5 Ways To Escape Overwhelm

Ever had one of those days when you’ve got such a ridiculous amount of stuff to do that even the idea of unpacking the groceries makes you feel frazzled and teary? When you frantically flit from task to task, never quite completing anything and in most cases not really doing anything useful at all? When by night-time it’s hard to escape the somewhat depressing fact that although you’ve been stupidly busy all day you’ve actually accomplished precisely zip?

Of course you have, right? We all do. At least, those of us with a ticking pulse. Stress is part of our culture. Perhaps for some of us more than others, but my bet is that if you’re at all active in the online world then you are, by nature, a goal-driven person. Which makes you perfect prey for the claws of the stress beast.

Myself, I have those days all the time. Mainly when I’m doing something totally normal like oh, I don’t know, trying to juggle my wriggly 6-month old on my lap (feeling guilty that I’m not engaging with her) while simultaneously writing a blog post, checking my emails every 5 min, suddenly realizing that  it’s 11.17 and I have a client arriving at my house in 13 minutes and yet for some reason I’m still sitting in a café waiting for a coffee to show up. And I haven’t, in fact, actually been very creative at all even though I’ve been working for the better part of the day.

They say that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Well the truth is I’m constantly getting asked to ‘help out’ with projects and rarely would I refuse. I pride myself on getting things done. Even if it means doing other people’s stuff and letting my own pursuits gather dust. And on the rare occasions when I do actively switch off; take a few hours to relax sans technology I feel – lost. Unsure of myself. I’ve forgotten how to just be me because me has become a person with not just a head, two arms and a leg, but an always-attached laptop, an often anxious or worried stare, and constantly flickering eyes as I revise and revise and revise my to-do list.

Can you relate?

If you’ve read this far I’m guessing yes. In which case I don’t have to tell you the flipside of all this (I’ll tell you anyway). Sometimes it all comes together and you feel AMAZING. Right? You actually do manage to check 35 tasks off your list, all the while being incredibly creative, and even attempting reasonably normal social engagement with anyone whose path you might cross. On a really good day you might even get time to eat properly or have a workout.

But those days can be all too few, can’t they? More often than not you just end up feeling exhausted by the never-endingness of it all. Tired but wired.

So here’s a question for you:

Are you driven by stress or by productivity?

You do realize they’re not the same thing? I’ll admit, it’s taken me a while to figure this out and truth be told I’m still getting there, but the following six points work really well for me.

Don’t Kid Yourself

You know those days when you do actually get something big and important done? Feels pretty good, right? So maybe you are managing okay after all? Maybe your busy lifestyle is just the way things have to be in order to achieve your goals and manage the day-to-day necessities. Don’t kid yourself. Living life like a typical busy person may allow you to be productive from time-to-time, but let’s be honest. Never being fully present in the task at hand due to all the other things you could or should be doing is still no way to live. Is it? From now on I want you to actively choose a handful of items that you know you won’t do each day. Cross them off your list and actually focus on your one or two big things.

Take A Day Off For Evaluation

“Take a day of?!! Is she freakin’ insane? Think of all the catch up I’ll have to do. The very idea of it makes me reach for the nearest paperbag!”

The more that little rant resonates as something that might actually cross your mind, the greater the need for said day off. The purpose of the day off is to allow you to take a mental step back and re-assess what’s really important to you. I like to do this by first categorizing every area of my life. Anal, I know, but it works for me. You might like to put together a weekly plan; a template of the perfect week. If you can’t realistically slot in all your ‘must-dos’ and still have room to breathe, then something’s gonna have to go. If you find (like I did) that everything is important to you, then you’re just going to have to prioritize.

Cut Back Your Wish List

I’ve heard it said that most people seriously overestimate what they can do in a year, and then – as a result of rushing around all year like a headless chook – seriously under-accomplish what they’re capable of in a decade. Avoid this by acknowledging that you can’t and never will do everything. It’s realistic to have 2 or 3 big projects for each year. THAT’S IT. Accept that some – if not most – of the rest of your list is going to have to get the chop. My 3 big things are to sell 100 copies of my new holistic weight loss book, to pay off my credit card debt, and to achieve my pre-pregnancy weight. There’s a lot of other stuff I’d like to do, but if I get those 3 the year will be a success.

Control Your Daily List

If you’re anything like me then you pretty much have to have a list to work with each day. Even when I’m being organized my life is super-full. It’s in my nature, and it’s impossible to avoid. But I can do it well or I can do it poorly. What works for me is to list pretty much every little task, from read my daughter a book, to remember to take my multi-vitamin, to follow up a bill, and so on. As a result I do often have over 30 items on my list, but it works well as things don’t get forgotten. Still, it can be overwhelming. If long lists are your thing then take charge of them by numerically prioritizing your tasks for the day. Do it the night before. For example, task ‘0’- time with God, task ‘1’ – take supplements, task ‘2’ read book, task ‘3’ finish guest post for Pick The Brain. This helps you to stay focused and know that if you do run out of time later in the day you will have completed the things you chose as priorities.

Accept Failure As A Good Thing

With that in mind I’d suggest you make it okay in your mind to not get things done. Embrace the idea not just as realistic, but as positive. Failing to complete the faffy items allows you more time and mental energy to focus on the stuff that really matters. And if you can take an evaluation day every 4-6 weeks then you’ll be able to rest easy in the fact that you are focusing on the stuff that really matters.

And you know what? When the inevitable happens, when life intervenes and you do end up stuck in overload then it won’t matter as much. It will be little more than a blip on your road to success, and you’ll be able to face it and move on. Don’t forget that stress is supposed to be a positive thing – it challenges us, drives us to achieve and conquer. But you’re only going to enjoy those benefits when you choose to control your use of time rather than let it control you.

What do you do to feel productive and in control of your life? Comment below!

Kat Eden is a Personal Trainer, nutrition coach and freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. Visit her blog for regular nutrition and motivational tips to drive you to your goals faster. Kat recently released her e-book Secrets Of Lasting Weight Loss Revealed. It took her 26 months to complete because she was stuck in overwhelm for most of that time. Fortunately Kat is slowly but surely learning to follow her own advice and is now hitting her goals faster than every before.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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