how to overcome feeling overwhelmed

We all get overwhelmed at times, huh? I’m feeling it right now, so much so I could just go lie down and I’ve only just woken up! Xander was up all night with a temperature, my car is having issues and I’m on deadline. *Bangs head.

Here’s the thing, feeling overwhelmed is entirely normal and common, it’s our way of coping with the many and sometimes endless spinning of plates and inevitable f*** ups that is life. Stress is there to push us forwards and on wards, through it all yet it can so often do the opposite, stalling and stopping us in our tracks.

There are lots of ways we can help ourselves, though.

As always, I like to blog about the things which affect me personally in the hope my posts will be cathartic (blogging is therapy after all) whilst also forcing me to listen to my own advice and of course, with the intention it helps you all too.

We’re all DOING SO FLIPPING MUCH.  We overstretch, don’t recover, sleep less, reach for more sugar and never seem to catch up with ourselves to replenish and recover.

I know ‘I’ve got this’ most of the time, that some how, I always get everything done I need to but I also know how debilitating and rubbish being frazzled and stressed out can feel like.

So how can we overcome feeling overwhelmed so we can get back on track and tackle what we have to do.

Here’s what’s helped me in the past and I’ll be putting these tips into practice once more (with a little help from my friends)!

  1. Take a nap. Yep, I know it’s hard to find the time to snooze in the day ( how I wish siestas were a thing in the UK) but a burst of yoga at my desk when I’m feeling fraught really works wonders to calm a busy mind. It allows me to break free from the chaos of that moment, when everything feels too much so I can breathe able to return with fresh eyes and renewed motivation.  Others swear by mediation and I’m determined to try that soon too. My friend Ursula of Mumbelievable adores the Headspace app. She says, ‘Headspace is great when you’re starting out. I found the prospect of meditation quite daunting and just don’t have a lot of time by myself in a day to practise, but the sessions in this app are short and easy to follow so I can fit it in. Now when I’m feeling overwhelmed – which is often! – I sit with my back straight on the edge of my chair and take ten deep breaths and I feel calmer instantly’.
  2. Run/walk it out. I did this on Friday after literally 2 weeks of no exercise and a ton of excuses. I’m a girl of extremes and flip from running every day to literally nada. I need greater consistency and balance in my life and know that I must make exercise part of my everyday. I love it when I push myself to run, that rush of endorphins, breaking a sweat and feeling hungry and relishing my breakfast or lunch after a session, so I need to remind myself of all that when I feel freaked out and in need of diverting energy elsewhere. Having that space to run always clears my head. The same goes, for a walk. Fresh air and a change of scenery never fails to soothe me. Dr Juliet McGrattan, GP and runner agrees, ‘It can feel quite frightening when you’ve been struggling to keep your head above water and suddenly you feel like you’re drowning. It’s so easy to end up in this position and can make you become anxious, panicky and full of self-doubt. When you can’t think straight and don’t know what to do first, then taking an exercise break is a great solution. Activity causes the release of feel-good, happy hormones to lighten your mood and exercise can make you focus and concentrate better when you get back. If you choose an exercise which has a repetitive movement like swimming, running or cycling then the rhythmic sound of your feet, wheels or the water splashing has a calming, meditative effect too which will help you to relax and clear your mind. Exercising in a green space such as a woodland or by a river is particularly beneficial. Take a few moments to stand still and breathe deeply. Look around you, listen to the sounds and feel the air on your face. Try to relax and enjoy the moment. You’ll feel re-charged and be more effective on your return’.
  3. Track you progress. When I used to work for a film company, an assistant there would draw boxes next to her ever-growing to-do list that she’d tick off through the day. I try and do the same now and find keeping tabs on a to-do list document online means I can shift items around as priorities move. I’m personally someone who likes to get as much done as possible, as soon as possible and to the best of my ability. I’m a recovering perfectionist and whilst I do now follow the whole ‘progress over perfectionism’ model Marie Forleo advocates, I always try to over-deliver on everything which is great, but I need to remind myself I have a schedule for a reason and that to-do lists never end. It sounds so simple (and it is) but buying a big family calendar that now hangs in our kitchen has transformed our lives. On it, I mark everything we as a family need to do and I feel like we all have more structure and greater peace of mind for it. My friend Michelle of Michelle Reeves Coaching runs a free 5 day mini course on How to Overcome Overwhelm and has a super post on how to prioritise when you’re feeling overwhelmed which offers more tips.
  4. Speak to someone who understands you and your scenario. Peter, my husband, is my complete rock. He’s such a logical and calm person who sees the positive in every situation. He always reassures and reminds me that I’ve never failed to deliver anything in the past and that things will always turn out OK. I also speak to my manager, Neil several times a day, another calming force who helps relieve stress when it shows its ugly face, and keeps me focused.
  5. Be grateful. It’s so easy to take life for granted but it’s vital to remember what you have and appreciate how lucky you actually are. Keeping a list or taking time out to scribble notes in a gratitude journal reflecting all the pros in your life will remind you of how good you’ve actually got it, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. I do this with my kids most nights, we say or write different things we are grateful for. It’s a great ritual to practice as a family. Greater gratitude means greater contentment.
  6. Say no. A hard one I know, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed and dealing with an ever-growing list of requests just don’t feel you have the time, energy or passion for, you have to walk away. Ditto with additional commitments. If you’re busy, you’re busy. Cramming things in will only serve to stress you out more. Take control of your life and diary, exercise boundaries and start to feel the load shift.
  7. Have a spring or any seasonal clean (literally and metaphorically). I’m a bit obsessed with spring cleans IRL and online. I love to keep on top of cupboards, wardrobes, toys and more, regularly filling up charity bags of things we don’t need or no longer use. Importantly, I try not to over-consume in the first place but life happens hey, especially with kids. Equally, it’s crucial to remove or distance yourself from toxic people. The more positive life is generally, the easier it is to handle stress day-to-day so start streamlining your life, in every way.

