Sick of feeling overwhelmed? Steps to take right now

It’s understandable why you can easily get overwhelmed. When you are smart and caring, many people rely on you from all parts of your life, and it’s hard to say no to them. But, sometimes, it gets to be too much.

Having worked with so many women like you, I’ve learned a thing or two. Here’s what you can do right now.

First, technology doesn’t always help

During the pandemic, many of us learned to do more work online. But, helping children with online classes, overflowing email inboxes, and streaming the news put us on emotional roller coaster rides.

Of course, I fully appreciate the convenience and pleasure of my laptop, smartphone, tablet, streaming music player, and Netflix-ready TV set can bring me. But, they can also become sources of stress.

I remember when I was in high school, my uncle commented that he didn’t like what fax machines had done to his business. He said they had sped up the pace of work, making unimportant matters seem urgent. His words ring even truer today. Our devices enable us to work at all hours of the day, making too many things due now.

It’s no wonder our tools can be sources of further overwhelm.

Small steps to feeling less overwhelmed

So what can we do?

Become more conscious of and judicious with consumption and output–online and offline.

Here are steps I’ve learned through working with my coaching clients and from what readers have shared with me. (This is why I love hearing from you. Please don’t be shy!)

First, ask yourself: What am I taking in?

For example, when I see the tall and messy to-read pile of magazines, mail, clipped articles, and books stacked next to my desk, I ask myself, What am I taking in?

When I pause, I can see that I’m taking in guilt for not “keeping up” or making good use of information I’ve gathered.

Second, tell yourself: Just because I can doesn’t mean I should

This forces you to consider what is essential and what is not.

Continuing with the example above, I then pull out the recycling bin, and quickly sort through and let go of things I don’t really need.

In the past month, I unsubscribed from several online store mailing lists, telling myself that missing a deal is worth a little less stress and inbox clutter.

Third, consider not just time but energy

Though we schedule our time with the help of a calendar, we don’t always consider how we consume personal energy and how to restore it. As I noted about recharging batteries, it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of energy you have is not infinite. You need to restore it or find activities that increase your energy level rather than depleting it.

One way to do this is to use our smartphones as reminders. While we pay close attention to our smartphone’s battery level, but we don’t bother measuring our own. Change this by…

  • Check in with your own energy levels every time you check your phone’s battery
  • Whenever you plug in to charge your phone, recharge your own. At the very least, take a deep breath.

Keep in mind that what depletes one person’s energy can revitalize another’s. For example, for one client of mine, gardening is immensely energizing; for another, it’s a chore she’d much rather outsource.

Your turn

I’d love to hear what helps you when you are feeling overwhelmed and if these tips help you. Please write to me to let me know.

An older version of this article was first published in October 2013.