How to cope with overwhelm

There’s a lot going on right now, so it’s not surprising many of us are getting overwhelmed more easily. The next time this feeling creeps up on you, try the following techniques and reclaim your peace of mind.

Look up and breathe

Go outside or head to your nearest window and look up. See the clouds, the birds flying by and remind yourself how big and beautiful this world is. As you look, breathe in for the count of four, pause, then exhale for the count of four. This can help give you some perspective while calming both body and mind. 

Have a brain dump 

Grab a pen and note down every to-do item swimming around in your head. Then group them together according to themes (such as work or life admin) – our brains love patterns and doing this can help us see the wood for the trees. 

Now it’s time to prioritise. As much as we wish we could, we simply cannot do it all. The next tip can help you prioritise and get started.

Use the 4Ds technique 

A time management hack designed to help you focus on what’s important to you, the 4Ds technique asks you to look at your list and decide what to delete, delegate, defer or do.

Delete – what can you simply delete from your list? Is there a ‘should’ on there that doesn’t need to be done or doesn’t provide value?

Delegate – is there a task on your list you could delegate to someone else? It can be easy for us to think we have to do it all but, by delegating, you may help someone else feel needed and encourage them to build new skills.

Defer – what can wait until another time? If it isn’t urgent but you’d still like to do it, defer it and let it go from your current list. 

Do – what can you start now? Is there a quick task on there to help you get the ball rolling? Starting with small tasks can help you feel accomplished and give you momentum.

Drop a ball

Many of us are juggling multiple balls at once and, sometimes, it’s not possible to keep them all up in the air. Is there an area of life where you can drop the ball temporarily? Could you order a pre-made birthday cake instead of baking one from scratch? Could you rain check on the weekly family Zoom call?

As author Nora Roberts said, “The key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic, and some are made of glass.”


If you’re finding yourself stuck in overwhelm often, you may benefit from some external support to create coping strategies and put boundaries into place to prevent overwhelm. This is something a life coach could support with. Learn more about coaching and find a coach today.


This article was originally published in Happiful Magazine (April 2021). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app.

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Written by Katherine

Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.

Written by Katherine

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