How to Deal with Feeling Overwhelmed

We never want to do just “one thing”, do we? Quite the opposite, actually: we want to do ALL the things. Travel, make money, find time to exercise, learn a new language, read at least two new books a month, all while also eating pizza. We find ourselves being pulled in million different directions. It seems like there’s so much that needs to get done and with so many things to do, you don’t know where to start.

So what do you do? You do nothing, OR you try to do it all at once.

Either way, you’re getting nowhere.

Think about it: you can have five, different, amazing ideas. Try and pursue all of them at once, they’ll never live up to their full potential.

This is exactly what I’ve been dealing with lately. I sometimes have days when there are so many different ideas and projects running through my head, I get overly excited and then I immediately feel lost. I don’t know where to start, which idea to focus on. All of a sudden, I find myself feeling SO stressed about getting things done, I spend a majority of my time feeling anxious about… getting things done.

There are SO many different things that cause those feelings of overwhelm, and everyone deals with them differently. It can happen when you’re going through any kind of life transition or when you commit to more than you can handle.

You don’t have to let it take over.

Prioritize 

Prioritizing is asking yourself: “what is most important, right now?” Take a piece of paper and write down everything that you feel is overwhelming you: your home life, your work, your relationships, your goals. Write them all down. Take as much time as you want. Now, go through your list, line by line, and circle things, ideas or goals that you want to set as a priority. Let’s say that one of your big goals is to finally get a car- it’s something that’s been on your mind for years. Problem is, you don’t have a driver’s license. So what’s the next logical thing to do here? It’s not driving around dealerships, looking for a car- it’s you taking your butt to nearest DMV and taking your permit test.

Maybe you always talk about learning a new language, but it’s also something you’ve been putting off for years? We live in times where we have access to endless resources and learning a new language is a simple as downloading an app and spending some time studying every day for about an hour or so. It’s up to you what you decide to do with your time: you can spend three hours a day watching TV, or, you can devote that one hour every day, before sleep, in the morning, after work, to practice French.

By setting your priorities you’re getting things done. I think pretty much all of us, at one point, had a list of things we set out to accomplish- a list we often forget about. Thing is, those sort of tend to hang over our heads for years. Every time you think about taking that permit test, you think to yourself: “Ugh, I swear I’ll get it done by the end of the week!” Then, it changes to “by the end of the month” or “by the end of the year“, etc. The same thing goes for everything else in your life.  If there is something that you really dread doing, just do it right away and get it over with. If you keep putting it off, it will just hang over your head and make you feel uneasy-both of which can lower your productivity and leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Mind-mapping

Speaking of writing things down: mind-mapping is a great way of getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper. It’s also a great way to organize your thoughts, ideas, plans. Start with a blank piece of paper and write down your goal or idea, right in the middle. From there, start branching out by adding different categories, topics, all without *thinking* too hard. Just write down whatever comes to your mind. You can use words, symbols, different colors, keywords, and codes.

Mind-mapping is a great tool for creative self-expression and works wonders when it comes to decluttering your brain when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. If you have a hard time identifying your priorities, mind-mapping can help with that, as well.

Get Organized + Schedule it

There’s no denying that overwhelm often stems from a lack of organization. To some, the extent to which I schedule my day can seem a bit OCD (or a lot OCD), but it’s the only way I can get things done. Every time I look at my schedule, this is what I see: you are in control. You are the one dictating what’s going to happen, and when it’s going to happen. I’ve talked about time-blocking before, and if you’re also someone who gets distracted very easily, you have to give it a try.  By blocking out your time and scheduling your day, you know what your day will be all about. It creates a place of certainty- you will know what’s coming next and it will minimize that daily overwhelm.

We are constantly being overloaded with information and it really doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed these days. Of course, sometimes things happen, things come up and we can’t help it. It’s a part of life. Staying organized is a great way to prepare yourself for those unexpected detours, without feeling overwhelmed when they do.

