7 tips for when you’re feeling overwhelmed

Here we go again, it’s one of those days. Surrounded by piles of papers, unanswered emails, and an ever-growing to-do list, stressed.


It’s like a heavy fog settling over my mind, clouding my thoughts and making it impossible to focus on anything but the mounting chaos around me. Meetings to attend, reports to finalize, calls to make – the list seems endless.

I try to prioritise tasks, but it feels like for every single one I check off, three more appear in its place. It’s like a tidal wave crashing over me, sweeping me away.

Every task seems insurmountable, every decision paralysing. Emotions are at full speed - anything can make me burst into tears or lash out in anger today. All I want is to hide under a blanket and wait until the day passes by.

Do you know what I am talking about? OVERWHELM 

Overwhelm is a result of feeling unable to cope with the demands and pressures placed upon you, whether they come from external sources or internal sources.

When overwhelm kicks in, our brain's stress response system becomes activated. This triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, preparing the body for a "fight or flight" response. 

The amygdala, a part of the brain involved in processing emotions, perceives the situation as a threat, even if it's just an overload of tasks or responsibilities. 

As a result, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and problem-solving, may become temporarily impaired, making it harder to think clearly and make rational decisions. 

The brain's attentional resources may become scattered, leading to difficulty focusing on specific tasks or priorities and contributing to feelings of stress, anxiety, and difficulty coping.

What causes overwhelm?

The complexity of modern life has surpassed our ability to keep pace mentally. Our professional lives have become more demanding, constantly throwing us into complex situations at an unrelenting pace. Balancing these with personal or family commitments can easily leave us feeling overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed can be triggered by all sorts of reasons. It could be a single big stressor or a series of challenges adding up. Too many tasks and responsibilities, big life changes, traumatic events, or fearful situations can all bring on that overwhelming feeling.

And some people just seem to feel it more than others. If you live with a neurodevelopmental disorder such as ADHD or ASD or a mental health condition such as PTSD or anxiety, you are more likely to experience overwhelm regularly.

And instead of taking a step back to understand why we're overloaded, our usual reaction to increasing workloads is to push ourselves harder and work even longer hours. This can make us less effective and leave us feeling even more overwhelmed. 

The key to reducing overwhelm is clearing the mind, letting go of some worries and relieving the pressure.

What can we do to manage overwhelm?

Here are some simple steps you can take to stop you feeling overwhelmed:

1. Figure out the root cause: Reflect on what’s causing you to feel stressed right now. Once you locate the source, you’re that much closer to finding a solution.

2. Get organised: Write stuff down, make lists, use a planner – whatever helps you keep track of what you need to do.

3. Prioritise: Figure out what really needs to get done right now and focus on that. Don't sweat the small stuff.

4. Break things down: If it’s a big project and the size of the task or project is overwhelming you, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

5. Delegate: You don't have to do everything yourself. Share the load with friends, family, or coworkers if you can.

6. Take a break: Sometimes, you just have to step away for a bit. Whether it's a quick walk outside or a five-minute breather with your favourite song, breaks can help clear your head and be more efficient.

7. Practise self-care: Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Set boundaries on your time and workload and plan in time for exercise, regular meal times and getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep will worsen your overwhelm!

It can feel impossible to escape when we are caught in a trap of overwhelm and to-dos, but there is a way out! By regaining a sense of balance in your life and taking small proactive steps to address overwhelm, you can navigate life's complexities with greater ease and well-being.

If you feel you need professional support with overwhelm, feel free to get in touch and book a complimentary clarity session with me.

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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London, Greater London, W4
Written by Anna Hofmann, MIM MBA - Career Coaching & Personal Transformation Coaching
London, Greater London, W4

Anna Hofmann is an accredited mindset and accountability coach based in West London. She helps women overcome their challenges and inner doubts, empowering them to proactively make positive changes in their lives.


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