One of the reasons why people get and stay stuck is due to overwhelm.
And if you’re here, maybe that’s your case too.
You’re overwhelmed by things:
- you have to do
- you don’t know how to do
- you have no idea how to start doing.
When you feel so overwhelmed you can’t do anything, life can be nerve-racking.
It’s awful and I get you, trust me.
The good news is that there are simple solutions you can start implementing right away.
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to deal with overwhelm so you stop feeling paralyzed by it.
I’m pretty sure you think whatever you have to do to get unstuck is either too complicated or very time-consuming.
You’re overwhelmed because your list of to-dos feels impossible to tackle.
But don’t worry.
You’re about to start moving in the right direction.
Let’s start off with all the reasons that may be making you feel overwhelmed.
10 Top Reasons Why You’re Overwhelmed
So you think you’re feeling overwhelmed for no reason?
Well, here’s a comprehensive list of the top reasons that may be making you feel overwhelmed with life right now.
1. You have too much on your plate
You may be overwhelmed because you’re trying to bite more than you can chew.
Maybe it was you who put you in that situation by trying to take more than you can realistically handle.
Or maybe it was just life that threw a bunch of stuff at you at the same time.
The thing is: anybody in the world, no matter how efficient or productive they are, would get overwhelmed if their to-do list exceeded their capacity by a lot.
If you feel like you’ll never get everything done and you barely have time for yourself, you probably have a lot on your plate right now.
2. You’re multitasking
A study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively.
The rest of the people, when “multitasking,” are just rapidly switching between tasks, which isn’t efficient at all.
Pay attention to how you do things on a daily basis and try to notice if you multitask frequently.
Multitasking could end up:
- burning you out
- overwhelming you
- and increasing your levels of stress.
3. You’re not setting the right priorities
You can have a full plate and a reasonably long to-do list and still not get overwhelmed by it.
But that’s possible only if you know how to set the right priorities.
If not, you’ll end up juggling a bunch of things at once, without a set criteria about:
- what to get done first
- what to delegate or postpone
- and what to drop completely.
However, if you’re clear about what’s important and urgent right now (and why), you’ll be able to manage long to-do lists way more efficiently, and without stress.
4. You’re dealing with a difficult situation on your own
It’s common to feel overwhelmed if you’re going through:
- loss of a loved one
- or any other tough situation.
If that’s your case, the tips on how to handle overwhelm that I’ll share in this post may still be beneficial for you.
However, it’s important to note that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed if you’re going through an extraordinary situation.
Be kind to yourself and don’t expect to have it all figured out right now.
Take it one day at a time. This too shall pass. ❤️
5. You’re focusing on things you can’t control
Focusing on things that are out of your control can and will make you feel very overwhelmed.
The only solution? Let them go and focus only on the things you can control:
- your attitude
- your effort.
You need to change your focus if you’re worried about:
- what other people may think, feel or do;
- the outcomes of your efforts or plans, or the outcomes of anything really;
- how other people behave;
- the future.
If any of those sound familiar, you need to refocus your attention so you can concentrate only on what’s on you.
I know it’s easier said than done, but it all starts with self-awareness; the more aware you are of the fact that you’re worried about things outside your control, the more you’ll be able to let them go.
Make a list of the things that overwhelm you and notice if there are many you really can’t control, or that don’t depend on you.
And then, put all your attention on what’s in your hands.
Start small and you’ll get there eventually.
6. You’re not taking enough care of yourself
Taking care of yourself can look like:
- going to the doctor
- exercising and moving your body
- cooking healthy meals
- sleeping enough
- talking with people you love
- making time to do what you want
- going to therapy
- having hobbies that relax or entertain you
- taking time off.
Or anything that translates into you feeling better either physically, mentally or emotionally.
If you’re not making time and space to take care of yourself, you may feel more overwhelmed than you would if you did.
7. You’re not planning the right way
And by the right way I don’t mean the “only” right way; I mean the right way FOR YOU.
Maybe you’re trying to emulate someone else’s planning method because they swear by it, but it isn’t working for you.
Be honest about it: how do you feel about the way you’re planning your months, weeks, and days?
Is the way you’re getting through your to-dos really working?
