8 Reasons Behind Overwhelm and How to Get Going Again

I used to think that being overwhelmed was just a normal feeling from doing too much with not enough time to get it all done.

Something that would go away as I worked through endless “to-do lists”.

Now, I realise that overwhelm is not a natural or healthy state – it’s part of our stress response to tell us that we are not coping.   Sometimes it just doesn’t go away, but develops into deeper states such as anxiety, hopelessness, depression and illness.

So, what’s really going on here?

Whether you’re a successful entrepreneur, a mum, a  student, someone with a new business idea, you work for someone, or you’re trying to get better organised – it doesn’t matter.  We’ve all been swamped by overwhelm.

1.  Are You a Perfectionist?

I’ve been guilty of this.  Perfectionists like to present themselves to the world perfectly, but we are fooling ourselves. Being perfect is impossible – it is just a perception.   It will not only affect your health but will screw up getting the job done as you are more than likely to not finish what you started, if you even begin in the first place.   Setting such high standards for yourself is setting yourself up for failure – a sure fire way for procrastination to come knocking.   Being a perfectionist invites overwhelm quicker than interruptions.

Practice being imperfect for the next week – trust me, you’ll be OK.

2.  Need More Information?

Are you guilty of never starting a task because you don’t have enough information, enough time, you’re waiting for that person to get back to you or the planets are just not aligned?  The truth is – you will never have enough information, that person’s input is probably not needed, the planets will stay where they are and time marches on.  Successful people only ever have 50% of the information needed to take action – the rest will follow.

You have enough information now to do whatever it is you’ve been putting off – go on, give it a go!

 3.  Feeling Stretched?

Opportunities come and go – we’ve all experienced this and regretted not acting on them.   If you look at opportunities as a means to grow emotionally, financially or successfully in business (whatever is your thing), you are less likely to stay stuck in your comfort zone.  Feeling uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable.  Learn to embrace that feeling and realise that you will never be 100% comfortable or ready to take that leap, make that decision or launch that new idea.

Do it anyway and step outside your comfort zone.  Once you have done this, notice how it makes you feel!

4.  The Queen of Complication?

Are you the Queen of creating over complicated scenarios in your head, over thinking everything to the “enth” degree?  Never forget that wise advice of  K.I.S.S.   In today’s highly technical world, we can be constantly bombarded with choices and opportunities and the next shiny thing.   If overwhelm is overtaking your world, go back to your original idea, break it down to the bare bones and simple steps – it will look easier.

Your subconscious mind is always looking for an excuse to give up – don’t give it one!

5.  So Overwhelmed You Are Stuck?

We’ve all heard this one, but it is so true – I’ll say it again.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!   A very helpful philosophy.   By taking consistent, small actions, you will get there. Continuous momentum will pull you forward towards your goal.  Start with just one small action each day and tick that off.  You will be surprised at how soon you will accomplish more.

6.  To-Do-Lists Leave You Cold?

I used to keep a to-do-list that kept growing each day – it ended up so long it was like unwinding a scroll.  I would sit there and gaze at it each morning and feel completely overwhelmed, not knowing where to start.   Try this instead – incorporate your to-do-list as part of  your diary.   I find a “day to a page” diary works best.  Write each task in your diary and give it an allotted time limit.  Get yourself a bright highlighter and highlight each task that you get done.   At the end of each day you can feel the accomplishment and really feel that you rocked your day.   But, don’t worry if you don’t get much highlighted (some days just happen that way).  By saying to yourself “I’ve done enough today” you still get to pat yourself on the back.   Just move on to the next day and keep moving forward.

Secret tip – if at the end of the day you are feeling less than excited about your accomplishments, write some tasks in so you can cross them off, such as – long phone call with a friend, grocery shopping, cleaned the toilet, watched TV – it doesn’t really matter what it is, but it will fool your subconscious and you get to feel that you accomplished heaps!

7.  Scared of Mistakes?

So afraid of making a mistake, getting a knock-back, looking silly, feeling a failure that you let things pile up?   You’re not alone.  This is one of the most common fear, the “I’m Not Good Enough” one (so big that someone gave it a title).   The trick here is to reframe your thinking about mistakes – call them a lesson, progress, a speed bump, a chance to practice, a reminder of what not to do – pick words that work for you.  Always remember – the biggest mistake you can make is to never make a mistake.   That would be the ultimate self-sabotage.

Mistakes don’t define you, they refine you.

8.  Are You Out of Balance?

Are you so overwhelmed by your tasks, to-do-lists, or just your ideas, that you are focusing on just that?   Get a grip and take a break.  Having balance in your life and daily activities is another necessity for success.   So, close your diary, put your lists in the drawer and go and focus on something else.   When was the last time you had fun, enjoyed a good belly laugh with friends, treated yourself to a massage or some pampering?  Put your life back in perspective – so what if you don’t get that thing done and it drags on a little longer than you anticipated.  Ask yourself these questions coined by Sir Richard Branson – they go something like – What’s the worst thing that can happen?   And, if that happened, could I handle it?   I would bet my last good idea that the answer is yes.

Go forth and kick that overwhelm to the kerb!

With your health in mind,

Catherine McCoy

Your turn – share some tips that help you get over overwhelm in the comments below.

Like this?  Get more great health tips and information, recipes and lifestyle inspiration from iNaturally by subscribing to the iNaturally Newsletter here www.inaturally.com.au

Catherine McCoy


Catherine McCoy is a qualified Naturopath, Coach and Speaker who is the founder of iNaturally.   Catherine helps busy women get a handle on their stress, anxiety and overwhelm so they can live the life they aspire to.  Get your health back on track and create that change in your thinking and your lifestyle to be the healthiest and happiest person you can be.  Contact Catherine for more information.




5 thoughts on “8 Reasons Behind Overwhelm and How to Get Going Again

  1. My tip for not being overwhelmed by life is simple: treat myself gently when I notice I am becoming overburdened, particularly by my old bugbear, ‘I’m not good enough’. A few of the things I do are these:
    – Sit in the sun with a book
    – Take time to play with my little dog
    – Use my favourite perfume
    – Take myself out to lunch
    – Purchase a treat (chocolate covered blueberries, fresh fruit, an inexpensive piece of jewellery – my favourite at the moment is dichroic glass)
    – Take delight in nature – watch the clouds, see the wind blowing the trees, listen to the waves breaking, see the rain glistening on leaves
    – Go to an art exhibition
    – Don’t attempt anything too strenuous
    – Get plenty of rest – no late nights
    – Snuggle down into freshly washed sheets.

    None of these is difficult, none will add to my burdens, nor are they costly in terms of money or time. I am fortunate I am retired, and therefore do have time to look after myself in the above manner.

    • Thanks for sharing these great tips Gemma. Ahhh…. freshly washed sheets – there is nothing better! It is the simple things that can often have the greatest positive impact on dealing with stress. I love that you are gentle with yourself and are comfortable with self-nurturing. We can all benefit from doing at least one thing on your list every day.

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