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10 Strategies to Step Away From Overwhelm


I don’t care who you are or what you do, at some point, it happens. In fact, it’s likely already happened for you: during your first formal exam; while prepping for a job interview; when dealing with a life event (think wedding, or birth of a child). Or maybe it’s reared its head during a week in which your to-do list was never-ending.

In all of these instances, the signs are the same: your heart starts to race, your brain feels like it’s spinning (or at the other extreme, it’s stuck), your palms may be sweaty and very likely you feel as though you need to be doing so much more than you’re actually doing. Moments of overwhelm are intensely stressful and almost debilitating.

I hate to break it to you: there’s no avoiding the overwhelm. Like so many things, overwhelm is part of the human condition. Luckily, there are some really (like, REALLY) simple strategies that you can implement – or start to implement – to keep overwhelm at bay, or at least, at a minimum.

In no particular order, here are my tried and true overwhelm-busters:

  1. Learn to breathe deeply. When you feel yourself tense up, three deep, deliberate breaths can alleviate a lot of tension.

  2. Get moving. Seriously; get up and walk around, even if only for a few minutes.

  3. Schedule breaks throughout your day – and TAKE THEM. Five minutes every hour in which you disengage from the task at hand can go a long way to keeping yourself grounded.

  4. Minimize your caffeine intake (trust me on this one -- caffeine is not helpful when you’re overwhelmed).

  5. Ensure that you eat healthy meals and snacks, as much as possible (I’m all for enjoying a chocolate bar or a bag of chips, but if you’re overwhelmed, you’re better served by an apple or some cheese and crackers).

  6. Connect and converse with others, about things that are not work-related. In other words, find yourself some people.

  7. Listen to music – uplifting, energizing music (and dance along -- see tip #2

  8. Surround yourself with positive people – people who lift you up, rather than bring you down.

  9. Declutter your space, including your mental space. Keep the space around you clean and clear (hire an organizer if you need to) and use a journal to keep your mind clear.

  10. Find a creative outlet; learn to paint, to play an instrument, to cook, to garden, whatever gets those creative juices flowing.

Bottom-line: each of these strategies is simple, simple, simple. Simultaneously, they all are powerful “overwhelm-busters”. Implementing even one of these strategies can ensure that overwhelm doesn’t throw you for a loop too often. Instead, you’ll actually be able to take it in stride, and keep things flowin’. When you’re able to keep things flowin’, you’re able to stay on track.