Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

I sometimes wish I could be one of those carefree, happy-go-lucky people, but the truth is I’m not. I’m always pushing to get to the next step and, in some way, make things ‘better’ than they are now. This can manifest itself in many ways, and one of those ways is my long to-do list for our new home. Sometimes my personality is helpful, because I’m proactive and hard-working, but it can also lead to becoming overwhelmed and burnt out.

It may be your personality, a big event in your life, or someone else pressuring you into things. Life is full of stuff and that stuff can pile up until you’re climbing a mountain so big you don’t know how you’ll ever reach the top. When you’re tired, how do you keep going?

Here are some of the things that help me when I’m feeling overwhelmed. What are some of your favorite tips?


Stop Feeling Overwhelmed


1. Make a List

There’s a trick used in writing where the author lets you fill in the blank with your imagination. This often happens in the horror genre, because the unknown is a lot scarier than the known. If something is unknown, it has limitless potential – and that goes for to-do lists as well as monsters.

Is your to-do list all in your head or have you written it down somewhere? My first step for overcoming overwhelm is to write down any tasks that I can think of. Getting them out of my head and onto paper often makes them seem easier to handle. You can get more information on this step in my post about managing to-do lists.

2. Break it Down

Did you write something on your list like “clean house” or “start new business”? Projects that are too big can be intimidating enough in and of themselves. Break projects into pieces small enough for you to handle. Mine would look something like this:

  • Clean House
    • Tidy
    • Wipe counter
    • Sweep
    • Do dishes

If those steps are still too much right now, break it down further. In this case, one option could be breaking it down by room. Remember you don’t have to climb that whole mountain at once; you only have to take one step.

3. Prioritize

Is there something on your to-do list that you really don’t need to do? You may want to do it, but is it really necessary and more important than your state of mind? I get stuck on this one all the time. I’m a planner with all kinds of things I would like to do, but not enough time in the day. I often use my husband as a sounding board at this point. His outside perspective helps me decide if something can be moved to a future date or forgotten about altogether. Decide which items are really important. Prioritizing helps you make sure the important things happen in a timely manner.

4. Act Instead of Think

The unfortunate truth is that overwhelm is really all in our heads. This article from Best Health magazine reminds us that “Worry and time have an inverse relationship.” So pick a task from your list and just do it! It can be the easiest one. Just taking action will help you feel better, and distract you so that you aren’t drowning in those overwhelmed feelings. And when you’re done that one thing, you can cross it off your list!

Overcome Overwhelm

5. Say No

Society tells us that we can have it all, but the truth is that some things naturally exclude other things. You are only one person, and if you have too much on your plate something has to go. Knowing your priorities makes it much easier to see what aligns with your goals and what doesn’t. Maybe that means sports practice gets replaced by family dinner. Maybe it means your house isn’t spotless but you were able to get your workout in. Cutting out some things creates opportunities for the things that really matter to us.

6. Delegate

Is there an item on your list that someone else can do? Delegating is hard because it means letting go of control, but it also helps build relationships. There was a lot of this in my childhood home, growing up with four siblings. Mom would write out a to-do list and we would all work at it until it was done. Things went quickly with that many hands to do the work! I don’t have kids to put to work yet (as I write this my first child is still in the womb) and I like to seem as though I have it all together so it can be hard for me to ask other people for help. This is one I’m still struggling with! If someone can help you with a task, reach out.

7. Give Yourself a Breather

In the midst of overwhelm it can be hard to break away from those spiraling thoughts, so this step may not be your first choice. However, giving yourself time to relax is important to your mental health overall. If you have followed some of the previous steps and start to feel better, it may be a good time to step away. Take a bath, play a game, go for a walk, etc. Coming back to  your to-do list later with a refreshed mind will make the work that much easier.

No Longer Overwhelmed

These are the tips that help me the most when I’m feeling overwhelmed. There is so much more we could talk about. In future posts I’ll go through specific tasks and how to make them as easy as possible so that they don’t take up so much precious mental space or time. Remember to take it piece by piece. You don’t have to know everything right now, only what you are going to do at this very moment.

 “It’s only when you add the battles of those two abysmal eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly complicated.”

Angel Chernoff

I try to fight yesterday’s and tomorrow’s battles all the time but all I can really do is today’s. Do you have a favorite tip on fighting feelings of overwhelm? Comment below to let me know and download my printable about overcoming overwhelm!

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I get overwhelmed often and I think I need to learn to prioritize what to work on. Thanks for the advice.

I hope you’re able to make progress with your overwhelm, Brenda. Have you looked into making multiple to-do lists? That way you only have to look at the tasks that are relevant at the moment instead of ALL of your future tasks. I talk more about this in my article on Managing To-Do Lists.

I always tell my clients that they have my permission to say “no”… I once struggled with it. But once I overcame it, it became easy for me.

It definitely takes practice. A lot of people naturally want to please others and so they have to think ahead to these situations instead of just reacting in the moment.

Great post, thanks for sharing. Sometimes one can be overwhelmed with the flow in life. its important know how to take care of it.

Thanks, Elizabeth! As someone who tends to put too much on my plate, it’s been a really important thing to learn.

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