Six constructive steps for dealing with overwhelm

I’m writing this blog on the first day of September. Last week I caught myself saying “I feel overwhelmed by September”. Now I’m here and I’m dealing with it, so what steps have I taken and how do I feel now?

This September is a busy month for me, even by my standards. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve got a lot going on from various perspectives including work, family, ‘back to school’, study and health – and I’ve just launched my new business venture Blue Diamond! Admittedly, some of this is self-inflicted. I was thinking about September when I was on holiday last week, being somewhat of a planner – and I actually felt physically overwhelmed by it all.

Overwhelm is something that I feel periodically. It is hardly surprising given modern lives are so busy and multi-faceted. Overall, I try my best to take life and all of its challenges in my stride, but I’m not immune to getting caught up in things. From time to time I become overwhelmed and need to step back – and almost reset – to allow me to move forward again in a more constructive manner.


What is overwhelm, anyway?

Overwhelm – Dictionary Definition

If you are overwhelmed by a feeling or event, it affects you very strongly, and you do not know how to deal with it.

–        He was overwhelmed by a longing for times past. [be VERB-ed]

–        The need to talk to someone, anyone, overwhelmed her. [VERB noun]

–        Sightseers may be a little overwhelmed by the crowds and noise. [+ by]

Overwhelm manifests itself for me personally as a slightly giddy, nauseous feeling. Having felt this a number of times before, I now instantly recognise the signs. You may well experience different symptoms that you class as overwhelm. Or you may have similar symptoms, but label them in a different way. Sometimes my feelings of overwhelm can dissipate on their own, but often I take steps to address them. Up until now this process has been pretty sub-conscious, but I thought it might be useful, for me as well as others, if I articulate and share this.

Steps for dealing with overwhelm

September has since begun, and I’m dealing with it in the best way for me. So what steps have I taken, and more importantly, how do I feel now?

I appreciate that I still have a lot to deal with, but I feel so much better for having recognised the early warning signs and taken the time to address these. I list the steps I have taken below.

  1. Recognise the signs

As I mentioned above, overwhelm manifests itself for me as a giddy, nauseous feeling washing over me. For you this could be quite different. The earlier I recognise the signs, the better the chance of dealing with it promptly and minimising its impact.

  1. It’s good to talk

Sometimes just talking through things can help. Once the thoughts rushing around my head get expressed into words, this can often help me to find a way forward. The listener may also have some useful suggestions that can help, or at least help me to put it all into context.

Coaching can also be a really empowering option here!

  1. Write a list

Similar to above, getting things out of my head and onto paper can be useful. This may help to bring things further into perspective, or it can result in a list of actions! Either way, once out of my head, it allows me more headspace to actually deal with it in a proactive manner.

  1. Determine what’s important and what’s not

Once I’ve articulated the situation, this can often help to identify which bits are important versus not. It can also assist in prioritisation.

Remember that while some things are within our control, not everything is. Ideally, we should focus only on the bits that are and try hard not to worry about the rest.

  1. Plan accordingly

Once I have my list and know what I need to address, the next step is planning. As you probably know, I’m a big fan of planning! It helps me to juggle many different items, and can certainly help things to go smoother and more efficiently than the alternative.

It can also help me to get through one day or week at a time in a relatively structured manner.

  1. Resist taking anything else on

My natural tendency is to take on more than I should across multiple dimensions of my life. When I’m operating at full tilt then I can often deal with this. When I feel overwhelmed I need to constantly remind myself that my plate is already full and to not take on / accept / agree to anything else.

Click here for 6 additional tips for dealing with overwhelm.


Can I avoid overwhelm altogether?

My post here has been about dealing with overwhelm, not how to avoid it. I’d love to say that I’ll never feel it again in the future, but who knows? Yes, some of mine is probably self-inflicted. But it’s also a result of many things coinciding at once, which I can’t necessarily control. I’d rather know I have some tools to deal with it again, if necessary, rather than protecting myself from it. Life is too short, after all. Look out for a future article on comfort zones!



I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience of periodic overwhelm, with modern lives and the busy schedules we lead. I hope that you find these ideas useful. I’d love to hear any steps or tips that you have for dealing with overwhelm, or similar feelings, that you experience.


Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.