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How to deal with feeling overwhelmed

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

We are all familiar with the uncomfortable feeling in our stomachs and the rapid breathing that accompanies feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes it feels as though our responsibilities are heaped high upon us and we barely have room to breathe.

Say hello to overwhelm. It’s a type of emotional paralysis in which you feel unable to handle or cope with your situation, and in my experience, it is often the root cause of feelings of anxiety and stress.

midlife woman dealing with feeling overwhelmed

"So how do we deal with the feeling of “I don’t know where to start” or “it all feels too much”.

Before we explore 5 simple tips that are sure to help you deal with feeling overwhelmed, it also helps to understand what triggers the emotional state of overwhelm.

What causes us to feel overwhelmed?

So why do we feel overwhelmed? If we figure that out we might be able to work out the best way to pull ourselves out of the soup when we feel like we are drowning.

The common causes of feeling overwhelmed are:

1. Saying Yes

This is often a real issue for women. The pleaser within us all may lead to us trying to please everyone, all of the time. Many of us struggle to simply say no! As a result, we may be compelled to say yes any time someone requests our help in some way. This can leave us with very little time and energy for important work and things in our life. If this becomes a pattern of behaviour we reach a breaking point with too much to do and end up both stressed and overwhelmed.

2. Control

Grasping for control over everything is almost certain to cause overwhelm to creep up on you. It comes from feeling no one else is good enough, no one else can do as good a job as you. In reality, you end up doing it all yourself and end up with too much on your plate.

3. Lack Of Planning

When you’re wanting to change your life in any way, or you just want to manage the life you have more effectively, it’s extremely easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t have a plan to follow. It is easy to get blown off course and get distracted along the way, often ending in overwhelm.

4. Lack Of Prioritisation

Similar to a lack of planning, not taking the time to prioritise your tasks leaves your thoughts and actions scattered in all directions.

5. Perfectionism

The deep desire to do everything perfectly, to a high standard, and at high levels of production or output, leads to an often impossible expectation to meet, which often results in a general sense of anxiety, stress and overwhelm.

5 Simple Steps To Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed

As a qualified UK life coach who has helped clients suffering from feeling overwhelmed, I find the following 5 simple steps regularly help them deal with that overwhelm and I am sure they will help you to clear your mind and relieve the pressure.

1. Breathe

The oldest and most effective starting point. Reduce that rapid breathing, slow yourself down with long, slow, deep breaths to address the fight or flight stress response in your brain. Always start by noticing your breath, take a moment to get centred, roll your shoulders back and pause.

2. Write It All Down

Often the best way to clear your head is to put all those chaotic, messy thoughts onto paper. When adrenaline is pumping and your heart rate is elevated, it is difficult to access rational thinking and problem-solving skills. When you write it all down, you take that feeling of angst and turn it into something quantifiable. Get it all out on paper, as it makes it easier to prioritise, delegate and delete!

3. Start Anywhere But Just Start

Overwhelm can cause a form of paralysis where you are just unable to get going, as you don’t know where to start. Look at the list you have written, look at priorities and select one thing. There is your starting point, enjoy crossing it off the list! Often just starting can have a big impact on reducing the paralysis and the feeling of overwhelm.

4. Do One Thing At A Time

The temptation to multitask when in a state of overwhelm is very attractive but it is unhelpful. Try to focus and not divide your attention as the completion of a task will help switch your mindset and you will feel positive as you cross things off your list. You could also set a timer and allocate a fixed amount of time to a task before starting something else.

5. Take Breaks

It may seem counterintuitive, but when you feel stressed, overwhelmed and anxious, taking breaks is very important. It enables you to focus on one thing, recharge and focus again. Trying to push through is not helpful, it leaves you depleted and tempted to multitask.

These strategies are short term fixes to help you regroup and move forward. We all feel overwhelmed at times, but if you notice this is a regular feeling for you, coaching can help you unpick the reasons, develop a plan and move you forward with a new perspective.

If you find this is a pattern of behaviour for you and overwhelm is a frequent cause of stress, it is a good idea to engage a coach to help you address that behaviour and put a plan in place.

About the author

Helena Bailey is a fully qualified UK life coach who specialises in coaching women, empowering them to successfully navigate midlife and everything it throws at women such as menopause.

As a life coach for women Helena has made it her purpose to spread the word that the world needs women who have realised there is NO rule book or blueprint for loving, parenting, living or working.

Helena Bailey midlife coach for women

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