5 Key Ways to Help Yourself When Overwhelmed ... by Marianne Preston

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Life can be stressful and can throw many things your way. In this time of COVID it is more important than ever to pay attention to your mental health. Taking care of the overwhelm in your life is critical to your wellness.

Are you stressed trying to manage all the demands of your your work. Deadlines, assessments, targets you need to meet. Perhaps you are at risk of losing your job or facing restrictions due to the second wave COVID.

As a parent are you facing the challenges of managing your children’s schooling, both at home or in the school setting. The stress of not knowing if and when schools may be shut down again. Fearful that they may be at risk.

Maybe for you the struggle is too many demands...too little time. Spread thin between caring for elderly family members, working two jobs and trying to keep your home and family cared for and functioning.

Whew...so much to manage.. so much stress.

While some stress can benefit us, too much can cause anxiety and be harmful.

There are many things you can do if you are finding that you are close to your breaking point.

Take a Break

When we are in the midst of situation that causes overwhelm it is hard to get perspective.   Hard to see the forest for the trees. Taking a step away allows you to reduce the immediate stress and re-evaluate. It is almost impossible to make a clear and informed decision when you are overwhelmed.

Step back... Reduce your commitments... Re-assess your situation

Ask yourself what you need in the moment?

Attend to basic needs- your sleep, diet and hydration

Learn relaxation techniques- meditation, breathing, mindfulness to help you gain better control of your own emotional state for future incidents when overwhelm strikes.


Connecting with others is critical for most people’s wellness. We are social beings and even introverts and those that are comfortable being on their own need a certain amount of human contact. When the world throws too much your way the connections you have formed with other can be your saving grace. The key is to reach out. Connect with co-workers who can pick up the slack at work, with close friends who care about you for that ever important buddy boost, and finally those that are closest to you your family and partner.

One final note is about the connection you have with yourself. This is often neglected, but is ultimately the most important. Take the time to get comfortable with who you are.

What are your needs, wants and hopes?

How do you stay connected to your intuition?

How do you support yourself in times of stress?

Say No with intention

Now is not the time to take on new commitments. Being in a state of overwhelm requires that you re-direct all of your available resources to YOU.

Say no with grace, but be firm and clear about your decision. You do not need to offer elaborate explanations as to why you cannot take on additional responsibilities.

Be careful as additional things like: agreeing to work late again; being guilted into agreeing to take that extra assignment at work; volunteering for the school committee; chauffeuring family everywhere, and doing all the home chores can creep up on you. At first glance it may not seem to be adding to your plate, but in fact they can easily add to the overload. You may not have choice in all instances, but where you do, agree only to those things that you truly want. Give yourself permission to say no.

Take Action

Taking action is in fact the counter balance to taking a break. The focus here is to get you back to a state of balance. Overwhelm is characterized by a loss of control and often a sense of desperation and giving up. You can take back some control, but isolating out the most important things for you. Look at what you must do and what you can let go of. Make a plan that includes your priorities and your self care. Set manageable daily goals and re-commit to taking steps that move you closer to where you want to be.

Seek Help

Never underestimate the power of a mentor or advisor. If your challenges are truly overwhelming you, then it can be valuable to seek the suggestions of a trusted guide. Someone who can be objective and can help you create a strategic plan for regaining control. If you don’t have access to that mentor, you can still be benefit by asking yourself what might a trusted advisor say at a time like this? What would be the best next step? This is a particular time when a coach can be a great asset to you.

Regardless of what situations may arise in your life remember that you can regain control. With attention paid to the right areas you can begin to take the necessary steps to create plan to get yourself out of that place of overwhelm. You have the ability. Trust in yourself.

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