How to Reduce Overwhelm

March 11, 2018
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Do you ever feel a little overwhelmed by life? Like you have so much to do that you don’t know what to do first? That if you say yes to one more thing, your head might actually explode? If so, you’re not alone!


Our jam-packed schedules mean that we spend our days spinning in circles, rushing from place to place. We say yes to more than we should because we don’t want to disappoint and because we worry if we say no we might miss out. Always busy but never really achieving, we go to bed wondering what we accomplished that day. And as if that wasn’t enough, we’re constantly pushing ourselves to be the perfect parent, spouse, co-worker and friend. It’s no wonder the pressures of modern day life make us want to run and hide!


With life these days being so busy and so demanding, just how do we reduce the overwhelm and take back control?


It all starts with you…

Nine times out of ten, the overwhelm we’re experiencing is our own making. It might be hard to hear, but often we say yes when we should probably be saying no. We add items to our do lists that either aren’t as urgent as we think they are or don’t need doing at all, and we cram our days with obligations, commitments and extracurricular activities that leave us with little to no time for ourselves.


If we want to reduce overwhelm we need to learn to say no to the things that overwhelm us in the first place. Easier said than done? Not really. The reality is, that for the majority of things we take on in life, we have the power to choose whether we say yes or no. And when we’re mindful about what we commit to, when we set ourselves an upper limit and stick to it, life suddenly becomes a lot less overwhelming.


But what if we’re already at the point of overwhelm? How do we get ourselves to a place where life is manageable again? By figuring out what it is that’s overwhelming us and taking action to reduce the overwhelm!


So what’s overwhelming you?

It might sound obvious, but if you don’t know what’s causing you to feel overwhelmed, you can’t do anything about it. Spend some time thinking about which areas of your life get the better of you. Which areas do you wish were a little less complicated? Which areas do you feel you have little or no control over? Don’t forget to take a look at your habits too. Sometimes the way we handle daily life is as much to blame for our overwhelm as the things we say yes to.


Struggling to figure what’s causing your overwhelm? Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Taking on too many commitments.
  • A never-ending to do list.
  • Never allowing ourselves enough time to plan or prepare things in advance, or
  • Leaving things to the last minute.
  • The feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day, or
  • Filling every minute of our day so there’s room to spare.
  • A demanding boss, partner, spouse or relative.
  • A messy and/or cluttered home.
  • Taking on other people’s problems.
  • Never allowing time for ourselves to unwind, relax and recharge.


It’s time to take action!

Now before you start rushing off to hunt for a new job or a bigger house, know that the action you take doesn’t have to be that extreme! It’s ok for the changes you make to be small. Not only are smaller changes easier to implement, you’ll find that your overwhelm reduces far quicker than if you were to make one bigger change. Why? Because when we make lots of smaller easily-manageable changes across all areas of our life, they add up. On its own, one small change might not make much of a difference, but lots of small changes? Together they make a huge difference!


So what changes should we make? Here are a few very effective ones to get you started:


  1. Eliminate the unessential: Purge your to do list! Our to do lists are supposed to be our friend. They give us somewhere to write down what we need to do and when. But if they’re full of tasks we keep putting off or never complete, we begin to feel overwhelmed. Purge your to do list. Draw a big red line through anything that’s been on there for three months or more. Chances are if you haven’t done it yet, you probably don’t need to!


  1. Think before you say yes! Guess what? You don’t have to say yes to every request that comes your way! It’s OK to say no. Set yourself a limit of what you’re prepared to take on and when you reach it don’t be afraid to decline. The no doesn’t have be a permanent one. Sometimes no can mean not right now. There may be another time where you can fit it in and that’s OK.


  1. Be prepared. We’ve all heard the phrase fail to plan, plan to fail. But it’s true. If we don’t take the time to prepare for things in advance, we’re setting ourselves up for overwhelm. Take time to think about what you need to do and plan for it ahead of time.


  1. Build buffers into your day. The temptation is to block out every hour of our waking day. But things always take longer than planned. If there’s no time to spare we start to feel overwhelmed. Give yourself some breathing space and build buffers into your day.


  1. Take time for you. When our lives are full to the brim of doing things that serve everyone else but ourselves we become burnt out. Reduce the overwhelm by allowing time for yourself every single day – even if it’s only five minutes. It really will make all the difference.


Give it time…

Reducing overwhelm is possible but it takes time. Accept that it’s a work in progress. Stick with the changes you’ve chosen to make and over the course of a few weeks you’ll start to notice a difference. You won’t feel so pressured or frustrated and the feeling of being overwhelmed will begin to fade. It’ll never disappear completely because life will always have its overwhelming moments. You’ll just find them easier to manage.




About the Author:

Incredibly passionate about helping others slow things down, find more balance and create a life they love, Sarah is the founder of the blog A Simple and Contented Life. Her mission is to help busy, overwhelmed mums take back control, find more time for themselves, and live a family life that’s less stressful and more enjoyable. Proud mum of two and besotted wife, Sarah is also the owner of a Frenchie pup called Arthur. When she isn’t blogging she can be found in her favourite Starbucks, hazelnut latte in one hand, book in the other!






Featured Photo by Siddharth Bhogra on Unsplash


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