Questions to ask yourself when you’re overwhelmed

Recently on Instagram I posted about being overwhelmed and it was one of my most liked posts… ever. It could have been down to the pretty picture of my hands holding a coffee cup, but I think it was the caption’s topic that got people’s attention.

Overwhelm is a topic I talk about because it’s something I tend to struggle with. The time it hit me worst was probably last year when I started struggling with anxiety and low mood as a result. The anxiety has stuck with me and is something I now manage, mainly by reducing stress levels and staying on top of self-care.

Overwhelm is a huge trigger for my anxiety so I know as soon as I start to feel overwhelmed, I need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and figure out what’s going on.

To me, overwhelm feels like:

  • Wanting to cry all the time
  • Feeling incredibly tired
  • Feeling like having to do anything is too much
  • Being in fear of being asked to do something
  • Thinking “I can’t cope”
  • Wanting to stay under the duvet and hide from the real world

Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 19.32.22

We all feel overwhelm differently and have different ways of coping with it. I mentioned the three tips that help me most in that Instagram post (pictured above) but I also find it really helpful to ask myself some questions and get to the root of it all.

What is my main overwhelm trigger?

Sometimes overwhelm comes from a build up of lots of different things and sometimes the bulk of it will be coming from one area (maybe work, family life or finances). Have a think and see if you can figure out what the biggest overwhelm culprits are for you right now.

How can I break it down?

If your overwhelm comes from looking a big job/project in the face, it’s time to break that bad boy down! Outline small goals and take it one step at a time. Set realistic time frames (if possible!) and release some pressure.

Every now and then, stop and look at how far you’ve come. Get a little perspective and celebrate the small wins. Small steps lead to big journeys.

What can I let go of?

If you simply have too much on your plate, have a serious think about what you can let go of. Do you have a gym membership you never use, but beat yourself up for not having time to go to the gym? Cancel your membership – you don’t need that guilt. Instead, figure out what movement helps you release stress and aim to do a little more of that, when it’s possible.

overwhelm-questions

What can I delegate?

Is there anything you can delegate to someone else? Maybe you work in a team and you have a colleague who can support you. Maybe it’s time to call on some friends and family to help you out. Maybe you need to start outsourcing or employing help.

What can I say no to?

Can you say no to that social invite lurking in your inbox? Can you say no to a freelance commission to give yourself some breathing room? Saying no can feel difficult sometimes, but setting up clear boundaries with the word ‘no’ is one of the best ways to pull yourself out of overwhelm.

Where is my support network?

This is the time to lean on your support. Meet a friend for coffee, go round to your parents for a hug. Chat to people who can relate, find forums or chat to those in your online community. Consider your options for further support. For me, CBT and coaching have proven invaluable when it comes to overwhelm.

Where are my moments of calm?

When things get busy, you need to schedule time to slow down and find as many moments of calm as you can. Take 10 minutes to meditate, enjoy a mindful cup of tea, plan an evening in front of Netflix.


Make calm a priority – you need it.


Overwhelm happens. It usually creeps up without us realising and when we’re in it, it can be tough to get out. Bookmark this blog or make a note of the questions and come back to it whenever you feel overwhelmed, I really hope they help you take the steps you need to breathe and pull yourself up and out of it.

If you need any further support with this, I have a some self-care strategy session slots available for this last quarter. I know the run up to Christmas can get busy and self-care can fall by the wayside, so let’s get on top of it and lock down a strategy that works for you. Just fill in this form to get started.


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Questions to ask when you're overwhelmed

5 thoughts on “Questions to ask yourself when you’re overwhelmed

  1. Saabirah Lawrence says:

    This is so useful I could definitely relate to this. Always thought overwhelm was a result of my anxiety not a trigger but it makes total sense it’s probably why the anxiety intensifies and it gets hard to distinguish the source. Thank you for this post another great one

    Liked by 1 person

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