Why Overwhelm is so hard to break through and how you can do it

Posted · Add Comment

Have you ever felt under constant pressure….burdened by too many tasks, too many responsibilities, too many Manys?

Have you ever tried to get through a mountain of tasks in a short space of time….most of them things that do not contribute to you, that don’t further your learning and that keep you from achieving your dreams?

What does it look like to your team when you know you are not coping….with no end in sight?

If so, then you are not alone.

A large proportion of business leaders, entrepreneurs and people who hold positions of responsibility tend to find themselves overwhelmed.

Can you image what it feels like to be stress free?

Feeling powerful under pressure?

Tension in shoulders completely gone?

As if you had had two-week holiday and are completely relaxed?

If you had the steps to ensure that you never felt this way again, imagine what a difference this would make to your life.

In this blog post I will show you how with my 5 quick and easy ways to breakthrough Overwhelm.

Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough No 1: PAUSE for 1 minute and allow yourself to breathe


When we are overwhelmed, we tend to keep rushing from one thing to the next, our minds constantly churning and buzzing with what’s next, what’s not done, what still needs to be done.

We feel tense and contracted with that every growing knot in our stomach area. We don’t breathe properly, so our brain does not get enough oxygen to truly focus and be effective.

Because of this we keep accelerating, doing more, increasing out efforts. A vicious circle of continuous overwhelm is created.

To break this pattern, take a break – literally.

When the feelings of overwhelm arise, step away from it all for 1 minute. That is all it takes. Breathe slowly and deliberately. In and out. Focus on yourself, on your breath. Nothing else.

You can go for a short walk, look out of the window or go for a coffee/tea break. It is important that you do not do anything that can distract you from your PAUSE. Leave your phone at your desk, in your purse or your jacket pocket.

You will feel the difference, being clearer and more focused.

After your PAUSE, decide on what you are going to tackle next.

Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough No 2: Focus on 1 thing at a time

entrepreneur-593358_640Multitasking does not work.

Even if you think you can do it – it is not the case. It is a fallacy, a myth.

What actually happens is that we switch between areas very quickly. Switching between projects all the time lowers productivity and reduces our ability to concentrate.

Every time we switch to something else we need to decide that we are switching and what to switch to. Then we need to get into the new or different project. That takes time too.

Switching time is a drain that we underestimate.

Let’s look at an example of interrupting a longer project e.g. one that would normally take 1 hour to complete. If you interrupt the project, say after 20 minutes, to ‘quickly’ answer emails, this is what happens:

Now switching back to the project:

If you are lucky, you will only experience a 10% increase in time you have to spend on the project. Often it takes much longer especially if you allow additional interruptions.

Focusing on 1 thing at a time really pays off. It saves time and brain energy in the long run.

If you cannot complete one thing, split it out into smaller chunks, so you get the satisfaction of completing at least one chunk. That way, you know it is complete and you do not have to keep revisiting it.

One way to focus and put boundaries in place is using a talking clock that tells when 15 minutes are up. It really helps to me to focus.

Some of my clients also found these methods helpful:

  • switching their phone off for that time,
  • closing their e-mail programme so there are no pop ups,
  • having a sign on their desk: “Please don’t disturb”.

Make sure you take a break after each focus period. Notice how you feel and what has changed for you after each focus period.

You may find that you’ll get more done in a shorter time frame if you keep using this method.

Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough No 3: Make your SLEEP a priority

woman-918981_640When we are overwhelmed, we tend to skimp on sleep. We believe that if we can have an extra hour or two, we can reduce that ever-increasing pressure of overwhelm.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

Lack of sleep results in lower effectiveness and a reduction in productivity – in effect it is making us slower and less focused. This increases overwhelm even further.

Because of overwhelm we often sleep less well. Our brain doesn’t stop churning. We even become anxious or frustrated about never being able to relax. We wake up at night or have restless sleep.

The most important thing is slow down our body before we go to bed. Otherwise your brain is too wired.

A key thing to know is that our body needs about an hour to slow down.

This is what you need to do:

  • Even if you feel you have still too many things to complete and are tempted to check your e-mails before you go to bed, make a conscious effort not to.Why this works is that the light from electronic devices increases our wakefulness. As does extra thinking about what we still have to do.
  • Focus on winding down. Do something that does not require brain power or significant activity.Meditation, breathing exercises, listening to a calming audio book or taking a warm bath are all activities that help us slow down. Find the activity that works for you.
  • Go to bed at a time that allows you sufficient hours of sleep. As you lie in bed, waiting to fall asleep, lie on your back, your knees bent and breathe. Count your breaths – that is all you have to do. Breathe in and out without pressure. Notice your breath and what is happening in your body as you breathe.

When thoughts intrude, gently bring your focus back on your breath.