Related posts:

+ How to stop procrastinating right now
+ 7 Life-changing morning rituals
+ Morning affirmations to start your day
+ How to really get things done: your #1 tool for staying productive

Set Boundaries

You have to learn to say “no“.  I just mentioned information overload in the previous paragraph- but what does one have to do with the other? You have to use your “no” as an “information filter” and be very selective about the things you choose to focus on. You have to learn to set boundaries and guard your time.

I’ll be honest, it’s something I’ve struggled with for a very long time.

Why?

Because to me, saying “no” meant letting people (or myself) down.

Let’s take emails, for example. I get tens of emails, every single day, and the majority of them are from people (or brands) asking me for favors. Of course, I always try to respond to readers and blog friends and I have no problem responding to those emails as to me, it’s part of my “job” as a blogger and I love connecting with others. BUT when I get constantly asked for favors from people that don’t even bother to address me by my name, people who want me to take pictures of their products (paid or not paid), people who want to guest post on my blog even though I make it very clear that I don’t accept guest posts, people who want their links placed somewhere within my posts, people who have all sorts of “suggestions” for my blog. It gets exhausting, and some people can be really pushy (as in, they’ll email you every single day, trying to convince you that they know what’s best for your blog, better than you do). I mean, sometimes even after I tell someone “no, thank you” I get a response “can you tell me why you’re not interested?” That’s a game I’m just not willing to play.

To be honest, if I were to reply to those kinds of emails as soon as I get them, I’d have no time to do anything else. Like, eat or sleep. I have a generic response that I just copy and paste when responding to some emails; some emails, I have no choice but to ignore. For the longest time, I felt horrible about it. I kept thinking “I don’t want to be that person who ignores people, I don’t want anyone to think I’m not a nice person“. At the same time, my contact page clearly states that contacting me about guest posting will be a waste of time, so I can’t blame myself for not responding to all 10 requests I get every single day. People also tend to think that everything is for sale (70% of the time I say “no” I get a response: “what if I paid you?“). It gets overwhelming, not to mention time-consuming. I don’t want to have to ask myself “am I writing and taking pictures today, or am I spending the rest of my day responding to nonsense emails?”

This, of course, is just one example. You might have a coworker who constantly asks you favors or a neighbor, or maybe you yourself take on too much because you don’t know how to say “no” to some of your own ideas. By failing to set up reasonable boundaries for yourself, you take on more than you can handle. Extra projects, requests from other people, dealing with too many ideas- you have to learn to say no to some things, so you can focus on what matters the most.

Do (Something)

When there’s so much to do that you start feeling overwhelmed, you sometimes end up doing exactly nothing. It’s sort like dealing with a really messy room- where do I start? What do I pick up first? There’s this constant planning, time-wasting, and eventually, you end up feeling guilty about not getting anything done while your “to do” list seems to grow by the minute.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Take action. However small. Once you’ve tried mind mapping and you’ve identified your priorities, start doing. Tell yourself that it’s impossible to do it all at once and that it’s okay. You can’t do it all at once. Pick one task, and focus on that.

Overwhelm is a feeling. We often tell ourselves: “I am so overwhelmed” over and over again. Instead, try a more mindful approach and tell yourself: I have a feeling (or a thought) of being overwhelmed- it’s just a thought. Take a moment to center yourself, go for a walk, meditate- sometimes, just doing that, will be enough. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself “I am okay“. Most of the time, our feelings of overwhelm have to do with the future- whether it be a year or a week from today. When you find yourself being overwhelmed with feelings of… well…. overwhelm, ask yourself: “How am I doing right now, right this present moment?” Chances are, you’re just fine. At this moment, right now, you’re doing okay. So take a breather, make a plan, write stuff down and focus on your priorities.