Bonus point is take the day off. My great friend Uju of Babes About Town recommended a post by the inspiring Tsh which promotes time out to simply recover and feel inspired again and I’m going to be working this in once a month or more.

Tsh quotes from the book Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, ‘We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many. Unfortunately, in our time-starved era we don’t get that space by default—only by design’.

It’s inspired me to make time to take time out and with more time out, comes calmer and more rational responses day-to-day.

I hope my tips help. Let me know what’s worked for you!



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7 Things to Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

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61 Responses

  1. Elaine Fitzpatrick

    This piece is perfect for where I’m at at the moment. I’ve seen so many people talk about the Headspace app. I must give it a go. So many handy tips here

  2. Angela Milnes

    These are fantastic tips. I think taking a nap or time out is really helpful. Michelle’s overwhelm course is fantastic. I tried it and it was really useful. Also…saying No! I have said no a lot more this year so far and it is brilliant!

  3. Mrs Mummy Harris

    I’m all about tracking progress whether it be for work or Blogging. I love me a spreadsheet and that usually cheers me up to delete a task or to mark it off my list. The organisational freak in me really needs to see something get tidied up and to see the pile get smaller!!

  4. Sara

    This post is quite something, as dealing with stress, being frazzled and overwhelm is exactly why I started blogging! Yes, it is cathartic and definitely, definitely a way to ‘practice what you preach’ – if I research things, try them out to be able to blog about them, I’m doing them. And it’s the only way to actually do them, rather than just think about it! So I’ve also started to exercise, I’ve started to use mindfulness apps (I’ve already reviewed the Calm app and the Welzen app and Headspace is next!). I’m starting yoga, I’ve written about change, I have a habit tracker and I’m on a decluttering mission (as you’ll see from my posts). So, great minds… 😉 Great post, and I hope Xander feels better already! #BrilliantBlogs

  5. Rebecca

    Love these! I like to promote Mama Time which I feel involves a removal from social media and all things technological and ‘headachy’ to sit in the bath or read a book with a cup of tea/wine and cake (always cake… or chocolate for that matter) <3 Talking it out is always my go to as well… and I used to LOVE a walk or drive to the sea and just watch the waves. Very calming.

  6. Jeremy Barnes

    I find any exercise to be helpful. When we first moved in together my now-wife thought it strange that I hung a punching bag in the basement. “you’ll see” I told her. #brilliantblogposts

  7. Steven - FitDadz

    Great post. Sometimes we have a million things on the go at once.

