Tackling Overwhelm: Finding Clarity in Chaos

Tackling Overwhelm

Have you ever felt like your brain’s about to burst, your heart’s racing, and your to-do list is laughing at you from across the room?

Welcome to the not-so-exclusive club of overwhelm.

It’s a place where mental clutter meets emotional turmoil, and it’s as frustrating as it is common, as we navigate the complexity of life.

Unfortunately, overwhelm doesn’t just sit quietly in the corner of your mind; it makes a grand entrance, often uninvited. It’s that tight, anxious feeling in your chest, the racing thoughts that refuse to slow down and the gnawing sense of dread that leaves you paralysed.

Physically, it can manifest as headaches, muscle tension, or even digestive issues. Mentally, it’s akin to having twenty browser tabs open, all demanding your attention at once.

The constant pinging of your inbox, the never-ending list of errands and the emotional weight of personal decisions create a perfect storm for overwhelm to flourish. You may find that your productivity plummets. You might find yourself procrastinating, avoiding tasks that seem insurmountable, or making mistakes you wouldn’t normally make.

Overwhelm has a sneaky way of eroding your self-esteem. It can turn you from being confident and capable into someone riddled with self-doubt. You might start questioning your abilities, feeling like you’re failing at everything, or that you’re just not cut out for the challenges life throws your way.

It’s crucial to recognise that these feelings, while valid, are just temporary. They don’t define who you are or your worth.

There’s a scientific explanation for why you feel this way. When your brain perceives too many demands, it triggers the fight-or-flight response, releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. While this response is useful in short bursts, prolonged exposure can lead to burnout, anxiety, and other health issues.

Recent studies suggest that multitasking, a common culprit of overwhelm, actually reduces your cognitive performance and can decrease your IQ. So, if you’re juggling multiple tasks thinking you’re being productive, you might actually be doing more harm than good.

How can you navigate through overwhelm?

Start with a Brain Dump

Write down everything and anything that’s swirling around in your head. Getting it out on paper can reduce the mental load and give you a clearer picture of what needs to be tackled.

Prioritise and Simplify

Ask yourself the following:

  • what are the most important tasks I need to tackle right now?
  • Can I break these tasks down into smaller steps?
  • What can I focus on doing today? And… is this a realistic expectation?
  • What can I delegate or eliminate from my list of tasks?

Look at Your Habits and Set Boundaries

Sometimes, the very habits we believe are keeping us afloat are the ones pulling us under.

For instance, I used to swear by my to-do list, thinking it was my lifeline. In reality, it became a tangled web of obligations, each one screaming for attention.

I had a habit of saying “yes” to every request, convinced I was being helpful. The result? A bloated schedule and a constant state of anxiety.

It’s rebellious but necessary to acknowledge that “no” is a complete sentence.

I started prioritising tasks, really questioning the importance of each item on my list. Did it align with my core values? Did it move me toward my goals? If not, it got the axe.

I’ve also embraced the habit of setting firm boundaries — not just with others but also with myself.

Breaking free from these self-imposed chains isn’t easy! But in doing so, you will find breathing room, clarity and reclaim your sense of self. So, challenge your habits, be introspective, and don’t be afraid to go against the status quo for your own wellbeing.

You can read more about boundary setting here.

Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is not about letting yourself off the hook but about treating yourself with the same grace you extend to others. It’s a small, yet radical shift in mindset that can lead to profound changes in how you handle the challenge of overwhelm.

So go ahead and be kind to yourself. Speak to yourself with loving gentle words. Acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can, and that’s enough.

For more about practising self-compassion, click here.

Take Breaks

If you are overwhelmed with the busyness of your life then taking a break may seem counter-intuitive. You may label having a break as being lazy, not productive, feeling useless and yet… breaks are not signs of laziness; they’re essential for maintaining your mental and physical health.

Let yourself fully embrace the power of downtime by taking micro-breaks throughout the day. These are short, frequent breaks that help keep your mind fresh and focused. Standing up to stretch, grabbing a glass of water, or taking a few deep breaths can make all the difference. Aim for a 5-minute break every hour to reset your mind.

Or schedule downtime by blocking out times purely dedicated to taking a break. These times are non-negotiable appointments with yourself. Use this time to engage in activities that relax and refresh you. This could be anything from reading a book, enjoying a walk in nature, meditation to simply doing nothing.

Click here for more about the benefits of taking a break.

Overwhelm can be Managed

Remember: Overwhelm is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to control you. By understanding what it feels like, recognising its impact, and taking proactive steps to manage it, you can navigate through the chaos and find clarity.

It’s also okay to ask for help, and Health and Wellbeing Coaches are trained to help you tackle overwhelm, to set boundaries, to encourage you to take small steps forward, celebrate your achievements and help keep you on track so you feel more in control of your life circumstances.

If you would like to train to be a health and wellbeing coach to help people tackle overwhelm then CLICK HERE to learn more about our accredited course modules or for our upcoming training dates – CLICK HERE.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


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