Feeling Overwhelmed | Overwhelm | things to do when feeling overwhelmed | productivity | how to deal with feeling overwhelmed | how to get things done | self-growth | stress | overwhelming feelings
  • Nikola Hessová

    This post is came to me in right time! I feel so overwhelmed these days and everyday there is a huge chance that I will end my day with nothing done. I’m just staring on white wall and trying to figure out what to do first, or even WHAT to do. Ugh, it so hard! :) Best “medicine” for this state of mind is just get up and just get s…done.Whatever it is. Even If I don’t want to. Actually procrastination is my second name because of mess in my head spinning around. Need to start mind mapping and set priorities. Thank you for all advice Paula.

    • So sorry to hear you’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately Nikola! I know the struggle. So many of us tend to do the same when we have too much to do: we end up getting nothing done, isn’t that funny? :) I’ve been feeling the same way over the last couple of months and getting things done, however small, definitely is one of the best ways to deal with overwhelm. You’re very welcome- thanks for reading! <3

  • I think scheduling is something I really need to implement. I had swatches all over my arm at the gym yesterday which accurately depicts where my life is at. I want to do it all but god I’m a mess, this is definitely what I needed to read. Saved, I would save it twice if I could. Hope you are well Paula xxx

    ALittleKiran | Bloglovin

    • Haha aww thank you Kiran!! You’re not a mess- just probably way too hard on yourself. Being messy is a part of life and the fact that you love beauty, run a blog and still make sure to get your workout in shows that you have passion in your life! :)

  • This is so helpful! Between working full time and daily blogging, I find myself getting overwhelmed a lot. I find writing down everything I need to accomplish really helps!

    xo, Liz
    http://lipstickandconfetti.com

    • It’s so hard to juggle both work and blogging sometimes- it’s basically working two jobs, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Setting up priorities definitely helps ;)

  • I loved that post! Once again all your tips are so helpful Paula. When feeling overwhelmed I tend to stuck and doing nothing at all but i guess i have to take action and really start doing something.
    Helene // Beautiful Is My Attire

    • Thank you Helene! I think we all tend to fall into that trap- you have so much to do, you don’t know where to start, so you do nothing instead. I find that doing even something really small, like de-cluttering my desk, or cleaning up my kitchen, making a to do list or something like that always helps. As long as you end up getting something done- no matter how small :)

  • I love this! I find mindfully noticing thoughts is so helpful :)

  • Loved this post! And it’s actually inspired me to be more productive! haha x

    Ariadna || RAWR BOWS

  • Love this post! Such important tips.

    Hannah | Stories Of A Telescope

  • I love this post, there are some really helpful tips. I think we all feel overwhelmed from time to time, it is only natural. I just try to look after myself and do what is right for me and if I need to take a break, I will go ahead and do it!

    Danielle xx
    http://www.fashionbeautyblog.co.uk/

    • Thanks Danielle! Glad to know that you look after yourself- so many of us struggle with knowing when to take a break. x

  • This post came at the right time for me. I NEEDED this. I’m going to start mind mapping and taking deep breaths when I feel like I have too much to do. Thank you hunny.

    Jodie xx
    http://www.jodiecaughey.com

  • Kiri Yanchenko

    This is all really great advice.
    I used to always say yes to everything before I was really sick – now I am totally selfish and if I just can’t do it I won’t.. It is better than not delivering I think.
    I also delegate to my husband. I am starting my own thing up and now; since I work full time, blog, learn Japanese AND complete all the tasks for my own thing I would be lost without his help.
    Last night he packaged some things up to post out and reviewed my legal documents.
    Legend!
    Kiri
    Set to Glow
    http://www.settoglow.com.au

    • I think it’s so important to be a little selfish sometimes- it’s a necessity. Delegating is great way to deal with overwhelm, too! Sounds like you guys make a great team :)

  • I also get overwhelmed with e-mails, some I have in my inbox from weeks ago I never responded to. For some reason I just don’t mesh with writing things down, even with the organizers I have. I really should push myself to do it but I end up ignoring it because I’m going like a 100 miles an hour, or at least it feels like! Or, I just don’t have the motivation to do so! Doesn’t help that my mood swings affect my daily life so much, one moment I’m so motivated I feel like I can do anything in the world and then I come down super hard the next moment. It kind of feels like I’m so stuck most times but I’ve been actively working to get my mental health better, so there’s hope!

