06/17/2014 04:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Overwhelmed? 7 Strategies for Restoring Balance


I don't know about you, but I am convinced the world is spinning faster. I almost never seem to have nothing to do. Or to have caught up on the seemingly thousands of tasks ahead of me!

Discussing this with a bunch of friends the other day,- I discovered we were all in the same boat, whether we had jobs, children, partners or not. Not only are we personally feeling overwhelmed a lot of the time, but research from Deloittes Global Human Capital Trends shows that two-thirds of business leaders cite "the overwhelmed employee" as a top business challenge.

So I decided to come up with seven tips to keep you sane and free from that overwhelmed feeling.

1. Breathe
It might sound silly, but when we feel overwhelmed, it can be a blend of anxiety, fear, stress and mental overwork. We can't think straight or clearly because there are too many ideas and lists and jobs going round and round in our heads. The first thing that happens is we change our breathing. It becomes shallow and we breathe high in our chests. There is less oxygen coming in to the areas we need it -- mainly our brain.

Then it becomes a cycle -- the more we stress, the less deeply we breathe, the less oxygen gets to our brain, the more mental fog we have and lack of clarity or ability to think things through. It's very easy to fix.

Take a deep breath. And then another one. Blow the air out in between rather than just letting it come out. Once you have done that three times, you can just allow the breath to flow out easily and smoothly.

Two or three minutes of deep breathing will have you feeling much more relaxed and capable of carrying on.

2. Find Your Joy Spot
The second technique is to go to your Joy Spot! I will write another blog with more details of how to create a joy spot -- today is just a summary. When you vividly recall a pleasant experience, your body chemistry changes. It basically releases a smaller amount of the 'feel good' chemicals you released at the actual time of the experience.

Your Joy Spot is the place where you accumulate all the things that remind you of great times you have had. It might be photos, songs, funny hats, clothes or anything that reminds you of a joyful time. Maybe you can put them all in a hula hoop somewhere so you can step into your Joy Spot any time you are feeling overwhelmed -- stay there and reminisce and breathe.

Another way to do it is to create a folder on your desktop or a Pinterest board that is your Joy Spot. Visit it for a couple minutes before you actually go past stress into overwhelm. It sounds silly but it really works!

3. Focus on the Present
Be right here -- right now. Overwhelm overtakes us when we focus on all the things we have to do and have not done. Or all the things we should have done. Or how little time we have to do all we have to do. Stop! Stop and feel something tangible touching you -- like the chair or some clothing. That helps you become more present.

Then look out a window or at some object and describe it in minute detail. Think or say to yourself what it is, the color, shape and describe it as if you were describing it to a blind person so they could get a sense of what it was.

Both of these are simple and easy ways to bring yourself back to the present and focus on the task at hand -- rather than distracting yourself with all the things you have to do.

4. Ask for Help
Asking for help doesn't mean you are a failure. At times we get ourselves so wound up, we can't see the wood for the trees and think that everything we are doing is necessary and urgent and has to be done now.

With a little perspective and stepping back -- another great strategy for busting overwhelm -- you can discern what has to be done and what can wait -- and then you know if you need to ask for help and for what sort of help.

Asking for help is a sign of intelligence in my opinion -- not failure. To know when to ask for help indicates you have good self knowledge and understand your limits.

5. Connect to Your Heart
I believe that connecting to your heart is probably the most powerful tool against feeling overwhelmed. We feel overwhelmed when we are living from the fear created in our heads and not using the wisdom that exists in our hearts.

Next time you feel overwhelmed, stop, take a breath, close your eyes, and focus on the area around your heart. Imagine yourself breathing in and out through your heart. You may choose to see a color flowing with your breath.

Do this for a minute or so -- then open your eyes and see how much better you feel. For a better result -- imagine you are actually inside your heart space. You will feel calm and might even have the answer to some problem that had been bothering you.

6. Become Conscious of the Story You are Telling Yourself
Are you ever conscious of the story you are telling yourself? About yourself? Your boss? Your colleagues? Your family? Your workload? Your ability to complete tasks?

We perceive and judge -- we don't see reality! And our beliefs are based on our perceptions -- which are just that -- our perceptions. They may be totally incorrect assumptions. In fact they often are.

But our brains can treat those perceptions as gospel truth - and based on those beliefs, our "stories" emerge. Do you constantly tell yourself you will never get everything done? Or that there is never enough time? Or one of the thousands of phrases we tell ourselves that lead us to angst, fear and overwhelm.

Become conscious of those stories running in the background of your brain and challenge them. Change them -- after all, they are only fairy stories. We made them up based on false perceptions. Changing your story can change your state.

7. Identify Your Fears
Our lives and states are ruled by unconscious fears. Find those fears and eradicate them and you may not feel overwhelmed again. If deep down you feel you are not worth loving or not good enough; if you feel unsafe most of the time no matter what your environment or you fear death, abandonment or separation, you are not alone.

They appear to be the most common and deepest fears driving our behaviors and yet most of us have no idea of these core fears. When you feel overwhelmed -- search in your brain/mind/ body for what fear is lurking there causing you to feel this way. I am guessing that behind your story or feeling, is a fear that sucks out your energy and resilience.

Find your fears and eradicate them. Hint -- your stories are often clues to your fears.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it -- is to try one or all of these strategies next time you feel overwhelmed and notice how much better you feel almost instantly.


Amanda Gore ( is an author, award-winning motivational speaker and joy facilitator! Her philosophy is that Joy is an Inside Job. Finding joy is the secret to more productive, creative, successful and happy humans -- at work and home. Amanda is also the director of The Joy Project. To book Amanda for your event click here or email Connect with Amanda on Facebook - The Joy Project page