6 Strategies to Stop Overwhelm Overwhelming You


Your to-do list is never-ending. You seem to keep adding more things to it than you ever cross off. You feel like Sisyphus, continually pushing the same boulder up a mountain.

You feel like there is so much to do that you don’t know where to start. So, you don’t start at all, which isn’t helping. And now your Shitty Committee is in full-flow and you’re criticizing and judging yourself for not doing more and being productive.

That’s overwhelm.

We’ve all been there.

One of the worst things about overwhelm is the downwards spiral that it takes you on. You get overwhelmed by overwhelm and frustrated by the frustration. How do you break that cycle and get some perspective back?

  • HALT. Life is always harder when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I forget to eat when I’m busy. Not only that, but I am continually amazed at how much better feel once I’ve had something to eat. Maybe you don’t drink enough or don’t get enough sleep. Not looking after these basic building blocks of our health and well-being is a sure-fire way to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. Make sure you’re fed, watered and rested…you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Or maybe that’s just me.

  • Have a nap or go for a walk. Don’t just sit there feeling terrible. You won’t just snap out of it and start getting stuff done. You need to stop and reset before you try to tackle things again.

  • Break big tasks down into small steps. I often find that I’m putting a task off because I think it will be really hard or I’m not sure how to do it. Breaking it into smaller pieces makes it much easier to face. There’s always a few bits of it that I know I can do easily and make some progress on. My mum always asks me “how do you eat an elephant?”, and of course the answer is one bite at a time [no elephants are ever harmed in this process].

  • Prioritize. What do I actually need to do right now? What can wait for another time when I’m feeling more focused? Where’s a good place to start? Will clearing the inbox clear my mind or will I just spend time feeling productive but not tackling the things that will make a difference?

  • Plan time for fun or relaxation. When I feel overwhelmed, I often notice that’s in the middle of several days with lots going on. If I can, I’ll see if I can squeeze something fun or relaxing in. But I find even just planning something for the weekend or next week is enough. Knowing that I have a break coming up can be enough.

  • Just do it . As Nike would say. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (it’s taken me 3 days to actually get this post finished after making some initial notes in the midst of my overwhelm). There are times when I won’t even have started a task because I’m worried about it not being perfect. And, of course, it is never perfect. If I could collect up all the time and energy I’ve wasted worrying about how to do something or how to make it perfect rather than actually doing it, I would have all the time and energy I’ll ever need. So, time for a cliché or, and they’re clichés because they’re true: done is better than perfect. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sometimes, you’ve just got to get over it and do something.