5 Things You Can Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed


Help! I Don’t Know Where To Start!


Feeling overwhelmed? Take action.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take action.

You might be familiar with that situation when you feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time. You can’t see how you’re going to get on top of things, it all seems impossible, and you don’t know what to do to fix it. You have the urge to give up, have a snooze, watch some TV and hope it all goes away. You’re plagued by feelings of anxiety, frustration and guilt and wondering how you got here in the first place.

We’ve all been there. That feeling of being overwhelmed sometimes lasts only for a brief moment, but at other times may linger around, affecting our mood, triggering unhelpful thoughts, and reducing our ability to be effective in what we want to do.

While there’s no simple way to reduce our responsibilities (or to make them disappear!), there are some things we can do to help ourselves overcome these feelings and get back on track to getting things done.

Tip #1: Make A List

Write down a list of all the things you feel you need to do. This helps to take the cluttered thoughts out of your mind and onto something tangible, and can offer relief on its own. You might find as you’re writing the list that it helps to clarify what you need to do, or it might help you to acknowledge that some of these things are not as important as you had thought.

Tip #2: Set Realistic Goals

From this ‘master list’, decide on what you can try to achieve today. This could be based on your schedule for the day, the importance of the tasks, whether you have the resources to complete them, and how long they would take. Try to be realistic – if you’re busy all day except for 2 hours in the evening, today’s list might only be a couple of things. Try to remain focussed on today’s sub-list and leave the remaining items for later.

Tip #3: Breathe

Take some deep breaths. Anxiety can cause us to breathe in an ineffective way and can cause discomfort like physical tension, getting shaky or sweaty, or churning in the stomach. Feeling anxious can also effect our thinking style and make things seem far worse than they actually are. Slow, deep breathing helps to relieve some anxiety so we can attend to what we are doing.

Tip #4: Know What You Can Control + What You Can’t

Focus on what can be achieved. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to do all the things we want to do. Accept that some things are outside of your control, and choose to work on tasks that you’re able to accomplish.

Tip #5: Break It Down

If a single task seems too overwhelming, try to break it down into smaller steps. By doing this, the task itself becomes more achievable and can be tackled one step at a time. Instead of looking at the mountain and wondering how you’ll ever reach the top, focus on putting one foot in front of the other and moving in the direction you want to go.

Give these steps a go and see if it helps you get back on track. And then, remember to take breaks and reward yourself for undertaking the strenuous climb.

Dr Xerox Tang is a compassionate and warm clinical psychologist who works collaboratively with clients to help them to achieve change. She has wide experience working with clients ranging from young children and adolescents to adults, older adults and couples. Xerox practices evidence-based treatment approaches including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-based therapies, Metacognitive Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and tailors treatment to her client’s needs to facilitate effective and enduring change.


Leave a Comment