How to deal with being overwhelmed

In the modern fast paced world it seems that there is always something new fighting for our attention. We are all working longer hours and dealing with a seemingly constant state of information overload.
Every time we add something new into our lives, it is also another thing to find time for – Regardless of how great it is. With this seemingly continual barrage of information it is easy to become overwhelmed.

It is widely recognized that feeling overwhelmed is a leading cause of stress in life. These feelings can have a huge impact on the way that you interact with others. Over time they can also have an impact on your general health and mental well-being.

Being able to identify when you are feeling this way is the first step in combating this anxiety. Once you are aware of your feelings, you can then start to do something about it.

Below are some tips on how to deal with being overwhelmed. To avoid just adding another thing to manage though, I suggest just picking one or two of these things to try at a time.

Appreciate that things take time

Every master was once a disaster. ~ T. Harv Eker

It is easy to forget that things rarely just happen. Most things in life that are worthy of your time will need to be worked on. In fact the people that are the most successful are also often the ones that have worked the hardest!

Learning any new skill takes time. You must first learn the technical actions. You then need to practice in order to train yourself. Often this will just get you to a level of experience where you can participate.

With most things, proficiency comes with experience. As frustrating as it is to not be good at something, everyone that has ever done anything was new at some point.


Recognize that with the massive amount of things happening in your life, you are probably just not going to get it all done. I am not suggesting that you just give up. There is a level of personal peace though in knowing that you just can’t do it all and letting some things go.

If you take the time to be realistic with yourself, you should be able to tell the important things from the ‘noise’. It should then be a matter of identifying the next step and focusing on getting it done. Often this process alone can help to give perspective on what is important and relieve stress coming from other things.


I am a huge fan of ‘singletasking’. Focus on just one thing at a time and work on it until it is done. Once you have completed that, move onto the next, most important thing.
Once you have prioritized the things that you need to get through, working out which one is the most important should be simple.

You will be amazed at the amount of work that you get done by just focusing on the next most important thing. Particularly if you are used to an approach where you try to work on a bunch of things at once and get none done.
The trick to this however is having enough trust in yourself and your ‘systems’ to be able to focus and cut out all non-related thought.

Take a step back

Stop and put things in perspective. Take a walk, grab a coffee, have a 10 minute nap. Whatever it is that allows you to look at the issue with a fresh perspective.
Sometimes this is all you need!

If you have spent a long time working through the same issue, sometimes the answer is there but you just can’t see it. Other times your brain just needs a chance to process information and it may jump out at you while your dog.

Obviously if you are on a roll then this is not going to be a good approach. If you are stuck and it feels like you are getting nowhere anyway, taking a break probably can’t hurt. The human brain is an amazing machine and often the best thoughts come when it is just given space to do its thing.


This is one of my personal favorite approaches and even backed by science. The constant barrage of life fills our brains with stuff. Even when sleeping your brain is working to process the stuff. It is awesome to just give it a break.

Setting aside time to meditate for 15-20 minutes daily has made a massive difference in my life. I can honestly say that I am acutely aware of the days where my morning routine is disrupted and I don’t.

Transfer the task to someone else

Sometimes there will be something that really needs to be done but you just don’t have the time. Finding someone to do it for you can often be a great alternative.

If you can trust the person to get it done this can be a really effective way to transfer the stress.

Even the most successful people in the world have a hoard of people helping them – Especially the most successful people in the world! In many cases, this is an integral part of how they become that way.

There is no reason why you cannot apply this to your own life.

An awesome part of this is that it also works in many ways. You could hire someone to complete activities like cleaning or maintenance for you. You could ask a friend or family member to look after your kids while you get chores done. You could get your groceries delivered and use the time saved for personal projects. The list is endless!

The beauty is that these don’t even need to be financially based arrangements. I am sure that you have something that is easy to you that would benefit others. If you can find a suitable arrangement you may be able to trade your time and expertise for someone else’s. This has the added benefit of also developing or strengthening a personal relationship.

If you look in the right places, you could use experts to help you think through difficult situations or develop strategies. A financial planner or personal coach could help you set and achieve your goals.

This is one of those areas that is really only limited by your relationships, creativity and confidence.

Write out your issues

When you are feeling overwhelmed there are often a number of thoughts bouncing around your head. It is even more frustrating when they are not even coherent or complete. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling overwhelmed but not knowing why. Especially because there is absolutely nothing that you can do if you don’t know what needs to be done.

The simple act of writing your thoughts on paper will greatly help in clarifying them. I find that in these times of general overwhelm and anxiety that I often do know the actual issue but I just haven’t been able to express it. In these situations a pen and paper can be the strongest tools. You will be surprised with what can happen when you just start writing. The initial message may be unrelated but before long your brain should work around to the issue.

Writing things down will help identify the issues and often give your mind the space to work through them.

Even better, if things are written down somewhere, your brain doesn’t need to keep a hold of them. This frees it up further to start focusing on addressing them.

Consider reducing the noise from life

If you are feeling overwhelmed, often reducing the amount of information that you need to process can work wonders. We are bombarded with so much advertising, information, images and conversation every day. It is no wonder that it sometimes becomes hard to process it all.

I have had great success in adopting Tim Ferris’ ‘low information diet’. The best thing about this approach is that after a couple of weeks I began to actually enjoy it. It has reduced my general FOMO (fear of missing out).

Surprisingly it has actually increased the number of things that I have to chat with people about. Instead of conversations being:
Friend: “Hey did you see that thing that happened in that place?”
Me: “Yeah, amazing hey!”
*End of conversation*
They are now:
Friend: “So what do you think about that thing that happened?”
Me: “I don’t actually know anything about it, it sounds interesting though! Tell me about it”
*Start of conversation*

I have not read a newspaper or watched a regular news program for about 12 months. I don’t feel that I have missed anything significant in that time.
Honestly, if something is important enough, you will hear about it.
There is so much background noise and marketing hype trying to work its way into life – It is ok to shut some out.


There will be times in your life when you are feeling overwhelmed for any number of reasons. Although at these times it is often hard to see, things will settle down and become more manageable again at some point. There are a number of things that you can do to assist this process. One of the best though is to just be realistic with your own expectations of other people and from yourself.

Photo by LordFerguson

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