Or are you just facing every new day knowing that chaos is inevitable and hoping for the best?
Life can get messy, yes, but there’s always an efficient way to handle it if you adapt your planning to your:
- energy levels
- amount of responsibilities
If you know your planning method isn’t working for you, then try different ones until you find (or create) the perfect one for you.
8. Your problems are bigger in your imagination
It’s common to overestimate or overinflate problems and tasks when you’re overwhelmed.
If there’s something you’ve been avoiding because it makes you anxious or it’s too difficult to do, you may start ruminating about it and making it bigger than it really is.
A quick (and, in my opinion, the best) solution to this is to just start.
More on that later.
9. You’re a perfectionist
This one’s one of the most common reasons why you may feel paralyzed when you feel overwhelmed.
It’s great to strive for excellence and have the goal of being or doing the best you can.
However, you may be confusing excellence (great) with perfectionism (not great at all.)
Excellence means doing the absolute best you can, using the resources you have.
It’s about giving it all, but not about being perfect.
Perfectionism, on the other hand, is:
- a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection; and
- imposing an unrealistic desire to be perfect on oneself.
Having such standards will always overwhelm you because they’re impossible to reach.
10. You’re not asking for help
Finally, one of the top reasons why you may feel overwhelmed is that you’re trying to handle it all by yourself.
Maybe you’re doing it that way because you think nobody can:
- give you the help you need
- make time in their day to help you
- do it the way you want them to.
However, there’s always something you can delegate and there’s always someone who can help (it doesn’t matter if you have to pay them for their help; help is help.)
How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed: 18 Things You Can Do Right Now
1. Just start
This is literally the best way to beat overwhelm.
There’s no other method that’s as effective and simple as simply starting.
Think about what’s making you feel overwhelmed, define the smallest step you could take right now and just take it.
Need to write a 300-page essay?
Create the document and write the title or the first sentence, no matter if you change it later.
I understand you want this thing you’re putting off to be fantastic in the end but it doesn’t have to be fantastic right from the beginning.
So, open a new tab right now and go do the thing, even if it’s a lame version of what you have in mind.
Just start and keep working on it; it’ll get better.
The best part about this strategy is that it’ll not only get you going, it’ll also increase your self-confidence.
Smart prioritization is the best foundation you can plan your day on.
No amount of fancy planning tools or complicated systems will ever replace setting the right priorities.
If you’re very overwhelmed right now, divide all your to-dos into the following categories:
a. Urgent & Important
b. Urgent but not important
c. Important but not urgent
d. Not urgent & not important
Important tasks vary from person to person, so you have to find your own standards.
The way I see it, “important” tasks are those that are really going to move the needle for you in any area of life.
To consider something important, it needs to bring value and make a difference for you.
It’s also those things you need to complete before moving to the next one in your path towards a goal.
Now think about all the things you need to get done and categorize them using the categories above.
Start taking care of what’s urgent and important, and delegate or drop what’s not urgent and not important.
3. Challenge your hidden beliefs
Maybe you’re overwhelmed because you have high standards and you want this thing to turn out perfect.
But now ask yourself…
What will happen if your work’s less than perfect?
What do you think others will think about you?
And most importantly, what are you going to think about yourself?
There are hidden beliefs behind perfectionism and I want you to take this opportunity to start uncovering them.
Ask yourself questions like the ones above or practice journaling to uncover your hidden beliefs.
Your own mind might be playing tricks that are stressing you out and making you feel overwhelmed.
4. Set boundaries
As I mentioned before, feeling overwhelmed might be a sign you’re not setting boundaries so you’re taking more than you can handle.
From now on, figure out what’s a priority for you (see point #2) and start setting boundaries.
To do so, help people around you, from colleagues to family members, know what you can and can’t handle.
Let them know what your priorities are and that you’ll be focusing on that first. And ask them for help with the rest.
5. Understand your limits
We all have different energy levels, skills, and capacities.
Some people can get more done than you and I in the same 24 hours a day we all get.
The trick is to always be clear about how much you can do and handle.
Take notes of how much time it takes you to do common tasks in your life and how many things you can juggle at once.
And then use that knowledge to plan out your days.
