7 steps to Overcoming Overwhelm


It’s common to feel overwhelmed at times. Here are seven steps to help you find a way out.

1. Identify what’s important and what’s not.

Understand the ‘urgent-important’ matrix and pay attention when you’re distracted by un-important things that seem urgent, which can seriously rob you of your time.

President Eisenhower once said “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

To get out of the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ it’s vital to schedule time for your most important tasks, be disciplined to protect that time and avoid urgent interruptions that fragment your time. (If you find this a challenge you may need some help getting a helicopter view to understand what really is important as a first step.)

2. Learn to say no

Once you’ve identified what’s important, become skilled and confident at saying no to other things.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.” – Stephen Covey

3. Manage your energy well

Learn the fundamentals of ensuring you have deep restorative sleep, daily movement that energises you and find simple ways to boost your nutrition. These are the foundation to you staying physically and mentally resilient and strong.

“A strong body makes the mind strong.”– Thomas Jefferson

4. Start your day mindfully

The way you start your day determines the outcomes of your entire day. Be intentional about how you spend the first 30 minutes of your day and create a morning routine that sets you up for a fantastic day ahead.

5. Set clear boundaries with the people and things in your life

When you set boundaries and you firmly and respectfully protect them by reminding others (and yourself) of what is acceptable, it will free you up from a great deal of angst.

“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.” – Tony Gaskins

6. Declutter your surroundings

The environment you’re in shapes how you feel. The great thing is you get to choose how you want to shape it.

Walking into a cluttered office with paperwork everywhere instantly clutters your mind, sparking mental overload – whereas clear space allows you to focus, feel lighter, be more creative and overall get more good work done. Clutter free spaces in which to relax are also essential to create a haven where you can fully unwind.

7. Make time for the things that recharge you and bring you joy

Life is for living. You only get one shot at it, so make sure that you prioritise time for the things you really love.

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available.”

There will always be more work to do. If you don’t ring fence times during your day and during your week to recharge, no one else will do it for you.

So book it in, whether it’s getting outdoors for that walk, reading that book, being creative, spending time with loved ones or whatever it is that sparks joy for you and allows you to get into ‘flow’.

A final word

Remember that your body is incredibly resilient and designed to cope with stress. As Kelly McGonigal said in her Tedx Talk, you can “make stress your friend”. It can actually help you perform at your best when you view it the right way. The key is simply to be able to oscillate out of the stress response, and to do so regularly.

When you intentionally make time to recharge, it will help you weather the storms of life.

And remember to stay connected – we are stronger together.

If you want help putting these ideas in to practice to get out of the overwhelm trap, enquire about the next round of my Overcome the Overwhelm, Coaching Programme. I’d love to help you ditch the stress, create boundaries to give you more freedom and help you get back on top of things again.

If you need immediate help, free call or text 1737 anytime or phone the Lifeline Helpline. 0800 LIFELINE (0800 543 354) if you’re in New Zealand, or search for your local helpline. There is someone ready to listen and to help 24/7.

To find out more about how I help individuals and organisation thrive, feel free to find out more at the Workplace Wellbeing or Helping You Thrive pages.

Book a chat with Lauren Parsons Wellbeing

How do you respond when you feel overwhelmed?

Feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what works for you.

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