How To Deal With Overwhelm

We’re a couple of days into the new year. How’s it going so far? Excellent, I hope.

And yet I fear you may say you’re already feeling overwhelmed with the new year.

There’s the goals you’ve set that you’re already behind on. There’s the resolutions you’re no longer committed to. There’s not enough time in the day to get done what needs to be done.

You’re struggling and wondering how to deal with the overwhelm you’re feeling.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s never a good feeling. You feel you can’t accomplish what you’ve set out to do. There’s a struggle. You might even feel like you’re drowning.

That’s the power of feeling overwhelmed. You no longer feel in control and the world is spinning around you.

It’s always amazing to me how heavy the feeling of overwhelm can be in your life.

Don’t fret though. There’s hope that we can combat overwhelm and take back our lives.

Let’s learn how we can deal with overwhelm.

Talk with others: I’m a firm believer there’s power in numbers. When we’re joining with others, we’re able to face more than we are alone.

Ecclesiastics 4:9-12 puts it this way-

Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

This is confirmation that friendships are a powerful tool in overcoming overwhelm and other issues we may face in our lives.

Find a friend or two that you can confide in. Share your pain and struggles with them. Allow yourself to be comforted by their presence and the wisdom they can offer in dealing with the overwhelming feelings of life.

Focus on one task: Have you ever fallen victim to the shiny object? You know the task that pops up while you’re working on an important goal. The task tells you to drop everything and pay attention to me! Stop working on the goal and look at me!

Yeah, that one. I have and it’s easy to do.

The shiny object is also a major cause of feeling overwhelmed. Shiny objects cause us to take our focus off of the important and onto the immediate or enjoyable. We’re tempted to put more important objectives on the back burner.

Don’t do it man! I’m telling you, it’s only going to cause you to feel even more overwhelmed.

Instead, focus on one task and accomplish what’s important. Don’t waiver from the task in front of you. Complete it and feel the rush of satisfaction that will wash over you.

Do this over and over again and you’ll find yourself getting things done. Soon the feeling of overwhelm will fade away.

Clean up your work area: Another cause of feeling overwhelmed can come from a messy work area or home. Some people deal really well with clutter, others freak out.

For those of you that freak out over the sight of clutter, get cleaning!

Clear your desk of everything except what’s important and being worked on. Clean up the floor around your desk. Remove clutter and garbage from your sight.

Bask in the glory of a clean work area. And notice how the feeling of being overwhelmed has crawled away, begging for mercy.

(NOTE) This is something I struggle greatly with. My typical work area looks like a tornado went through it. From those I’ve talked with, a cleaner work area helps people concentrate and relax more.

Now you know three tactics for dealing with overwhelm. You can talk with your friends. You can get laser focused on the task at hand and ignore distractions. Lastly, you can clean up your work area so you’re free of clutter.

Question: How do you deal with overwhelm? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi Joe. It’s funny, as last year came to a close, I realized I was feeling extremely overwhelmed…and it had to do with goals I wanted to accomplish. Instead of making new resolutions or setting S.M.A.R.T. goals before January 1st, I decided to “back off.” I knew I was in danger of extreme burnout when I cancelled a free ticket to a Brendon Burchard event for early this year (regret soon kicked in). But I realized that I had to take care of myself…so I unplugged (for a short time), backed off on a self-imposed deadline for something that was going to take an extreme amount of work, and cleaned off my desk. Just doing those things helped me more than I can say. Now I’m ready to begin again.

    • Oh wow, that’s a big step to cancel the Brendan Bruchard ticket but I understand. Sometimes we’re so go, go, go that we forget about ourselves. I hope that you’re feeling better and more relaxed.

      • Thanks Joe. I do regret canceling that but I know I was doing too much and my health began to suffer. I hope I can go next year. I am already doing a lot better, and part of that is letting go of things and resting more. Have a great weekend!

        • Don’t regret it Linda. Know it was a choice you had to make to help you. Many times that’s more important than any information you may have learned at the event. And there’s always next year!

  • Lovely post Joe! I have to move out of my trailer for the month of January (and I love my home…) so packing up and preparing to work in someone else’s house (my beloved’s and he does love clutter!!) impinges on getting on with stuff from the 1st. So this year I’m taking Epiphany (Monday) as my ‘New Year’ to give gifts and as the jumping off point to embrace my goals. It’s helping enormously and seems worth sharing…

    • Uh oh, while I can’t understand why people don’t love clutter (I know I mentioned cleaning up in the post, but I’m a clutter-a-holic myself), I know it can frustrate others (my wife included). I hope you’re able to make it through the month!

  • rcsinclair952

    I am STILL overwhelmed. But I just had a good friend kick me hard in the ass and pushed me kicking and screaming out of feeling sorry for myself and get out of my comfort zone. I should have never trusted a year that had the number 13 in it. 2014 is going to be so much better.

    I need to be good to myself.

    • Glad someone loved you enough to kick you into gear and get you moving. I feel you on 2013 being a rough year. 2014 better be a much more enjoyable one.

  • kentsanders

    Joe, thanks for this awesome post. I have found that having a neat environment is pretty important, as you mentioned. Your physical space is usually a reflection of your mental space.

