How to shift out of overwhelm into productivity

8039674995_37db0158a8_mCancer and a mastectomy, death of a parent, marriage difficulties, teenage terrors – if you experienced all of the above in the space of a six-month period wouldn’t it be appropriate to feel overwhelmed? How about if three weeks ago you buried someone with whom you had been friends for thirty years?

                                                                                                        Photo by Jenifer Williams

These are just some of the things readers shared with me when I asked what you know about overwhelm.

Overwhelm is a feeling of  incapacitating emotional or mental stress.

It is often brought on by ourselves or our experiences.

Searching for ‘overwhelm’ on the internet revealed hundreds of articles – most of which dealt with that anxious feeling of overwhelm when you have too much to do and too little time.

What these readers, authors and bloggers showed me are that there are degrees of overwhelm.

If overwhelm is on one end of the scale, managing life effectively and being productive lies on the other end.

It looks something like this:    Productive-OverwhelmScaleWhere do you think you are on the scale?

Of course, I wouldn’t be much of a Life Coach if I didn’t ask the next question:

What do you need in order to shift more to the left on the scale?


What do you need to let go of to shift more to the left?

Sometimes life sends us much to deal with, as with the readers that I mentioned at the start of this post. Your feelings of overwhelm may be totally appropriate for the time and space that you find yourself in. It is useful to acknowledge that and to spend some time finding your way and growing into acceptance.

What you need to watch out for is staying stuck in this space for an extended period time.

There is also the overwhelm that is experienced by so many of us that comes from the way we view our very busy, very hectic and very full lives. 

I have worked with many clients during the past few years in this situation. Some of the common observations I have made are: some people push themselves too much; some people can be unrealistic about how much work they choose to do in a day vs. the number of hours in the day; some people sabotage themselves by saying YES too often.

Some people don’t like it when they come to this realisation in my coaching room and I am going to say it anyway: Saying you are overwhelmed is your way of giving yourself permission to be less productive, inefficient and not accountable.

Decide where you fit on the scale.

Now consider which of these actions would help you to shift:

1. If you are far to the right on the scale, please get professional help – there is so much available – therapists/ counsellors/ pastors/ FAMSA/ LIFELINE. Whether your feelings are appropriate or not, get yourself some support. You do not have to cope with this all on your own. When you are stuck in such deep overwhelm that you battle to get out of bed in the mornings – do only one thing today and that is to get the support you need.

2. If you are somewhere in the middle here are some options:

  • Sign up to a blog such as this one (there are plenty of others). Study appropriate posts. Decide on a small change to implement every week and do it.
  • Start each day in a calm and peaceful way. Meditate/ pray/ read/ reflect. The way you start your day paves the way for the rest of the day.
  • Watch out for my next post on dealing with “too much to do – too little time”
  •  Learn about yourself – self-reflection and journaling can teach you much.
  • Find a buddy to work with – keep each other accountable, share what works and doesn’t work with each other.
  • Get a mentor/ Life Coach

3. If you are on the far left of the scale, wonderful! You’re on the path to self-actualisation. As you no doubt know, there is always more – more to learn, more to achieve, more to grow. How will you ensure your continued growth, development and enthusiasm?

The mantra I offer, as usual, is awareness first, action second.

This is how you change your way of being in the world and hence your life. This is also how you deal with overwhelm.

My next blog post will look specifically at the phenomenon of the 21st century – too much to do, too little time – which leads to overwhelm. And, of course, some ways of shifting this!

Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation –

when you’re in the darkest of darkness –

that’s when your priorities are reordered.

Phoebe Snow

About Kirsten Long

Coach. Toastmaster. Prison-worker. Wife. Mother. Friend.
This entry was posted in Life Mastery, Managing Stress, Way of Being. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to shift out of overwhelm into productivity

  1. Pingback: An expert shares her views on Overwhelm/ Burnout | Kirsten Long, Coach 4 Life

  2. Annemarie says:

    Thanks so much for this Kirsten. It really resonates for me!

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