Avoid being overwhelmed

Have you noticed how busy everyone seems today? Many of the people I talk to feel overloaded with commitments, activities, and demands on their time and energy. It seems that there is always too much to do and too little time. Whenever your stress levels are high, it doesn’t take much to tip you over the edge into that most unwelcomed state called overwhelm. Overwhelm is what we feel when there are lots of things we need to do. We don’t know what to start and this creates fear that we will not get it all done.

Here are some thoughts on how to recognize overwhelm, what causes overwhelm, how to stay clear of it, and how to get out of it.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE OVERWHELM Overwhelm has definite emotional overtones which may include stress, confusion, fear, and anxiety. With overwhelm comes a sense of “stuckness” and low motivation.

Overwhelm is not just a conceptual notion in your head- it is something you feel internally.

It is important to recognize your individual first signs of impending overwhelm. Does it start with a tightness in your chest or shoulders? A knot in your stomach? Palpitations? Do you find yourself withdrawing or ignoring things to avoid a sense of panic?

WHAT CAUSES OVERWHELM? A combination of three or more of the following elements exist:

  • You have lots of things you feel you need to do
  • You have limited resources (e.g. time, energy)
  • You have some degree of fear regarding the situation
  • You want to make everything perfect
  • You neglect your self-care and begin to lose your perspective

HOW TO AVOID BEING OVERWHELMED Here are four things you can do to help you stay out of overwhelm:

  1. Learn to recognize your own personal warning signs that you are about to enter into overwhelm
  2. Make it your practice to “under promise and over deliver”
  3. Practice saying “No”
  4. Learn how to set and defend strong personal boundaries


  • Admit that you are overwhelmed
  • Imagine how you want to feel in the situation
  • Find your focus
  • Prioritize based on your values
  • First complete the tasks first that will eliminate the need for other tasks
  • Take Action
  • Delegate

If you learn how to recognize, avoid or recover from overwhelm, you will not only feel better, you will likely also be more productive and successful!