When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be one of those moments where you just feel like you’re going to burst into tears. You feel like there’s just so much going on and you don’t know where to start. Sometimes you feel like you’re drowning and you feel like you can’t even hold your head up above the water. When your head is spinning because there’s too much going on, there are some strategies that you can adopt in those moments. And if you’re feeling that right now, then I encourage you to stop, take stock and just have a listen to these three steps. 

The Brain Dump


Get everything out of your head with a brain dump. Part of the reason we start to feel overwhelmed is that we are storing too much in our mind. We are trying to hang on to everything; to remember everything. We try very hard to hold on to the things that are important. But when we do this, we start to get overloaded and we struggle to remember everything. We start to randomly put things in lists, write things in notebooks or post-it notes all over our computers or our desks. But I encourage you to take a moment, just stop and do a really big brain dump of everything that you need to contend with. Look at all of your lists, look at everything you’ve got and just do a dump of absolutely everything you need to contend with. 


If possible, I want you to categorize things. Bundle things together in terms of where they belong, what category they belong to or what project they belong to. Once you do this, you can easily zero in on a particular thing. If there is one client, task or project that you need to focus on, you can look specifically at what you need in order to tackle that task. Do this however you want- a digital method, on a good old excel sheet or even scribbled down on a notebook and use a highlighter. Categorize the things you need to contend with in order to make things easier for yourself. 

The Three Babies

When things are really going bad, I want you to think of this story. Imagine that you are a mother in a flood. You’ve got three babies but you’ve only got two arms. This is a really horrific story and I’m sorry if it triggers anything for anyone. But imagine you’ve got three babies, two arms and you’ve got to let one of those babies go. That third baby may survive or it may drown. You don’t know. But you can only hang on to two. 

When everything is going into crisis the reality is that most of us can only achieve three to five things in a day. So I want you to focus on three things you can do and not more than five. Focus on just three of those babies you’re going to save, and just trust that the other will be okay. Maybe they won’t, but in order for you to survive the crisis that you’re experiencing right now, focus on the babies you’re going to save and don’t lament about the ones that you can’t. That’s what you need to do for your own sanity.  

Put things into perspective. Reframe, rethink and recognize how bad your problem actually is. Does it mean that someone is going to die? Does it mean you’re going to lose massive amounts of money? In some instances maybe, but this is often not the case. In most instances, if you put your challenges into perspective, it is not as bad or monumental as you are making it. It’s not going to be as disastrous as you’re making it feel. 

OverwhelmIt is often your own guilt, responsibility and beating yourself up over things you probably don’t need, it are those thoughts that causes overwhelm. So focus on three to five things, zero in on those and get them done. If you get those done, focus on another. 

Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many tasks. Use that brain dump when you need to and zero in on projects. These are strategies for you to get through today and tackle the overwhelming feeling you’re dealing with. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment below and share your personal experiences with overwhelm. Share how you got through a situation where you feel like you’re drowning. I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 

P.S. If you’re a Busy Working Woman and you’d like more advice, tips and information to minimise stress and maximise time, join our Facebook tribe of Busy Working Women Owning Their Lives.

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About the Author:

Barbara CliffordBarbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships