15 Guaranteed Ways To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

feeling overwhelmed

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Is your to-do list raging out of control?  Will you lose your mind if someone asks you to do one more thing? Do you want to stop feeling overwhelmed?

You are not alone in feeling this way.

Feeling overwhelmed is a natural part of life. Everyone has been there at one time or another.

Modern life is increasing this feeling of overwhelm.

Matt Haig says in his fabulous book ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’

It sometimes feels as if we have temporarily solved the problem of scarcity and replaced it with the problem of excess.

He goes on to say

Everywhere we look people are seeking ways to change their lifestyles by taking things away.

Examples of this backlash to our overwhelmed word include sobriety, veganism and digital detoxes, as well as the growth in mindfulness, meditation and minimal living.

Symptoms which could indicate that you are overwhelmed:

  • mental health issues
  • irritability
  • feeling isolated
  • poor memory
  • racing thoughts
  • trouble sleeping
  • physical symptoms such as colds or stomach pains

Note – if you are suffering any or all of these symptoms on a regular basis, please make sure you get checked out by a qualified medical professional.

I’ve certainly experienced feeling overwhelmed and many of the symptoms in that list as a result.

This has usually been when I’ve felt I had too much to do, too little time and a lack of support. (Although I’ve since realised that I didn’t actually ask for support…)

Now here’s the thing, it doesn’t mean that your life is falling apart if you feel overwhelmed.

It simply means that your brain is trying to process too many things all at once.  And it just isn’t designed to do that.

So, what can you do to take back some control?  Well, I’ve done a bit of research for you and here are 15 Guaranteed Ways to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed.

15 Guaranteed ways to stop feeling overwhelmed

1.  Take Action

Sitting and dwelling on everything that could go wrong, rather than taking some action is not going to help.  You simply need to take one small step.  It doesn’t matter how small that step is, you will probably find that the situation changes quickly once you start taking some action and doing something.

Alice Boyes suggests in The Havard Business Review asking yourself ‘what’s the best action to take right now?’

It’s also really helpful to think of all the things you ARE getting done, rather than those that you aren’t.

Yolanda from Put The Kettle On also explains the importance of being present whilst we take action.  This can significantly reduce feelings of overwhelm.

2.  Relax

woman in bath with flowers

Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash

Take some time out to relax.  Try meditation, practice yoga or take yourself out in nature for a short walk.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation?  Claim your FREE  comprehensive 54-page e-Book ‘The Calm Mind’

Even just taking a few mindful, deep breaths can be enough to stop your mind whirring.

One of my favourite ways to relax is to take a long soak in a hot bubble bath.  Courtney from Elizabeth Mae agrees, saying that she tends to make time for self-care when she is feeling overwhelmed and will spend 30 minutes taking a bath or under her gravity blanket.

3. Journal

pink journal

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

I know many of you who read this blog are fans of journaling and find it useful.

Rosana told me that journaling is one of her strategies to reduce feelings of overwhelm, along with meditation and yoga.

You don’t need to have a fancy journal for this purpose (although I can never pass Paperchase without buying something) – any notebook will do.

I try to write in my journal daily.  Getting things down onto paper helps to clarify my thinking and stops things racing around my brain quite so much!

I also find it helpful to look back through my journal to remind myself how well I did actually deal with situations.

4.  Practice Gratitude

In my journal, I write down 3 things that I’m grateful for each day.  (Well, most days, I’m human and sometimes I forget!).

I’ve found this to be helpful for keeping things in perspective and realising all the good things I have in life.

5.  Help Others

This is another thing that can help you gain some perspective.

It doesn’t have to be anything huge (I know, you have limited time) but simply helping someone who is lost, or waiting and holding the door open for someone can take your mind off your own worries.

6.  Break That Task Down!

All those tasks on your to-do list can become overwhelming.  It can become so long that you don’t know where to start.

So, in order to get started a number of you told me that you break down the list, and the tasks on the list, into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Sarah also advises letting go of anything you can’t get done that day.  (This is something I find difficult, more on that in a minute).

Check out my review of the Ultimate Productivity Bundle which contains a whopping 26 printable packs full of planner and goal setting pages.  The Bundle also gives you access to a super course on Trello if you prefer electronic planning methods.

7. Let Go Of Perfectionism

If you are like me and have a huge to-do list, you may have to accept that you are simply not going to get all of it done!

I often fall into the trap of thinking that everything has to be perfect and I’ll set myself impossibly high standards.

Little by little, I’m starting to see those standards for what they are (i.e. self-imposed, no-one else is really expecting me to do all this stuff!)  Then, I can objectively look at what is realistic to achieve and let go of the rest.

8. Take A Break


feeling overwhelmed - take a break

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

The PhD Mummy suggests walking away and taking a 5-minute break from a situation.  I agree entirely with this. It can you give you a fresh perspective in a short period of time.

I often find the answer to a problem I’ve been wrestling with will pop into my head suddenly when I take a short break.

Technology is fuelling a lack of natural ‘downtime’.  We are always connected, always switched on.

Ask yourself, do you really need to answer that message right now or can it wait?  Even better, turn off notifications on your phone and have periods during the day where you don’t use technology.