If you know that making breakfast takes you 20 minutes but making dinner takes you over an hour, then you’ll know what you can and can’t do before and after those meals.
For example, I know I’m rather slow when it comes to writing so I always give myself a week or two to finish articles.
That allows me to create high-quality content while also working full-time as a marketer and studying.
So, instead of trying to pump out one article a day (I know I can’t make that happen), which would only make them pile up and overwhelm me, I keep my skill sets in mind when planning.
Of course, it’s great if you want to increase your capacities and improve your efficiency, but you got to start somewhere, right?
And there’s no better starting point than your current best.
6. Set realistic expectations
This applies to both yourself and the people around you.
I’ve already been talking about how you should be clear about what you can and can’t do in a certain amount of time.
From now on, make sure you don’t overpromise what you can’t deliver.
Start off by becoming familiar with your own way of doing things (see point #5) and then make sure you take that into account when planning.
By being aware of your own skills and capacities, you’ll be able to set more realistic due dates for your projects.
7. Ask for help
You may feel that handling it all yourself is a sign of strength, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
If you’re overwhelmed because you’re terrible at delegating, it’s time to start working on that.
Start small by asking someone to complete a small task for you and build up from there until you’re able to completely delegate the responsibilities you can delegate to someone else.
And remember: paying someone to do something for you is also a way of asking for help.
When I started working full-time and studying while also running my business, I realized that getting help with house chores would make a huge difference in my schedule.
So I hired someone who comes to help with the cleaning once a week.
She’s been a lifesaver and her help makes it possible for me to reach my goals and dreams ❤️
See where you can get help and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Grab a notebook or a piece of paper and start writing about everything that’s making you feel overwhelmed.
You can make a list of things you need to take care of or simply rant about how stressed you are; it’s your call.
But I guarantee that putting it down on paper will make you feel a lot less stressed.
On top of that, it’ll give you clarity of mind so you can start prioritizing and get tasks out the door.
Here you can find lists of journal prompts that’ll guide your journaling in any situation.
9. Go for a walk
Go for a 5 or 10-minute walk around the block to get some fresh air and give yourself a breather.
While you’re out, listen to some music or practice mindfulness by focusing only on what you can see and hear.
Try to get your mind off of the things that are making you feel overwhelmed. Don’t even try to think about solutions while you’re out.
Studies have shown that going for a walk can help relieve stress, which can help you manage your to-dos more efficiently once you come back clear-headed.
Give it a try!
10. Talk it out
Contact a friend or someone you trust and just tell them you’re very overwhelmed.
It’s always a good idea to talk to someone and either ask for their advice or just take the opportunity to vent.
Just talking about all of this out loud may give you ideas on what to do about it, and your friend may volunteer to help you out too.
11. Practice some breathing exercises
If your stress levels are getting out of control and you can’t even think clearly, what you may need is to tackle that stress before you try to organize everything you have to do.
Research shows that changing the way you breathe impacts the way you feel.
Take 5-10 minutes to do some breathing exercises before you do anything else.
12. Block some me time
No matter if it’s 15 minutes or one hour a day or a week, make time for yourself regularly.
Even though making yourself a priority may feel impossible sometimes, it’s important you tell yourself that:
- you matter,
- you also deserve to receive at least a portion of the time you devote to other things,
- and that you’re worth it.
Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Devoting time to doing nothing or doing things you enjoy just for the sake of it will help you:
- relieve stress
- beat overwhelm
- increase your self-esteem
- be in a better mood
- increase your patience levels
- and even improve your relationship with others.
We all need to recharge and it’s important that you schedule time for yourself intentionally, instead of leaving it to chance.
Make time to develop new hobbies, catch up with your TV shows, or do a pamper routine.
And see as a time investment, the more well-rested you are, the better you’ll be able to handle all your responsibilities.
13. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be the answer to your prayers.
If you tend to feel overwhelmed frequently, practice being more present in this moment instead of thinking and worrying about the past and/or the future.
To do it, start by setting an intention for the day.
You can also take breaks throughout the day to lay down or sit in a comfortable position, and notice everything you’re:
- and smelling.
14. List out the things that usually overwhelm you
Or the things that are making you feel overwhelmed right now.
