5 steps to reducing your overwhelm

Overwhelm can affect us all. Sometimes it can be a one-off moment or a short episode of overwhelm. Other times it can be an almost constant presence. This article aims to guide you through the steps to take to reduce or resolve overwhelm and how to invite a calmer approach moving forward.


If you are ‘in’ overwhelm, you might notice some or all of the following:

  • Negative thought patterns towards yourself – you may have thoughts that you’re not good enough or ‘Why do I even bother? I can’t do anything right!’
  • Worst-case scenario or doomsday thinking – you may catch yourself thinking that the situation is never going to work out or that you’re never going to be able to make progress.
  • Doing nothing – you may well notice you are overcome with procrastination, feelings of not knowing which way to turn, you may even feel physically frozen or ‘stuck’ to the spot, unable to move.
  • Lack of focus – are you finding yourself flitting from one task to another and not really starting or finishing anything?
  • Going into overdrive to try and organise other things – you are feeling unsure of what to really do, so you turn your focus to other things like tidying, getting your finances in order, list making, messaging friends, scrolling on your phone – it’s all about the distraction from the discomfort.
  • Feeling emotional, perhaps agitated, tearful, frustrated – like you want to ‘get out’ of the situation you feel trapped in – this might show up as snapping at others or finding yourself with a shorter temper than usual.
  • Physically feeling tense - you notice a headache, furrowed brown, tight throat, your jaw might feel clamped and your shoulders tense and raised a bit up to your ears – it’s normal in overwhelm to feel antsy or aggravated in your own body.

5 steps to support you in reducing your sense of overwhelm

1. Awareness

The first thing is to notice the state you are in, simply to become aware. Once we are aware, we can act. If we are unaware or choose to ignore how we are feeling, then we are resisting it and it will surely persist.

2. Take a deep breath 

Once you have recognised you’re in overwhelm take a long, slow, deep breath, making the exhale longer than the inhale – repeat three times at least – before moving on and trying to ‘do’ anything, we first need to ‘be’ with the feeling and sensation and begin to regulate our nervous systems.

3. Recognise how it feels

Recognise, verbally or in a journal, that you are experiencing overwhelm. You can write, or state out loud ‘I see that I’m experiencing overwhelm right now, that’s OK, it’s safe for me to hold this feeling’ – just notice how different it begins to feel when we have acknowledged the feelings and sensation

4. Practice mindfulness techniques

With overwhelm, our nervous systems are dysregulated – an excellent practice to come back to the middle is ‘havening’ – which is essentially giving yourself a lovely cuddle or self-soothing touch, whilst intentionally slowing down your breathing with your feet flat on the floor. Or try other mindfulness techniques such as engaging all your senses - five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch/feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. By now, you will feel much more grounded.

5. Change your environment

Now the overwhelm has reduced, perhaps it’s a good idea to walk away and change the environment for a few minutes before coming back to move forward on what you want to work on.

How do I stop myself returning straight to overwhelm?

Notice that you may have become overwhelmed for one of many reasons:

  • The task at hand felt too big and you didn’t know where to begin.
  • You didn’t know how to do the task and felt unable to ask for help or unsure who to ask.
  • The task isn’t really aligned with you and it’s not something you really want to be doing.
  • Something bigger is happening in your life and your stress bucket feels full.
  • Some of your basic needs are not being met e.g. hungry, angry, lonely, tired (H.A.L.T) and so generally things feel overwhelming.

It’s helpful to identify which of these, it may well be a combination, or perhaps it was some other reason why, before you try to get back into being productive.

If the task felt too big, breaking it down into more manageable, time-bound tasks, can be game-changing, you could ask yourself what 1% closer to getting it done would look like.
If you didn’t know how to do the task, it could be that you need to identify which information you need to find out before you can move forward easily and how you can find that information.
If it’s not something you really want to be doing, then work to understand what is within your control when it comes to not having to do this/re-routing the way you are choosing to do things.
If you find yourself often experiencing overwhelm, not knowing which way to turn, procrastination, angst and agitation, working with a coach can be so supportive for feeling in control and empowering you to know which way to turn. If this article resonates with you, then book in a free discovery call now to see how I can support you.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Peterborough, Cambs, PE6
Written by Emma Humphrey, Wellbeing & Mindset Coach and Dynamic Hypnotherapist
Peterborough, Cambs, PE6

Emma holds a distinction-level diploma in personal performance coaching and is a dynamic hypnotherapist. Emma help's women who are ready to let go of all that doesn't serve them & to heal so they can live life more fully & purposefully, embodying the truth of who they are and to experience more love, joy, freedom and abundance.

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