Eight ways to stop feeling overwhelmed and take control

Women get a lot of bad reputation for being emotional and looking stressed at the workplace. The truth is, everyone gets stressed from time to time when they are feeling overwhelmed! As a working woman and mother, I’m familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed. However, the good news is you can avoid feeling and looking stressed if you know how to deal with those feelings.

Here are 8 tips on how you can stop feeling overwhelmed, and take control of your life.

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1. Step out of the situation and look from outside

When you are feeling overwhelmed, the first thing you need to do is to calm down. Usually this can be achieved by stepping out of the situation and looking at it from a third party’s point of view. Then ask these questions; Why are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you have too much to do and not enough time? Do you have a particular challenge in completing your tasks? After knowing the cause, you can follow the rest of the steps and overcome the feeling of overwhelm.

2. Write a To-do list and priortise

Our brains are not capable of storing too much information, especially if the information is not related. When the brain has too much information to process or remember, then it tends to bring stress and anxiety. Therefore, write a To-do list and free your brain from information overload. Once you’ve written down a To-do list, it is easier to prioritise as everything is in black and white.

When the brain has too much information to process or remember, then it tends to bring stress and anxiety.

By reviewing your To-do list and prioritising, you might find that you don’t need to complete all ten items in the list. Perhaps only completing eight items is sufficient to achieve the desired outcome. Whether you are trying to complete tasks at work or at home, women are known for taking too much on! This step will ensure that we only do things that are important and have an impact on what we would like to achieve.

3. Be in control by giving up control

The art of finding a good balance and being at peace relies a lot on control – and surprisingly, it is not about having a lot of control. It is about giving up control and not trying to control what we can’t. There are some things in life that just cannot be controlled, such as weather. So for example, if you are organising a work event and are worried about bad weather or rain, then you are going to be stressed and overwhelmed. Instead, have a Plan B for when it rains.

Rather than trying to control what you can’t, preparing for what could go wrong actually puts you in charge of the situation. And when you know you are in charge of something, there is less chance of feeling overwhelmed.

4. Stop overthinking

Overthinking causes negative thoughts and fosters a pessimistic point of view. There was a cartoon that I saw somewhere that illustrated the negative effect of overthinking. The husband was not looking happy one day and the wife started silently worrying about it: is he not interested in me anymore? Is he going to leave me soon? Have I done something to upset him? And so on, and so forth.

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But when a friend asked the husband why he looked upset, his answer was, “My bike didn’t start today, and I don’t know why.” It was spot on. Overthinking does more harm than good! It creates problems in our mind which are not even problems to begin with. The more we overthink, the further we are from making decisions or taking actions to resolve the issue as we become overwhelmed with unnecessary thoughts and worries.

5. Think about the big picture

It is very easy to get trapped in daily tasks, feel overwhelmed with current issues and forget what really matters: The big picture! When we think about the big picture, maybe it no longer matters that each of us do things slightly differently, or that a few things didn’t work out as planned. As long as we achieve our desired end goal within our set constraints, that’s all that matters!

6. Ask for help and accept help

There is a misconception that asking for help or accepting help is a sign of weakness. Working women, therefore, tend to avoid asking for help at work or at home. Maybe we don’t want to be seen as incapable. Maybe we don’t want to look weak. Maybe we want to show others that we can do it all. But knowing when to ask for help and accepting help is a strength.

But knowing when to ask for help and accepting help is a strength.

In her book Lean In, the author Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to support each other and lean in so we can achieve our full potential. I say, let’s take it one step further and lean in and get support from your colleagues, managers, partners, and people you deal with, regardless of their gender. Help them help you and return the favour when possible because there is no shame in that!

7. Choose your battles wisely

Sometimes, we have no control over a problem, but we always have control over how we choose react to a problem. Choosing your battles wisely applies not only to arguments and conflicting views but also applies to how we choose what problems to deal with. Not all problems need to be solved because they simply do not matter in the long run.

Rather than facing every problem so passionately, think of pros and cons and decide whether they are worth fighting over. After all, as working women, our time and energy are limited so don’t waste them!

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.” ~ C. JoyBell C.

8. Take action

Last but not least, the most effective way to deal with overwhelm is to take appropriate action. Sometimes, we may be feeling overwhelmed about a small matter but when we go ahead and do it, we find that it is actually not that hard. To give you an example, there was one time I got overwhelmed with preparing and lodging a tax return. I spent many days and weeks thinking and stressing out about it.

But when I actually put a day aside, got all the receipts and documents and lodged the tax return on the same day, I realised that it was not that hard. Similarly, we could be reading many articles about how to overcome feeling overwhelmed at work or at home but if we don’t do anything or implement any of their suggestions, then we are not going see any difference in our lives.

So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, simply take action. There is a quote by Nelson Mandela which reads, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ I couldn’t agree more.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~ Nelson Mandela


Ei Sabai Nyo is a highly innovative and award-winning web technologist and people manager with over 15 years industrial experience in the Internet and web development industry. She is also a co-founder of an Internet startup, Sale The World and is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and personal and career development.