    Some of the tips in this article would be good to reset yourself and come back stronger.

  8. ablondeandababy

    I have been feeling really overwhelmed lately so this post is just what I needed. One of my big problems is not wanting to ever say no, I’m such a people pleaser! Thank you for hosting #BrilliantBlogPosts

    • Honest Mum

      Aw I used to be like that, so important to do it though, I’ve got a post that might help: x

  9. five little doves

    I’m right there, feeling so overwhelmed right now, and struggling to tread water. I have taken on far too much this month as we always struggle for money in January, I’ve been in hospital, my parents are away on holiday and I feel like I’m drowning!! I so needed to read this today. Thank you. #Brilliantblogposts

    • Honest Mum

      Oh darling, please take time out for yourself, be kind to yourself and try and take a step back from everything. With a break comes strength and clarity xxx

  10. Chloe

    Hi Vicki,
    Great tips. I shall start a gratitude journal in the near future. I personally find a brisk walk in the fresh air always works for me. I’ve just had a big clear out at work, very satisfying, Chloe #BrilliantBlogPosts

  11. Barrie Bismark

    I love this post. I am feeling really overwhelmed in life these days. In pretty much every area. Writing helps me a lot. Thank you for your advice in this piece!

    • Honest Mum

      Aw sorry to read this but know that we all go through periods of feeling like this and a lot. Writing is amazing isn’t it x

  12. Lucy At Home

    Love this post! I am a perfectionist too and find it so hard to cope with the concept of “just enough” rather than “100%” which can lead to lots of overwhelming moments!

    When I get really worked up, I have a bath or shower (it’s about the only guaranteed child-free activity I have these days! haha). I also play the piano/sing. My hubby is very practical and talks calm logic to my frantic brain, giving me a much better perspective on things. I’ve never tried meditation but it’s something I’m interested. Will have a look at the apps you suggested. #brillblogposts

  13. Petra

    Love this post. I’ve been also feeling a little bit overwhelmed lately and I think your tips will help me feel a little bit better. I love the quote at the end, this is definitely something I need to work on.

  14. Emma Peach

    Such great tips in this post. Running calms me and lifts my mood like nothing else. It’s amazing what just a 30 minute run can do. Clutter stresses my husband out so we are trying to tackle that for a more harmonious home life, but as you say, it’s not easy with a child in the house!

    Emma xxx

  15. Susie / So Happy In Town

    Great tips Vicki. We’re all running round frazzled but I love the headspace app and am trying to do 10 minutes a day. Also back to the gym and as much as it was a hard slog at first, it’s helping my mind so much. My motherhead is constantly spinning with thousands of things I feel I MUST do today. Good to read this and know that we’re all feeling the same! Thank you!

  16. Kim

    Out of all your suggestions I am trying to practice gratitude the most, I find it really changes my perspective on things and makes me realise the small stuff int worth worrying about. Don’t worry about the email I sent you, things are obviously quite hectic for you at the mo x

  17. Alex

    You’re totally right. I get the ‘overwhelmed’ feeling almost every day – trying to make a go of my business and be a mam and wife and all the rest of it…it’s so much! I always feel guilty for trying to do something mindful to de-stress, like I should just be working at something constantly instead. Yesterday I tidied my computer/workspace area and actually managed to get loads more done, so you’re totally onto something with the cleaning thing! Xx

  18. Caroline

    Ah, some great tips Vicki. As a new blogger, I seem to find myself overwhelmed most of the time! I definitely thinking nipping out for a jog would help me, it’s so easy to waste time at your desk wondering what to tackle first. I find writing myself a list with the first few things I need to do that day works well too. x

    • Honest Mum

      Agree Caroline, life and work can be overwhelming at times. I’m forcing myself on a run soon! Love an early morning list or just before bed x

  19. Eb Gargano /

    Great tips! I discovered running in 2016 and it made such a difference. I often run now on my way home from the school run – I just pop my running kit on, drop the kids off at school and take a rather long way back – it’s perfect. I start the day in the right frame of mind and it hardly takes up any time in my day (because I’d have to walk home anyway). Plus that’s one thing ticked off my do list before I’ve even started! Spring cleaning is also a great tip – I feel so much better when I’ve had a good clear out!! Eb x

