Tag Archive: getting rid of overwhelm

Understanding Overwhelm

WomanInOverwhelmOverwhelm. Overwhelming. Overwhelmed. So, what is overwhelm anyway? I guarantee it’s not what you might think it is. So many people experience overwhelm.  If you could look at the inside of your head when you experience overwhelm, it would probably look a lot like a messy desk.

We’ve all experienced it before and a couple of the indicators are the feeling of suffering and not being able to get ahead. Emotions like stress and anxiety are involved.  Your physical environment may start to become disorganized, with things piling up and things won’t be getting done as planned, for sure.

So now, let me ask you something…what do you think overwhelm is?

The dictionary says it’s “upset or overthrow; to cover over completely; submerge; to overcome by superior force or numbers; to overpower in thought or feeling.” That definition is not completely correct. I’m about to say something that you’ve probably never heard.  Overwhelm is not an emotion. It’s a conversation,  not something that you feel, and to overcome it you have to remember that.  You have that conversation with yourself, and as I call them, the people in your head. When you start to think about all that there is to do the thought process grows.  You start to think about what might not get done the impact or the fallout and it starts to make you feel a particular way.  It may be that you feel stressed, frustrated, inadequate, and like you’re not in control any more.  It’s the thoughts you have that produce the emotion and you believe that you are feeling overwhelmed, when in fact, you are feeling, stressed, frustrated, inadequate and out of control.

Once you understand and acknowledge that, you can move to the more traditional solutions to dealing with the things that are causing you to have the conversation. Gain some perspective by dividing the list of things to do asking yourself what things have to be done right now and what things can wait. Identify the priority items. Commit to those things and schedule blocks of time to get them done, and be realistic about what you can do and when.  The next time that you think you’re “feeling” overwhelmed, I want you to remember what I’ve shared with you. It may be a rather intense one, but still it’s just a conversation.


There is always more to do, no matter what hat you wear in life.  Everyone from domestic engineers/stay at home Moms to top CEOs can relate to that.  At times it’s difficult to get things done because of the overwhelm conversation.  That conversation that we have with ourselves will keep us from accomplishing things unless we remember that it’s a conversation and deal with it accordingly.

Recently I was asked to contribute my thoughts on overcoming overwhelm.  I was one of 106 professionals who contributed to the Productive & Organized blog.  Click to see what I and 105 others have to say about overwhelm.

Come back and leave your thoughts, comments or post a question for me here.

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