How to Overcome Being Overwhelmed

When you feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges it can cause a cascading breakdown in your capacity to cope with life.  It can cause some people to shut down completely where nothing gets done at all. 

Overwhelm can cause arguments, panic attacks, anxiety, health issues, self-destructive behaviors, and even thoughts of suicide.

When you are overwhelmed, it can feel like trying to swim up a waterfall.  You expend a ton of energy and feel like you’re making little to no progress.

If you are experiencing overwhelm in your life, try some of these ideas to help you put overwhelm behind you.

Identify the Problems

Make a list of everything in life that is causing you overwhelm.  Finances, relationships, parenting, health, job stressors, schoolwork, etc.

Under each category list what is currently happening and what it would look like if that area of your life was “solved.”  What would need to happen in each category for you to lose the feeling of overwhelm and instead feel like you’re riding on top of the wave?

Make a Plan

Take your list, and for each item on the list, make a reasonable plan to get from A to B, from feeling stressed to feeling strong.  Here are some examples:

  • Health: Current situation is pre-diabetic.
  • Goal:  Get to an A1C of 5.7% or below.
  • Plan:  Analyze diet.  Cut back on carbs and sugar. Find snacks that are high in protein instead of sugar.  Take a 30 minute walk every day.  Stop drinking sodas and juice and drink only water.

Then repeat for the next area of your life that is overwhelming you.

Check Your Progress

Periodically, perhaps every week or once a month, check your progress in each area.  If your plan isn’t working, adjust the plan.  If the plan became overwhelming on its own, make just one change instead of many.  It doesn’t matter if you are running forward or inching forward as long as you’re making progress.

Make a To Do List

Before you close up shop for the day, make a to do list of what you’re going to do the next day that moves you forward on your plan.

For example:  

  • Go shopping and get salmon and chicken for the week.  
  • Reach out to Sharon and see if she wants to go for a walk on Tuesday evening.
  • Make an appointment with my doctor for 3 months from now to check progress.
  • Fill 8 water bottles for the day.
  • Put almonds in small snack bags and keep some in my car, purse, and at my desk.

Making a to do list helps you prioritize tasks that are important to you and your goals.

Set up Support

Set up a support system for yourself.  This might be getting a gym membership or hiring a personal trainer, going to a dietician once per week, or making a walking schedule with a friend who is working on their own health goals.

If you experience overwhelm with parenting, find other parents and trade some babysitting so you can enjoy some time to yourself once per week.

If you’ve got overwhelm at work, have a work buddy or a friend with whom you can vent or discuss problems that come up.

If you’ve got overwhelm in your relationship, think about setting up some counseling with a therapist who can help you, or both of you, sort through some issues in the relationship.

Pull other willing people into your plan so you have accountability, emotional support, or good old-fashioned physical help.

Consider Releasing Some Things

If you can’t get on top of your overwhelm, take a hard look at your list of issues and goals and see if maybe you’re biting off more than you can chew.  It’s okay to put a goal on the back burner so you can focus on one or two things at a time.  

Make a conscious decision to let go or to save for later so you stop feeling pressure about a certain area and agree to just let it ride for now.  Then it’s not rearing its ugly head anymore, it’s just going to be addressed later.

Overwhelm can take a joyous life and make it feel stressful and out of control.  Don’t let overwhelm control your thoughts.  Identify, make a plan, put it into action and periodically make sure your plan is working.  Soon your life will be running smooth as silk.

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