Feeling Overwhelmed? Here are 8 Ways to Restore Your Peace and Focus
What does it mean to be overwhelmed?
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Overwhelm takes stress to the next level where all of life’s demands build to a point that leaves you feeling frozen and uncertain of your next move.
When our current life situation becomes too much to deal with, it can show up in many ways like a constant low-level feeling of anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive worry, or withdrawal. Some even resort to self-medication as a way of escaping the pressure.
While we all have the potential to experience feelings of overwhelm there are methods to self-manage through the challenge in a way that helps you get focused and moving forward again.
- Name what is. Awareness is something we often strive for in our work with coaching clients because awareness is the starting point of change. Once you name it, you can begin to develop a strategy to manage it. Common feelings expressed in situations of overwhelm may include anxiousness, fear, inadequacy, confusion, isolation, anger and more.
- Know what you can and can’t control. Being overwhelmed can lead to a sense that you've lost control - a feeling that can create unnecessary worry and anxiety. Take a step back and give yourself space to look at the biggest tasks or situations overwhelming you. Ask yourself, “what can I control here?” and “what isn’t mine in this situation?” Here’s a quick and easy way to bring visibility to what you can and can’t control.
- Create two columns on a sheet of paper: (1) What I Can Control, and (2) What Isn’t Mine to Control.
- Make a list for each category and keep it somewhere visible. When you find yourself getting overwhelmed, look at your list and ask yourself, “Is this within my control?” If not, delegate it back to the person who it belongs to. If there’s no human owner, release it to the Universe.
- Keep focused on the things you can control and create small steps to progress in those areas.
- Build tech-free time into your day. We live in a world where – thanks to technology – we can be in touch with what’s happening anywhere on Planet Earth, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All this always-on information coming at us adds to feelings of overwhelm. Plan an hour of tech-free time each day. Silence notifications, close your email, put your phone out of reach and check out from the information overload that is daily life. Instead, cook dinner and enjoy it with family, read a book, have a face-to-face conversation with a real human, or take time to exercise and get out in nature.
- Know when to say no. The word “no” is your superpower. It helps you get really clear on what’s important and what’s not. When the world is piling requests and responsibilities on your plate, you have the power to decide which will make the most impact and what is the most meaningful. No comes in many flavors from “not right now” to “hard pass” and the gift of No is that it creates space and restores a sense of control.
- Get grounded. Grounding can shift your mind from the worrisome, stressful thinking of overwhelm to the present moment. Examples of grounding activities include meditation, sitting with and experiencing your senses as you name them (taste, touch, sound, sight, smell) or taking off your shoes and walking in the grass, literally connecting to the Earth. When those overwhelming feelings seem like too much, use grounding to change the emotional scenery and break the energetic connection to feelings of overwhelm.
- Clear clutter. Piles of random paper, books, clothing strewn on the bedroom floor and the accumulation of “things” you’ve picked up over the years can lead to subtle physical overwhelm. Clutter blocks the flow of energy in your physical environment which can lead to stagnation, lethargy, and anxiety. Let go of the things that are just taking space, organize papers and documents, and keep your surroundings clear of clutter to create breathing space and restore creativity and flow.
- Stay connected. It can be easy to withdraw from the world in moments of overwhelm. This strategy can bury you deeper in the situation as you ruminate and swirl on overwhelming thoughts. Instead, reach out to a friend, co-worker, or family member – the more the merrier. Connect with other human beings and talk about what’s going on. Enlist them to help you uncover some different perspectives and brainstorm ideas for how to manage the situation in a way that takes unwelcome stressors off your plate.
- Get expert advice. I’m a fan of mental health. If you find that overwhelm is taking over your life in a way that you can’t seem to manage or get through, know that it is more than okay to seek help of an objective professional. Therapy can help dive deeper into root causes of overwhelm that may have their start in past traumatic situations. In fact, coaching and therapy often work well together in helping people get more of what they want out of life. If you feel stuck, seek help.
While life’s stressors have the potential to make a challenging situation even more difficult, the good news is there are ways you can self-manage through times of overwhelm. Use the tips above to start exploring what works for you when it comes to restoring your peace, focus and productivity.
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