I already mentioned journaling but this trick’s a little different.
Every time you’re overwhelmed, start a new list with all the things that are making you feel that way.
After three or four lists, you’ll start noticing patterns.
Which of those things keep happening over and over again?
This may offer you insights into what to start saying no to or where you need help.
15. Organize your to-dos into clusters or categories
Make a list of every tiny thing you have to get done that’s making you feel overwhelmed.
Go through them and try to find the main categories among them.
Some ideas are:
- cleaning and organizing
Try to organize all tasks into clusters or categories and then set priorities.
- Which is the most important category right now?
- Which category has the most amount of urgent tasks?
Use that as a guide on what to get done first.
16. Create a “no” list
After analyzing everything you have to do, think about the things you don’t want to do anymore, and create a “no” list.
To create a fair “no” list, think about things:
- you don’t have the time to do
- that aren’t a priority for you
- that drain you but don’t bring you any satisfaction or benefit
- you can afford to stop doing.
This is a great way to change your perspective because when we’re overwhelmed, we tend to think about all the things we have to do.
But what about the things we don’t?
For example, if I were to do a “no” list right now, it’d include:
- Worrying about what my coworkers think about me
- Working overtime
- Sacrificing hours of sleep
- Thinking I need to impress people with my efficiency.
Give it a try.
What are the things you can drop right now that would make a significant difference in how overwhelmed you’re feeling?
Once you have your list ready, consider letting them go, getting help in those areas, delegating them to someone, or finding a different (more fun or efficient) way to do them.
17. Engage in an artistic activity
Research shows that art can help relieve stress because it helps reduce your cortisol levels.
The best thing is you don’t have to be a master artist to use art as a stress reliever when you’re overwhelmed.
To start, you can:
- start a scrapbook
- or take a watercolor class.
If you’re already taking action to get through your to-dos and still feel stressed about them, take a 20-30 minute break to unwind through art.
Whether it’s yoga, dancing, weightlifting or simply walking, exercising can help you cope with the stress of being overwhelmed.
I know you feel like you have a lot to do and adding one more thing to the mix maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense, but exercising is a time investment.
After devoting 30 or 60 minutes a day to workout, you’ll feel:
- less stressed
- in a better mood
- more productive.
4 Things to Keep In Mind if You’re Feeling Overwhelmed With Life
Here are 4 things you need to remember every time you’re trying to bite more than you can chew:
1. You’re only human, and it’s okay to make mistakes
You’re allowed to be human and to make mistakes you can learn from.
We all start off as beginners at some point, right?
Make sure you’re in environments where you’re allowed to be wrong and to take time off when you need to.
2. There’s a solution and it’s probably simpler than you think
Every problem has a solution.
But being overwhelmed can cloud your thinking, so it comes as no surprise that you won’t be the best problem solver when you’re overwhelmed.
Take a step back, use the tips I shared with you above, and try to come up with simple solutions for the issues that are overwhelming you.
3. Consider professional help
There’s nothing wrong with seeking help from a professional who can help you process and understand your feelings, and find the best way to manage your responsibilities.
You can either go to therapy or look for a productivity coach, depending on your needs.
4. Always focus on the root cause
Go to the root cause of your stress every time you feel overwhelmed.
Ask yourself: What’s the ONE thing making me feel overwhelmed right now?
Maybe you feel like your whole life’s falling apart when in reality it’s only one thing that’s overwhelming you.
There’s always that one thing that can make the rest fall into place if you take care of it the right way.
Next Steps to Beat Overwhelm
If you feel stuck and overwhelmed with life in general, and you’re ready to get out of the rut, I have the perfect solution for you.
The Get Unstuck Workbook is what you need if you want to take action toward a goal but don’t know where to start.
It’s designed to take you by the hand while you:
- uncover what you want
- design a realistic plan to get there
- start taking action towards your biggest goals.
It’s a friendly and simple system that’ll help you set goals and achieve them effectively.
The Bottom Line
Listen to what your body’s trying to tell you, and take care of yourself.
If you feel like something’s off with your routine, it probably is.
Use all the tips I shared with you here to build a better, less overwhelming routine that allows you to reach your goals without stressing you out.