Dealing with overwhelm

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
— Rumi

Sometimes you feel it coming. Other times it hits you out of the blue. The tightness in your chest. Shortness of breath. Fuzzy brain, like your trudging through your day with your head in thick white clouds. Inability to focus. Rising panic. Stone cold fear that you won’t ever be able to get through it all. 

You’re in overwhelm. That state where there is just too much on your plate. You have no idea how you will ever get it all done. And the consequences for failing? Not an option. It’s a truly horrible feeling. And the solution may seem like a total paradox. But stay with me.  

The first thing to do is to stop. I know, there’s the first paradox. To end the overwhelm we first need to step out of the busyness. It becomes a vicious cycle and we end up running around and around in our own unproductiveness and panic.  

So stop. And then, breathe. In through your nose and out through your nose. As your breathing starts to slow, extend your breath. Bring it down deep into your belly. Hold the inhale for a few counts and then slowly release, with a long exhale while counting to 2, 3, 4, 5.  

Now you are present. Your nervous system has kicked it down a notch. Your head will be clearing even the slightest amount. You regain the ability to focus. 

Now, walk away. Stand up and move away from the situation that is causing the overwhelm and anxiety. That could be your desk, your kitchen, a meeting, your lounge room. If you can, go outside. If not, find a quiet space. Come back to your breath. We need to get distance from the messiness. Walking away, even momentarily, provides enough of a break to get some perceptive. 

When you go back, sit down with clear eyes. Write down all of the things that are on your list, all of it. Now look at the list.

Make three categories; must do now, can wait, can remove/delegate/say no.  

How much is in the must do category? Check it again. Is it all absolutely necessary? Is it a manageable number of items? If the answer is yes, jot down the estimated time it will take you to complete each task in actual hours. If it’s an ongoing task, then count the hours per week.

When you add up the hours for your must do list you can easily see if you are in the realm of the possible or you’re living in a fictional land where there are more than 24 hours in a day. 

Be ruthless with this. What can wait until next week, next month, next year? What can you completely get rid off?

Less is more. Less projects. More outcomes. Less busyness. More productivity. Less overwhelm. More peace.

Mostly, we are the ones who put the things on our to do list, in one form or another. Take back control of your to dos. And take back your energy while you’re at it. Remember: stop, breath, walk away, make your lists.

You are in control. And there is great comfort in knowing that.  


I can breath through my overwhelm and take charge of my to-do’s.  


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Less is more. Less projects. More outcomes. Less busyness. More productivity. Less overwhelm. More peace.

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Photo Credit : Allef Vinicius


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