Short term actions to reduce overwhelm

It’s the feeling that there is too much to do, that your resources are not equal to the demands being placed upon them. Individual symptoms differ, but they include fatigue, confusion, difficulty concentrating, feeling mentally slower and reduced ability to do both simple and difficult tasks.

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What is overwhelm?
It’s the feeling that there is too much to do, that your resources are not equal to the demands being placed upon them. Your individual symptoms may differ, but they could include fatigue, confusion, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, feeling mentally slower and reduced ability to do both simple and difficult tasks. If it becomes too much, our worsening ability to make good decisions can put us into a downward spiral of putting ourselves in even worse situations, with even less ability to make good decisions to reduce overwhelm.

Short term actions

Although there are medium- and long-term ways of dealing with your overwhelm, sometimes you just need something for right now.  Use these prompts to create a checklist (or download the free guide at the end of this article), adding in your own specific actions so you know you can deal with that overwhelm feeling, whenever it arises.

How are you dealing with these feelings?
Sometimes our response to those feelings can exacerbate the initial issue. If your response to overwhelm is to chase your own thoughts around, work on linking feeling overwhelmed to taking action.

What action makes you feel immediately better?
For me, writing down all the things that I am feeling overwhelmed by really helps me.  Because my fear is that I’m forgetting something, having everything out on paper really calms me down. But for you, that might make you feel worse because you can see everything. For you, you might need to mind map one particular project, or spend an hour unpicking one complex issue or take action on a few quick and easy wins. If you’re not sure what action makes you feel better, write down as many actions as you can think of and then choose the one that you instinctively find most appealing.

Take time to calm down and be still
Go somewhere quiet and sit and breathe.  Box breathing is breathing in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, pause for four.  This will help you focus just on breathing and calm your system that is going into flight/fight/freeze.

Take a walk
Be mindful of the world around you. Focus on all of your senses. What can you smell? What can you see? What can you hear? What taste is lingering in your mouth? What can you feel?

Listen to music you find calming and uplifting
In the longer-term you might want to put your own playlist together. In the short-term go to a song that has the effect you want and play that.

Speak to someone
Reach out to someone you can talk to. Tell them what you need (someone just to listen, or advice, or to help).

What else?
Whenever you find yourself in overwhelm, make a note of what you're doing to cope with it.  What works? What doesn't? Add what works to your checklist.

Download your free 31-page guide to reducing overwhelm in the short-, medium- and long-term by signing up to the Bright Rebel Coaching newsletter. The guide includes 19 printable templates to help you when you need it the most.

Images of 4 pages of the free guide on reducing overwhelm

Angharad Boyson

Founder and Head Coach, bright rebel coaching ltd

I am a coach who specialises in helping people live fearlessly with passion, purpose and balance. After 17 years in the Royal Air Force, I was ready for a change. But I wasn't really sure what that change was. Qualifying as a coach has taught me a lot about how my self-worth isn't tied up in my occupational identity, that living passionately and with purpose doesn't have to mean working every single hour and that I can feel fulfilled, happy and whole without working 60+ hours a week. It's not an exaggeration to say that my life is very different these days! I work with clients to: Establish your goals and understand what changes you would like to make. Identify why these changes are important to you. Create an action plan to make positive and unambiguous change at mindset, cognitive and behavioural levels. Predict obstacles and how to overcome them. Increase your self-awareness so that you naturally begin to coach yourself. I’m an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation, hold a Masters in Occupational Psychology, trained with Barefoot Coaching, enjoy triathlon training, vanilla lattes and movie time with my 6 year old daughter and my husband. I am currently based in Canberra, Australia (so do come and follow bright rebel coaching on IG if you'd like to see some photos of the gorgeous scenery here)! I do face-to-face coaching as well as audio-visual coaching and a limited number of workshops and webinars on holistic topics such as wellbeing, resilience and goal-setting.