Ask Sam; How to stop feeling overwhelmed.

May 12, 2016 | Ask Sam, Well-being, Women at work

I often talk with people who are regularly feeling overwhelmed by everything that they have on their shoulders and in their heads. So many people are juggling numerous demands on their time and resources, and it can often leave you feeling like you don’t know what to do first and that you are doing nothing effectively. You can feel like you are sinking beneath a huge pile of things that need attention, yet unable to begin anything.

The definition of overwhelm is

1.bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something, especially water.

“floodwaters overwhelmed hundreds of houses”

2. have a strong emotional effect on.

“I was overwhelmed with guilt”

It can lead to you feeling stressed, and if it continues for long periods of time it can lead to emotional and physical burn out. There

You are not the only one to be feeling this thing

Someone in my Cup of Tea and Clarity group posted this scenario, asking for some pointers in how to move forward;

I have to confess my head is in a bit of a spin with all the things I have to deal with that of course are all happening at once….trying to get some perspective…it’s affecting my capacity to be Mummy, Daughter, reliable friend etc etc.

Are you reading this nodding your head, thinking ‘Uh huh that’s me!’?! I know that most people will have experienced that sense of drowning beneath the enormity of their lot. When you are in the grips of overwhelm, it can feel incredibly lonely and isolating. Often you will convince yourself that ‘no-one else will get it’ or ‘I’ve just got to keep my head down and get through’ or ‘I shouldn’t feel like this, everyone else has got their stuff under control’ etc. The fact is, everyone has times when life feels like it is overbearing and that they just want to hide under the duvet and shut the world out. You are not alone. You are not doing something wrong. You are human, and you have reached your capacity at this moment in time.

The good news is that there are some great ways to stop the overwhelm in its tracks, and start getting some clarity back into your life.

Simple steps to regaining some clarity

Here are a few steps that can help get rid of the feeling of overwhelm and welcome back the sense that you are being effective and have a plan;

Example of a brain dump to release the overwhelm gremlin

Example of a brain dump to release the overwhelm gremlin

Time to empty your head

Have a brain dump. It is always good to get all those thoughts out of your head. Whether it is on paper, on a note in your phone/tablet in your diary etc. Literally just get everything written down and out of your mind. Whilst they stay in your mind they take up so much more room and feel like insurmountable mountains; the Overwhelm Gremlin. Don’t try to organise them at this stage, just splurt them out! Once you see them in black and white, it can be easier to then start ordering them.

Getting some perspective and chunking it down

Whether you are feeling overwhelmed or not, the best way of tackling any to-do list or workload is to chunk it down into realistic, bite size chunks. It is also really important to decide which ones to just leave, which ones to get rid of, which ones to attend to etc.

  • What things are there on your brain dump that can be crossed through from the start? Is there anything that has been taking up head space that is out of your control, that you cannot do anything about?
  • What is the least important thing, that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get any attention for a while?
  • What is the most important thing, that really must be dealt with before anything else?
  • With the rest, take time to be realistic about your limits and demands, and set timescales that feel comfortable.
  • Finally organise them into a structured list, in whatever way works best for you, but make sure you are realistic. It is also really important that you then tick them off, cross them off or delete them when they are done.
Take some time to nourish yourself

As hard as it may be to do this when feeling overwhelmed, make some time for you to do something to nourish you – a bath, read a good book, take a walk – whatever makes you feel like you and like you are giving yourself a hug. This will help you then be able to tackle things. You cannot function effectively and have any resemblance of ‘being on it’ if you are running off depleted resources. Caring for yourself can be really flipping hard, but without it you will burn out, that’s why I’ve put together these 3 blogs to help you care for your needs.

Step out of it for a moment

There are times that can leave you feeling totally submerged and unable to function. This is when you need to literally get up and do something physical to move you out of that place. I know you are probably thinking, ‘does she not get this, I have no time at all, how the hell can she be suggesting wasting it right now?!’ I promise you, as counter-intuitive as it seems, stepping out of it will allow you to come back and regain some clarity. Whether it is doing some exercise that you love to release some of those feel good endorphin’s, going outside and paying attention to what you notice in the world around you (sounds, smells, noises etc), putting on your favourite music etc. Absorbing yourself momentarily in a physical activity will help to bring some clearer thinking.

Ask for help

This is something that can be really hard. It is so much easier to offer help to others, than receive it. It can bring up different challenges for people, ‘I should be able to cope on my own’, ‘I don’t want to be a burden’ etc. If your knew your friend or colleague was feeling like they were drowning under everything they were trying to juggle, what would you be thinking? Yep, you would want to see if there was anything you could do to help them out. So, it’s time to let people do the same for you. The help can be in lots of different ways – it might be delegating a task, or talking it all through (this often allows you to see things differently), or learning a new way. It will stop you feeling isolated and like you are the only one who can’t ‘just deal with it all’.

Remember, it is OK to not be OK

Next time, you are feeling like it is all too much and you are one step away from a meltdown you might not get back up from, remember that you are human. Allow yourself the kindness to breathe, take some time to regain some clarity and reach out to others, so that you no longer feel alone with it all. Everyone and everything has a limit, and it is OK to recognise you have reached yours.

You really are doing an amazing job!

If you’d love to get more support and encouragement to find ways to nurture your well-being and be confident in living life on your terms, join the community here


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