Count each breath until you reached 100.

Then allow yourself to fall asleep.

Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough No 4: Face up to 1 thing

woman-1030895_640We contribute to overwhelm. We create it. We perpetuate it. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are the common factor. We do not create overwhelm deliberately. It is often unconscious.

At some point in our lives we have made assumptions about ourselves, others and the world around us. Whilst these assumptions may have been valid at the time, they may no longer be true now. For example, we may believe

  • certain limitations are in place e.g. we have do something because we believe someone else expects it of us,
  • things need to work in a certain way e.g. we need to follow a certain process otherwise we will not get the result we want,
  • something unwanted will happen if we do something differently e.g. if we make a change, everything will fall apart.

The good news is, what we create, we can uncreate.

The key is to face up to our underlying assumptions that are contributing to and causing overwhelm.

You can easily recognise your assumptions by noticing the words you use. If you describe anything with the words: must, cannot, can only, has to, need to, must not, there is an assumption behind it.

Pick one of those assumptions and play a game of ‘what if’:

  • What if this were not true? What would you do then?
  • What if you substituted must with might, cannot with could, need with may?

Make one small change based on 1 assumption you have challenged.

Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough No 5: Take 1 positive ACTION to reduce your burdens

When we are in overwhelm we feel we are too busy to stop, to take stock, to makes changes and to get rid of activities we have taken responsibility for.

If we keep going the way we are, things can only get worse rather than better.

Everyday there will be at least 1 thing that does not need to be done. It may not be your responsibility or does not add value to you, your work, your life or your goals.

In fact, they do the opposite. They just drain you. They cost time, energy, potentially money and take you away from your goals.

So take 1 positive ACTION today and eliminate 1 thing that contributes or adds to your overwhelm.

Here are some examples of positive ACTIONS some of my clients have successfully taken:

  • Unsubscribed from 1 useless newsletter a day that clogged up the inbox and smart phone, costing time and energy to open and read,
  • Said NO to 1 request for your time – a request that does not fit in with your goals, your role or does not add any value to you,
  • Reduced your meetings from 1 hour to 30 minutes with clear agendas, outcomes and decisions saving yourself 30 minutes each time.

Most of these ACTIONS do not have to be huge. Sometimes a small thing can feel really empowering, create the necessary space or the feeling of relief.

To successfully breakthrough overwhelm, make these 5 Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough Ways a regular part of your day. Each can fit seamlessly into your day around your daily routines. You do not even have to make extra time as none of the 5 Ways takes more than a few minutes at most.

I would really love to hear from you in the comments which of the 5 Easy Overwhelm Breakthrough Ways are you starting with today?

If you have enjoyed reading this blog please share this inspiration of this blog with your friends and colleagues by clicking on the buttons below.

Comments are closed.

  • Career Coaching:
    Identifying core purpose & strengths
    “I found my sessions with Bettina really useful – she was very good at giving me the space to voice everything going on.  Bettina also provided some really useful tools for helping me identify my strengths and what I enjoy most at work – which gave me the incentive to move from my current role to a new one which focusses more on what I enjoy and where my strengths lie.” Sara, Charity Fund Raiser, UK
  • Career Coaching:
    CV & Confidence Transformation
    "I needed to re-design my CV to help me with my career change. I needed to find and describe the right information to be able to show that I had relevant experience for the roles I was applying for. My biggest insight was that the role description should focus on achievements instead of tasks. I felt more positive and empowered about talking about what I have done in a confident way. I now have a CV that I see as more marketable and I hope it will help me to finally land into the position I desire :-). I have already started noticing the different response that recruiters give to my CV as they can see the information they need for the roles they recruit for. Thank you again and all the very best," Talita C, Researcher, UK
  • Dial A Guru – Creation of Self-Learning Materials:
    Attention to detail & Professionalism
    "I just wanted to drop you a line to say a big thank you you for doing such a beautifully professional job with your DAG book 1 workbook exercise pages – wow – it was 100% exactly what I could have wished for. I'd like to share it will future authors to inspire others to follow your example which would also make my life that bit easier [...]. Anyway, thank you again." Dawn Campbell, Editor, Dial A Guru Self-Helf Book Series
  • Leadership Coaching for Business Transformation:
    Challenging old paradigms and breaking through stuck perspectives and overwhelm to achieve quick and sustainable progress and business transformation.
    “Bettina’s passion and intensity makes working with her very rewarding; she is not afraid to ‘cut to the chase’; the sessions very quickly provoke thought, debate and ultimately positive change. Approachable and yet not afraid to challenge perceptions she created a pressure relief valve within the firm at a crucial time allowing us to home in on latent issues of concern which if not addressed would have caused us significant trouble down the road.” R.I., Chief Technology Officer, Media Technology Company