Ideally, take one full day off a week.  Switch off all technology and spend time with friends and family instead.

9. Learn To Say No

This one can be difficult, particularly if you like to please people.

PsychCentral points out that learning to say no can earn you the respect of those around you.  They also give some handy tips for how to do this.  For example by remembering you are turning down a request, not rejecting a person.  They also suggest considering a compromise rather than giving an outright ‘no’.

Niki explained to me that learning to say no has been helpful in allowing more time to do the things she enjoys.


10. Sleep

This is an area that can suffer when we are feeling overwhelmed.  We de-prioritise sleep, using every hour instead to try and get on top of that to-do list.  This is counterproductive and can leave us feeling even more overwhelmed.

If you are struggling to get to sleep and stay asleep check out these 7 little known tips to help you sleep well.

11.  Check Expectations

Are you absolutely sure that email needs replying to at this very moment?  Did you check your assumption with the other person?

It may well be that your boss doesn’t actually expect you to respond to that out of hours message straight away.  It could be that they are simply firing off messages so they don’t forget later.

Don’t be afraid to ask when someone needs the thing they are asking for by.  It may be urgent, in which case at least you will know and can prioritise accordingly.  Or it may be that they don’t need it until next week and you can schedule the work for later.

12. Batch Tasks

After writing your to-do list, ‘chunk’ it into categories.  We aren’t built for multi-tasking.  Therefore, if we batch similar tasks together we are more likely to succeed.  Caroline Webb suggests some categories in the excellent book How to have a Good Day

  • In-depth thinking or creative work
  • Responding to emails and messages
  • Reading and researching
  • Meetings/appointments
  • Personal projects
  • Administrative tasks

Add your own categories to this list.  The key is to group similar tasks together.

Building on this, Dr Carolyn Cobb suggests tackling the thing that will have the most impact.  She told me ‘usually a few things control the most amount of worry’.

Best Health suggests picking some chunks which make you stronger to do first.  i.e. the things that you are good at and enjoy.

13. Get Your Systems In Order

In this video, Thomas Frank suggests carving out some time to update your filing and living systems to ensure they are serving you well.  He also advises spending time getting rid of clutter then re-establishing routines and habits which may have got lost along the way.

The full video is definitely worth a watch and explains more.

14. Go On An Information Diet

Shout out to Ruddy for sharing this idea with me.  We are constantly bombarded with new information.  There is no way we will ever have time to digest it all.  So, give yourself a break!

Unsubscribe from all those mailing lists where you never open the emails.  Have some time off from the internet and the news.  Removing all that unnecessary information bombarding you from every angle will then help you to see what’s left and to focus on what’s important to you.

15.  Ask for help

Remember people who care about you don’t want to see you fail, they want to see you succeed.  So, reach out to them for help if you are feeling overwhelmed.  You will be surprised at how many people will be happy to help you out.

Finally, remember that although people can feel overwhelmed for periods of time they can, and do, come out the other side. They bounce back.  As you will too.

Did you find these tips useful?  Have you got any other strategies you use if you are feeling overwhelmed?  Let us know in the comments section.

Check out these related posts:

How To Be Productive

Stop Worrying – 5 Tips That Really Work

The Ultimate Self-Care Gift Guide

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    1. Alison

      Thanks for stopping by. I think being aware of when overwhelm is creeping in is half the battle!

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Alison, thank you for sharing this tips! I believe feeling overwhelm is inevitable and it’s part of our life. However, learning to reduce and control this feeling is very helpful so we can cope up with daily challenges and obstacles in life. You have definitely listed all those helpful strategies to reduce or stop feeling overwhelmed, and thank you for sharing my strategy!

    Rosanna Lundberg

  2. Rudiano

    Very good tips! Especially the one about taking one small action rather than jostle desperately the issue in our head!
    I also like writing things down for that same reason. Some call it a ‘brain dump’

  3. Geraldine

    These are so helpful Alison!! I get overwhelmed too easily unfortunately. I think the steps that really help me calm myself down and get less overwhelmed is breaking the task down into tiny steps and focusing on one at a time. When you look up and you see how much more you have to go in front of you, it will get so stressful! I’m also a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to some things so it definitely works against any efforts to not get overwhelmed!!

  4. Sarah Clarke

    Thank you for including me, this is an excellent article and all of the advise helpful. I don’t know about you but I am constantly feeling overwhelmed trying to juggle EVERYTHING.

    1. Alison

      Thanks, Sarah, yes the battle is real on an almost daily basis for me too! I’m getting a bit better at letting things go…

  5. Marie

    Thanks for writing this. Lots of good ideas for everyone. I find that breaking a task down into smaller tasks is helpful. Also writing things down is a good way to get started on something that might be overwhelming because it helps you make a plan.

  6. Chloe Chats

    So many great ways to help the feeling of being overwhelmed, I also like to write down 3 positives down every day – I also forget some days too haha, but I find it helps me appreciate the day more especially if I’ve felt like I’ve had a bad day but I can still come up with 3 positives no matter how small they are! Fab post <3

    Chloe xx

    1. Alison

      Thanks Chloe, it’s amazing how there are always 3 good things, even on the worst of days 🙂

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