    xoxo
    http://www.hellohimawari.com

    • I can relate to the mood swings Mika. It’s so strange how one minute I can feel really motivated and driven and the other I’m sad and don’t feel like doing anything. I find mind-mapping and writing things down really helpful when I feel like I have too much to do- sorry that doesn’t work for you! Have you tried meditation? I hope you can find something that works for you Mika! Glad to know that you’re actively working on getting better! Sending my love!!

  • Serein Wu

    Great tips, scheduling and mind-mapping are the most helpful for me whenever I am feeling overwhelmed.

    xoxo Serein Wu
    http://sereinwu.com/

  • wanderlust boulevard

    Ahh I definitely needed to read this post! Thank you for the wonderful tips! x

    http://www.wanderlustboulevard.com

  • I write to-do lists but then I don’t schedule time limits for it so my to-do lists always flow onto the next day and repeat. Need to start scheduling otherwise it pretty much makes my to-do lists in minimising my stress redundant.

    Emily
    http://emilytrinh.com | http://emilytrinhcreative.com/blog

    • Have you tried using any scheduling apps that will literally nag you till death until you finish your to-dos? May be a bit extreme, but I found that if something is annoying me with millions of reminders, I am more likely to actually do it rather than turn reminders off (as it feels like cheating :) ).

      • That actually sounds like such a good idea. I usually stick to paper planners, but would love to try an app.

        • I am using Habitica as of now – because of its game-like nature, it forces you to take ‘damage’ every time you don’t complete what you set yourself out to do and it really really plays well on my perfectionist nature. I want my beautifully full and uniform health bar, dammit :)

          • Thanks Paula and Aleksandra for the suggestion! I will give it a go and see how my productivity levels change. :)

    • Time-blocking changed everything for me- give it a try!

  • I have been on such a good productive streak lately, just waiting for a bad day to ruin it forever… Great tips, as always :)

  • Scheduling and time blocking help me stay on top of things as well as planning free hours to fall back on If something does not work out with the original plan. Which almost always happens when family is involved.
    And I stopped answering these emails long ago. Not that I get that many, but when someone tells me he loves my sense of fashion and my fashion photography he has clearly not taken even a quick glance at my blog and I am not willing to dedicate my time to them.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • I couldn’t live without my schedule. Ahh those emails are so annoying and I agree with you that with being as busy as some of us are, we shouldn’t be willing to waste our time on responding to them.

  • Feeling overwhelmed is something I experience a lot so this post is perfect! You’ve shared so many great tips. I’m definitely going to keep referring back to this when I need to x

    Lauren | itslaurenvictoria.blogspot.co.uk

  • Natalie Redman

    Prioritizing and setting boundaries I feel are very important!

    http://www.upyourvlog.com

  • This is a lovely read! You had my head zapped up with motivation. Now, I feel like scheduling and putting myself into action. You’ve described the feeling of being overwhelmed exactly the way I feel. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    Chaste & Beautiful

  • This is just what I need I can really feel overwhelmed sometimes and need to know how to manage it, especially when I plan to still try and blog as often as possible when I start a full time job in september!
    http://www.pagesfrombeth.co.uk

  • Carolina Pereira

    Totally agree with everything! I always want to do everything at once, and I’m not an organized person and I always freak out!

    carolinasmakeuplife.blogspot.pt

  • I have been doing some of these things lately (maybe even unconsciously) and it has been working, but it’s great to read about it again and remind me of actually doing it!

  • These are great tips. I think it’s important to stay organized and plan ahead in order not to get overwhelmed!

    Have an awesome day!

    xx Kris

    https://dreamingofpink.wordpress.com

  • This was very enlightening and helpful – I had never heard of mind mapping, but I’ll definitely start doing that. Thanks!