    • Kent, while I know the truth behind the neat work environment, honestly I struggle with keeping things clean. I actually went back and edited the post to mention the fact my area normally looks like a tornado went through it. Different people work in different ways.

      • kentsanders

        I am the same way – my intentions don’t always (OK, usually) reflect my actions. But at least I KNOW I should be neater. That counts for something, doesn’t it? LOL

  • Not there yet and hope to fend it off! Fighting the good fight!

    Clean work area and clean car removes the clutter and distraction for sure. Speaking of…

    • Haha, I know Matt. My work areas aren’t anywhere near clean. (-:

  • Great post Joe. When I am feeling this way it is the cause of two things for me. One like your second point I am focusing on it all instead of the next step. Two I am trying to conquer the world instead of being submitted to God’s will. To easy for me to try and do everything in my might and strength instead of His. Blessings this new year.

    • Yeah, struggling against God’s will can bring on a feeling of overwhelm Zechariah. Keep fighting the good fight my friend!

  • Shing Degano

    Now I’m feeling the strain of a cluttered desk; books and all reading materials are everywhere –on my bed , on the floor. But isn’t that a part of being a writer? Not messy but a signature almost an emblem to creativity. I may have clutter but I unclutter things within minutes.
    Good read, Joe. More blessings.

    • Sometimes Shing. After all the comments about clean areas, I realized I forgot to mention my work area. It’s a mess but there are those of us who thrive in the clutter. Sounds like you’re one of them.

  • I love decluttering my space to help declutter my mind and allow me to focus on what’s important. Sometimes even just seeing a clean desk or a clean apartment is enough to really get me going on what’s a priority. Though sometimes I end up using that as a means of distracting myself. Can’t do great things if my bathroom needs cleaning! Balance in all things I guess.

    • Haha, I can feel you there Ryan. The allure of a distraction, whether it’s something good or not, can call us away from the really important. How do you find the balance?

      • Usually I find balance by just asking myself if I’m doing something that is important, or just distracting myself. If I’m being honest with myself, it’s usually pretty obvious. Then I decide whether or not I could use a distraction. Sometimes distractions are a solution to feeling overwhelmed, allowing us time to rest and refresh.

  • I handle things just as you laid out Joe, I also turn to music and prayer. Instead of running off in 100 directions i now try to focus on what’s important now, I get a lot more accomplished that way.

    • That’s awesome Kimanzi. Music and prayer are also good ways of combating overwhelm. Sometimes it’s that struggle we’re having with submitting to God that causes the issues in the first place.

  • Great post Joe! I suffer from the same affliction. Often, my shiny object is a task I can easily get done and I pursue that because I can make my task list shorter more quickly. When I stay on the important task at hand, things go much more smoothly, I get more done (at least more of the important stuff) and I feel less anxious. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s always good to realize where we’re struggling Jim. It sounds like you’ve nailed one of your issues pretty good. How can you stay focused on the task at hand rather than rabbit trail it over to the easier items on the list?

      • Great question. What is helping is, as I begin to step into it and see success, that encourages me to keep at it. However, I know that when stress hits, I, as most others, have a tendency to fall into my old ways. I lead monthly roundtable groups of business and ministry leaders. One thing we do there is set monthly accountability goals in which we pay fines for each one we don’t accomplish. If I find I am falling back into “easy task first” mode, I suppose I could utilize this as a way to change my behavior. Any suggestions from you?

        • That could work for you. Sometimes the pain of paying money can keep you from rabbit trailing.

          I’d suggest possibly getting someone who could help keep you accountable and on task. They could call mid-day or at the end of the day and ask if you’ve stayed the course.

          • Thanks Joe. I have done this regularly in my life and it works. I threw out the penalty idea as I have found that to put some teeth in the accountability. I have led men’s accountability groups and it has seemed more like “acceptability” groups, “Come on man, you can do better! Okay, I’m going to hold you accountable again this week!” Anyway, I really appreciate the feedback. Blessings to you!

  • meredithe

    Awesome post – focusing on one thing at a time makes so much sense!

    • Thanks Meredithe. It’s easy to get caught up in doing multiple tasks at once. I think this only complicates the issue!

  • Exercise is definitely a key ingredient in helping me deal with stress. But more than exercise, I realize I need to stay connected to my Creator. God has to be first in my life. When I get this messed up, I start to deal with feelings of being overwhelmed.

    • Another great suggestion Jon. When we break that connection, everything falls apart.

  • Personally, I have to have a clean area before writing or working on a project. If I don’t I’m distracted and am not able to stay focused. Great thoughts!

    • Dan, seems like a lot of people need to have that clean work area

  • Talk about a timely post. I just had surgery on Tuesday and am feeling all of my plans go down the tubes. I had such high hopes, too, for this month.

    In my attempts to deal with overwhelm, I’ve cut back on some of my emails and have implemented some other time-management strategies to try and free up some more time to write.

    So far, however, it’s not working out as planned. But I hope to get back on track soon.

    • Oh no, I hope everything is okay Lorraine. And that you have a speedy recovery.

      Give your efforts a bit of time. There might be small pockets of success you’re having that you just haven’t seen yet because they’re small. Keep at it and you’ll see the results.

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