Feeling Overwhelmed? Here’s what you can do about it.


Feeling overwhelmed? I get it! Here's how I approach it. Hope you find it helpful!The word "overwhelm" drives me a little crazy. Not just feeling it, but also thinking it.

I heard it in my head just this morning as I was getting out of bed: "What's on today's to-do list?" I could have listed 20 things easily... and right behind that thought, a feeling washed over me. I immediately named it: "Overwhelm."

And with that feeling and word, I felt stuck. Ugh! How am I supposed to move forward when I'm feeling this way? 🤦‍♀️

(Is this a familiar scene? Have you been there as well?)

I realized a split second later where I had gone wrong. It occurred to me that I'd named that feeling incorrectly.

I wasn't feeling overwhelmed. I was feeling a lack of direction, which was making my world blurry, and so I was feeling confused and... lost. ⬅️  Ah-ha! That was a better word, I realized. I was feeling LOST!

And in the moment that I gave it that different word, I also saw a route forward. If I am lost, then I need a map! That will help me see how to get from where I am to where I want to be.

So, this is what I did about it:

First, I grabbed a stack of post-its and a marker, and I found a blank wall. I asked: "What are all the things I could do today?" and filled the wall with the possibilities.

Ten minutes later, I studied what I'm now calling my "wall of possibilities" (clearly, obvious works for me) and I asked: "Out of this list, what will get me from where I am to where I want to go?"

And suddenly, I didn't feel lost or overwhelmed. I felt focused and directed. I knew two things: (1) What to do next, and
(2) what to do after that.

The most interesting aspect about this is that I often carry the same mantra as many others: Focus on one thing... Just the one thing that you need to do next.

But I find it more helpful if I know what the next two or three things are that follow my one next thing.

Focusing on one thing is to do a task or activity.
Knowing what the next two or three things are that follow is to have a path or a map that gives us a sense of direction.

The former will help you get a thing done.
The latter will help you get where you want to go.

These are the key takeaways that I want to share with you:

  1. "Overwhelmed" is an overused and vague word. If you feel this, see if you can find a more useful word that gives you a better idea of what is really going on.
  2. Feeling stuck or overwhelmed is just that… a feeling. If you ever feel overrun by a negative emotion like that, I invite you to stop and see if you can get clearer on what is driving that feeling. When you dig deeper, you find the things that will get you unstuck.
  3. ​Getting ideas out of your head and out where you can see them can help create orientation. (I often leave the post-its up for weeks and revisit them daily.)
  4. To get clear on your path, don’t only focus on what’s next. Instead, orient towards where you want to end up and ask a more powerful question: "What do I need to do to get from here to there?"
  5. Don't just figure out the one thing you need to do next. Also figure out the step that will likely follow after it. A single next step is just a task or an activity. Two or three next steps bring a sense of direction and purpose.

I hope you find this useful, and that it helps you find your own sense of direction.

Do you have a tip for how you manage it when you feel overwhelmed? Please share it in the comments below!

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