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My 10-step approach to overcoming overwhelm

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

If you're anything like me (and if this caught your eye you probably are!) you are no stranger to overwhelm.

I go through significant periods of time where my mind will just not shut up.....ideas come flooding in and I can't keep up with them. I am excited about the creativity - I want to do everything now, but the overwhelm has me stuck and procrastinating, so I end up doing nothing, or things that aren't important instead.

Thankfully, I have developed ways to help me to move through this emotion - without burying it and letting it fester - and continue on with more clarity until it passes, which it always does.

I want to share this approach with you. So, here goes:

  1. Recognise the feeling of overwhelm. When you feel stressed/tired or indecisive, is it because you feel as if you have too much to do or that you can't handle what's happening?

  2. STOP what you are doing. And close your eyes and breathe - set a timer if you can, maybe for just a minute. The important thing is that you break the cycle of thought. If you are able to change location then it can add extra oomph - preferably outside - but if this is not possible it is not a problem.

  3. Get it all out. Writing it down can really help....just blurting out what's on your mind can really help gain some perspective. Or ask a trusted friend if you can have a rant....let them know that you don't require a response, just someone to listen.

  4. Know that it will pass. Think back to all the things you have worried about in your life, all those times you have felt overwhelmed. Are you still concerned about them now? No. Of course you're not! Because these things don't hang around forever. Think to yourself, 'Will this be an issue in a day/week/month/year/decade?' The answer is usually no. This thought can be really comforting. You could even use 'It will pass' as a mantra - see point 8.

  5. See it as a gift. I'm serious! Honestly, it's easier to be underwhelmed than overwhelmed. Isn't it great that you're busy/in demand/have stuff to do? Imagine having literally nothing to do! Sounds good? It would only be so for a short while.

  6. Ask for help. Delegate whatever you can. Get the kids to unload the dishwasher...ask a neighbour to pick up some can always repay favours at a later date.

  7. Take a break. This can be really hard to do, but it is really necessary. I have long thought the time when you need to take a break most is when you really feel as if you can't. Take at least half an hour. Just sit on a bench and observe the world going by/watch TV/lay in bed....just do nothing, no phone/laptop/tablet. You need to replenish your energy if you feel overwhelmed. I promise you it will pay off.

  8. Have a mantra. Develop a go-to manta for when things get too much - see afore mentioned 'it will pass' (point 4). One of my favourites is 'plenty of time', I say it over in head....there's all the time in the world after all! You could use any of the following: 'I'm OK', 'All in good time', 'I am calm and centred' - find what works for you. Write it down if it helps.

  9. Look after yourself. Self-care often goes out the window when we are overwhelmed...but it is vital when we have a lot on. Focus on enough sleep, nourishing food, hydration, getting fresh air etc. It can be so easy to push on through on mars bars and red bull - but it won't do you any favours! One or two is alright, obvs, just try and have some peanut butter on wholegrain toast and some herbal tea too!

  10. Prioritise. This is the system I use:

    1. On a large sheet of paper write down absolutely everything you can think of that you feel you need to do. When you have a pressing deadline, it's not uncommon to suddenly think how inadequate you are because you haven't cleaned the skirting boards for ages....which is more than a bit distracting! The key here is to get it all out of your head.....from urgent passport applications to sorting your sock drawer....whatever comes up get it down - no particular order.... you can even write down 'move to the Bahamas one day' or 'get a camper van' as well as 'buy a new toothbrush' - anything and everything!

    2. On another sheet of paper divide it into four sections - a, b, c and d - NB: the 'a' section will be the smallest and the biggest is 'b' usually

    3. Transfer all the items on your list into the sections as follows:

a. Important - can't wait

b. Needs doing sooner rather than later

c. Would like to do it someday, but it isn't crucial

d. Delegate

You have given yourself permission to forget about the b's and the c's for now, thus freeing up valuable head-space. You have an 'a' list to focus on.

d. Now, have another look and star just 2 things you are going to do next. These become your a* action points. And also, pick a self-care activity - perhaps escalating one from your b list and stick it in the the a* section. Because looking after yourself should always come first.

You should feel less overwhelmed now and able to get on with your a* tasks. Then, all you have to do is repeat the exercise daily, moving things up the list as you want to.

NB: It is important to take days off this too. Just forget any actions and just be! :)

If you have a go at any of these hints and tips above, or have some of your own to share, please log in and comment below....

Want to discover other ways to be well, balanced and wise? Join me on my next signature coaching course, Be True to You - the next one starts on Wednesday 8th September at 7.30pm BST.

Here are some reviews from previous courses:

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"I initially took part in the ‘Be true to you’ group coaching course and was surprised at how much I felt the impact of setting some time for myself and having things to work towards each week."

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