally and emotionally burdened by a situation or circumstance you don’t feel in control of and don’t see a way out of. It’s often accompanied by its party pals; procrastination, anxiety and worry making it a particularly unwelcome visitor.
I’d describe my own experience of overwhelm as ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees.’ A feeling that kept me paralysed in worry, overthinking and inaction, but when dealt with, directed me to change my life for the better.
As unpleasant as it is, overwhelm is often a sign that something (or a collection of somethings) in your life needs to shift. It’s a precursor to burnout and if it’s not checked and dealt with can lead to long term anxiety and depression.
That’s the bad news, the good news is that there are quite a few strategies you can implement to relegate overwhelm to the sidelines and get your life back on track. And, once you implement the strategies that work best for you on a regular basis, you’ll quite successfully be able to repel overwhelm in the future.
12 ways to reduce overwhelm
Acknowledge where and why you feel overwhelmed
When you take the time to stop and listen to your overwhelm, it’ll enlighten you. Perhaps you’re taking on too many tasks at work (hello people pleasers I see you), maybe the way you’ve been running your business isn’t working anymore and you need to change things up (that was my story) or could it be time to be brave and ask for some help around the house rather than trying to do everything all on your own.
Prioritise the urgent and important tasks
It’s really easy to get caught up with spending the majority of your time on urgent, but not really important admin tasks like replying to emails, or, as was the case for a couple of my coaching clients, individually replying to hundreds of Whatsapp messages a day (yikes!). Learning to prioritise your to-do list, implement automation systems and focus on the tasks that move you forwards is key.
Work on one task at a time
Multitasking is not a skill, it’s disorganisation in disguise. Start and finish one task at a time and you’ll get more done. This is especially important if you have ADHD, which leads me to…
If you want to get more done, you need to get rid of distractions. Turn off your notifications, close browser tabs and if you’re constantly interrupted by other people at work, put a sign on your door requesting folks to come back later unless it’s an emergency and someone is on fire.
Do you absolutely have to do all the things on your plate? Can you delegate some tasks to free up time? Sadly to my knowledge there are no medals being distributed for ‘doing everything yourself’, so don’t. If you have tasks you don’t want to do or can’t get to, can you outsource them to someone else? Sometimes throwing money at a problem is a big help, you might be amazed to find you can pay someone who loves to do the things you hate.
‘No’ is a complete sentence. If you can’t, don’t want to or don’t have time to do something a simple ‘no’ will suffice. You don’t need to justify yourself. If the thought of saying ‘yes’ to something makes you seethe with resentment, don’t do it. It’s better to feel guilty for a little while when you decline a request from someone than it is to be inwardly raging whilst you action said request.
Take regular breaks
You can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s really important for your own wellbeing and sanity to rest regularly. This might be as simple as taking 30 minutes to mindfully eat your lunch each day to going on a month-long holiday, either way breaks are essential for maintaining your sanity levels. Trust me, you’ll need many months to recover from burnout which is where you’ll end up if you don’t keep your overwhelm in check!
Learn to regulate your emotions
Training yourself to not only become aware of your shifting emotional state but to regulate and build emotional resilience is a game changer for breaking the cycle of overwhelm. I teach HeartMath which is a set of emotional regulation techniques (pop me a message here to find out more about this), you can also add daily meditation into your routine as well as self reflective journaling, EFT Tapping and yoga. Learning to regulate your emotions when you’re not struggling with overwhelm and its party of difficult pals will help you enormously if they do come knocking on your door.
Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about how you’re feeling. Negative emotions feel much, much worse when you’re trying to shove them into a dark recess of your mind and ignore them. Talking through what’s going on for you will be soothing, trust me. You’re unlikely to be alone in your feelings and the person you speak to might be able to help you. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.
Manage your time effectively
If you routinely finish a day feeling like you’ve achieved nothing, I’ll suggest you take a time inventory. Keep a log of how you spend your time for a week, how long tasks take, how often you’re scrolling on social media etc and you’ll likely spot some areas where you could free up some time. I have a FREE Time Management Masterclass here which will give you more tips to help you get a handle on your time.
Up your self care
Poor sleep or not enough sleep will have a huge impact on how you feel. The more exhausted you are, the quicker you’ll slip into overwhelm (podcast #7 is all about improving your sleep). Exercise and daily mediation are game changers if you can manage to make time for them in a crammed schedule (I know, this is a difficult one). It can feel really counterintuitive to slow down and make time for yourself when you’re overwrought, but it’s one huge way you’ll help yourself out of an overwhelm hole. I’m also a fan of mushroom and adaptogen supplements to boost brain health. Listen to episode #14 of my podcast for more on mushroom microdosing.
Get professional help
You don’t have to make big changes alone and it doesn’t have to take an age to get out of overwhelm and back on track. This might look like talking to your GP if you’re feeling so anxious or down that you can’t function. You might benefit from speaking with a therapist or psychologist and you’ll always benefit from working with the right coach for you.
Overwhelm is something that creeps up on you. In all likelihood, you’ll be trotting along managing the chaos of your life just fine until your overwhelm bucket reaches capacity, overflows and life suddenly feels like it’s all too much. If you can shift your perspective to view the arrival of overwhelm as a sign that it’s time to make some shifts in your life and to listen to it rather than try and fight it off, you’ll be back up and running before you know it.
If you’re stuck, I invite you to watch my FREE online ‘7 steps to getting unstuck formula workshop’ here and if you’re curious about how coaching can help you get out of a rut, please feel free to book a complimentary discovery call with me here.