  20. MyCityMyLondon

    I also started with a gratitude list. Used to write three a day. No I do three a week!
    Success stems from gratitude:)

  21. Peachy and her Mommy

    Great advice. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed as a mom trying to make it and help support the family financially. It always seems like so much of the work falls on us. It’s good to get some tips on how to cope. #brillblogposts

  22. Pen

    Hi, Great tips. I have downloaded the Headspace app but haven’t got round to doing it. I totally agree with you about the giving your flat/house a whatever season clean. It sounds ridiculous but I always feel a lot more in control when things are in order and there is not clutter everywhere. Thanks again. Pen x
    P.S. I hope Xander gets better soon.

  23. Gail

    Great post, Vicki – I can identify with most of these tips myself. I find walking particularly helpful in lifting my mood and helping me relax – even on the days I don’t really feel like exercising. Also totally agree about feeling grateful. Thinking about and recording all the positive things in life really helps you appreciate what you’ve got. x

    • Honest Mum

      Absolutely Gail and you are so right there, it’s exercising when you feel like it least that helps you the most, you just have to push yourself. Feeling like that today so will be following your advice, thank you xx

  24. Aleena Brown

    I feel like this is especially poignant at this time of year when everyone (myself included) is determined to achieve the various resolutions we have set ourselves… Really good advice, thank you!x

    • Honest Mum

      So true Aleena, we must be kinder to ourselves, often the biggest pressures are those we place on ourselves rather than external ones x

  25. Michelle Reeves (Michelle Reeves Coaching)

    Vicki love this so much! I’m no stranger to feeling overwhelmed and your suggestions are just fabulous. You are so smart to document what you’re doing through – writing as therapy is something I’m very familiar with and it can, as you say, help both ourselves and others who know through our words that they’re not alone. I know that so many people have been helped through your blog – thank you on behalf of all of us for your candidness and inspiration. Finally thank you so much for mentioning my free Overcoming Overwhelm mini-course and the post about prioritising – had lots of fab feedback about both and so pleased that they’re helping people. Huge hugs xxx

    • Honest Mum

      Yay, so good to hear Michelle and not surprising, you are endlessly inspiring, really touched to share your wisdom here, lots of love xx

  26. Susan Mann

    I feel this a lot. These are great tips. I find writing down and working out priorities helps, but when there are too many it can feel worse. Stepping away is good x

  27. Babes about Town

    This post is on the money, Vicki. We all try so hard to cram so much in (I’m as guilty as anyone, my daily todo list is in the cray-cray category lol) and actually it’s important to pull back, refocus and do what matters… not what we think we ought to be doing. For 2017 I’m rediscovering the art of being over doing, starting with simply learning to BREATHE properly. All your tips are great, exercise, a change of scenery, fresh air, a mini detox/declutter, and staying on that gratitude tip all work wonders. And absolutely connecting with people who help us keep things in perspective makes all the difference, so glad you have Peter as your rock (that’s his actual purpose in Bible eh?). Love Tsh’s post too x

  28. your DIY family

    Love this post – such wise words. Yes, we all get overwhelmed but it’s how we deal with it, that matters. Love all your tips and couldn’t agree more with them. That nap tip is great but one I haven’t been able to ever do – maybe one day as I know it can help. And yes to the headspace app – I’ve used it and it’s great. There is also a fab app for kids called smiling mind. Last year I started getting A to meditate for a few minutes before bed and she really enjoyed it. We’ve fallen out of the habit but you’ve reminded me to restart with her. I also find it helps to write down everything you need to do – like everything and then prioritise. This year, every Sunday, I’ve started to write down all that I’ve done the previous week – seeing your progress is a great motivator too. Hope you’re feeling less overwhelmed xxx

    • Honest Mum

      Oh Nomita I love all this and I’m going to follow your lead. Have to download Smiling Mind too, what an amazing app. I know the kids would love it. Reflection for them is vital too and love the idea of tracking your previous week, all wonderful ideas I’ll be implementing here. Thanks lovely xx


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