The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Overwhelm, Part 1

business well-being Project 3 min read

In this three part series, we will look at what overwhelm is and then talk about 11 different strategies you can immediately apply to help manage feelings of overwhelm. This first post will cover exactly what is meant by overwhelm. The second and third parts in the series will go into detail about each of the 11 strategies you can use.

What is overwhelm?

Overwhelm is something with which many business owners and entrepreneurs will be familiar with at some point in their lives. In running your own business there is an unwritten and implied assumption that initially, at least, you do it all. In attempting to do it all, can and often does lead to burn out and overwhelm.

Overwhelm is a sense of "too much of something" and can feel like all the stresses and stressors in our lives are too much and many to easily manage. We may feel like we are constantly running from one thing to another and yet never really achieving anything or perhaps feeling like we are not achieving in the way we had imagined.

Overwhelm in a pile of paper
Photographer: Christa Dodoo | Source: Unsplash

When do we get overwhelmed?

Overwhelm tends to appear in a few common ways. They are:

  • overwhelmed by feelings
  • overwhelmed by time pressures
  • overwhelmed by how to do things "right"
  • a series of small, continual challenges to deal with in a short period of time
  • a significant trauma or stress (eg job loss, loss of a loved one)

When you peel those layers back, you might find that overwhelm is caused by:

  • the way we are talking to ourselves - self-talk
  • fears (that we may or may not connect directly with the feelings of overwhelm)
  • struggling to manage the competing demands on our time and energy and resources
  • setting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and those around us.
You can do everything, but not all at once. - unknown

What does overwhelm look and feel like?

Each person is going to have their own way of expressing overwhelm and how it looks and feels to them. There are a number of aspects that are common to people the world over including:

  • anxiety
  • anger
  • irritability, irrationality, frustration
  • tiredness
  • possibly depression

Stress also shows in our bodies through higher cortisol (stress) levels and lower serotonin (feel good) levels. This change in body chemistry then actually leads to our bodies physically feeling overwhelming. Our bodies directly reflect our internal state of overwhelm.

Overwhelm may also show up as feeling like you are constantly playing catch up and never feeling like you are there. This feeling can often be a significant contributing factor in burnout.

Overcoming Overwhelm - How do you do that?

There are many strategies you can apply which can ease your sense of overwhelm. This list may in itself seem overwhelming due to it's size. Take a moment to read through this list and reflect on those you may already be doing, notice how it feels reading through a long list. Notice the ones that prompt a response whether it be physical or emotional.

As with many things in our lives, we need to experiment to find out what does or does not work for us. Applying the same attitude towards self-care is helpful and beneficial. Sometimes we need to try something and maybe even try it a few times before we decide that it does or does not serve us. Some days the techniques may be helpful, other days less so. An easily accessible list of possible techniques to try when you are feeling overwhelmed can minimise the spiraling vortex of overwhelm. Perhaps have it a file on your computer or a list on your noticeboard. Find what is most easeful and helpful for you.

When you are trying out a technique, observe your experiences and notice any similarities or differences as they can help uncover your personal blend of ideal self-care techniques. Recording these experiences may help with identifying any patterns in your self-care routines that are particularly effective and satisfying for you.

Antidote to overwhelm
Photographer: Paul | Source: Unsplash

11 Strategies for Reducing Overwhelm

There are many, many techniques you can use for reducing sensations of overwhelm. They include:

  1. STOP Technique
  2. Acceptance, Presence and Serenity
  3. Check Your Thoughts and Reality
  4. Breathing
  5. Define Your Priorities, Delegate and Plan
  6. Sleep and slowing down
  7. Acknowledge your worth
  8. Engage your senses
  9. Cultivate Gratitude
  10. Meditation
  11. Journalling/brain dump

Take a moment now to notice if any of these feel like they resonate with you. In the next blog post, we will cover the first five strategies. The third post in the series will examine the remaining strategies.

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