What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Juggling your personal and professional life can be challenging, and with the constant stream of information at our fingertips via the Internet, plus the fast pace of modern life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

So what do you do when your mind is going a hundred miles an hour? Or when tasks are piling up and you’re worried about being able to stay on top of it all? Take a breath and read on for strategies on how to stay calm, focused and productive under pressure.


Be Compassionate and Patient

When you’re struggling to keep up, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re human and that means you have a limit, so it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. Acknowledge how you feel, and that it’s okay to feel that way. Approaching the situation with compassion makes it easier to handle. Shift the focus from, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way, I should be doing better” to “I’m human and it’s normal to feel this way, but with practice I can find ways to cope.”


Clear Your Brain

Your brain is the command centre of the body. The more cluttered it is, the harder it is to find the right controls to operate efficiently. When your mind is full of to do’s, it can be hard to focus on the task at hand.

Clear some mental space by keeping your to do list somewhere physical like on your phone or tablet, or in a planner. Once your tasks are written down, your brain won’t have to work as hard to remember everything, and you’ll free up some mental energy that’s best used elsewhere.



When you feel overwhelmed, your brain goes into the stress response, which is fight or flight mode. The logical, thinking parts of the brain shut down and the emotional fear centres take over.

So when there’s lots to be done and you need to think clearly and efficiently, you may struggle to focus.

Help your brain to reset by taking a brain break before returning to your tasks. Try changing your environment for a while by going for a short walk or looking out the window. Do something you enjoy like a crossword puzzle or reading, or meditate for a few minutes to get your brain back online. If you’d like to learn short meditations for use on the go, check out this ebook on meditating on a busy schedule. After resetting, you’ll feel much better when you return to your tasks.


Prioritize and Schedule

No matter how long your to do list is, you can only do so much at a time. Feeling overwhelmed is a sign that you’re trying to do too much at once, or doing a task while worrying about everything else that needs to be done, instead of focusing on one thing at a time.

Once you’ve written down everything that needs to be done, ask yourself, what is my biggest priority right now? Focus on this task and forget the other tasks until it’s time to identify and focus on your next biggest priority item.

If there are tasks lurking in the back of your mind that need to be done, rather than worrying about them, schedule them then forget them.

E.g. If you need to clean out the garage or call a friend, set a date and time in your schedule along with a reminder. Attaching a planned time to pending tasks helps your brain to stop worrying about when you’ll get around to them. If time opens up before the scheduled date, go ahead and complete the task, but note that if the scheduled time arrives but there are higher priority tasks to be completed, you can simply reschedule it.


Alexine Jackman is a Certified Stress Management Consultant, speaker and blogger. She loves sharing ideas for building resiliency and reducing stress on a busy schedule. Her ebook, 5 Minute Meditations For Entrepreneurs: How to stay calm, focused and productive on a busy schedule, is available now.

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