Dealing with Overwhelm: A First Step to Building Resilience

In the fast-paced world we live in, overwhelm can often take center stage, hindering our ability to think clearly and act decisively. For those aiming to cultivate resilience, the first step is addressing overwhelm. In this blog post, we'll explore the nature of emotional overwhelm, its impact on productivity, and four key strategies to manage and overcome it.

Understanding Emotional Overwhelm: Emotional overwhelm goes beyond mere stress. It's a state where one finds themselves submerged by thoughts and emotions, making it challenging to navigate life's problems. This state can lead to a lack of productivity, leaving individuals feeling frozen or paralyzed.

Meet a client, Sarah. Sarah was a dedicated professional juggling a demanding job, family with two relatively young children, a sick parent, and her personal aspirations. As her to-do list grew, so did the weight on her shoulders. Sarah found herself drowning in a sea of obligations, her mental and emotional well-being hanging in the balance.

One day, the pressure reached a breaking point. Sarah felt paralyzed, unable to move forward or make sense of her responsibilities. The emotional tsunami seemed insurmountable. It impacted her work, relationships, and overall happiness. Sarah's story is a stark reminder that overwhelm isn't just a concept; it's a visceral experience that can consume anyone.

Sarah wanted to cultivate her resilience but to do so we needed to help her manage her feelings of overwhelm first. Here are the four key strategies we focused on to help her regain control and start to move forward. Please try these as well. Don’t wait until you or your clients are overwhelmed.

  1. Breathe Deeply: Breathing is your first and most important tool. When overwhelmed, clear thinking becomes a challenge. This is why I often say you can’t think your way out of stress. Interrupt the overwhelming thought process by taking a series of deep breaths into your upper abdomen. With your mind, follow the inhale, pause, and then follow the exhale and pause. Repeat over and over again. You can also imagine that you inhale beautiful white light and exhale stress. Inhale light exhale what doesn’t serve you.
  2. Anchor in the Present: Pause everything and anchor your mind in the present moment. Shift away from past regrets and future worries. By focusing on the present, you can regain a sense of control and clarity.  To bring your attention to the present you can again notice your breath. Pay attention to the cool air coming in through your nose and warm air leaving. You can also close your eyes and notice all the sounds around you in the room. Then notice the sounds outside the room. Do this for a few minutes. Every time your mind wanders away bring yourself back to the sounds in the room. Be in the moment, feeling yourself sitting on the chair, breathing, listening to sounds. As you do this your central nervous system will start to reset little by little and everything will feel a bit more manageable.
  3. Reframe Your Thoughts: Change your mindset by viewing the current situation as a challenge rather than a roadblock. By shifting your perspective, you empower yourself to overcome the stressor. In our Certified Resilience Coach Program, we talk about shifting our focus from the stressors and focussing on the solution. This strategic shift empowers our clients to tackle difficulties with a different mindset. For Sarah we discussed reframing her challenges as leadership milestones. In fact, Sarah was motivated by the idea of transforming her challenges into a pathway for professional growth. She loved the idea of becoming a model for her team members. Her focus suddenly switched from” I am drowning” to “I want to figure this out to set the tone for how my team works and even perceives challenges.”  
  4. Focus on One Thing: Overwhelm often arises from the sheer volume of tasks. Identify and focus on one important task. Devote your energy to completing that task without worrying about anything else. This laser-like focus can help break the cycle of overwhelm.  For Sarah we also broke down her workload into manageable chunks. By focusing on one task or chunk at a time, she strategically navigated through the complexity, and fostered a sense of accomplishment with each completed task. A key to focusing on one thing, requires a strategic elimination of distractions.  With Sarah we spent time identifying and brainstorming how to minimize interruptions during focused work periods. She decided to turn off notifications and blocked a specific period of time for work that was non-negotiable.

There are many additional strategies for minimizing overwhelm. The first two I mention here are captured in the strategies above but really need to be emphasized.  

  • Set Boundaries: Learning to say no and establishing clear boundaries is essential for preventing overwhelm. Prioritize tasks and commitments based on their importance to maintain a healthy balance.
  • Center in Priorities: Align your actions with your priorities. Evaluate tasks based on their significance in achieving your long-term goals. This approach helps prevent being pulled in different directions.
  • Finally, and very importantly, start your day intentionally with a Morning Routine. Design a routine that is so inspiring for you that you can’t talk yourself out of it.  My daily practice includes yoga, breath work, a mini meditation and intention setting. I love my routine and can spend an hour on it, but on days I am pressed for time I can still get it done in 20 minutes. The key is to do it. What would your perfect morning routine be? It can include practices such as stretching or yoga, meditation, and setting intentions. Grounding yourself in the morning sets a positive tone for the day helping you to center in your priorities, setting boundaries and ultimately fostering your resilience.


Take a moment and complete our Overwhelm Audit. It will take you 30 seconds. Identify areas causing overwhelm and explore ways to delegate or streamline tasks.



How did you do? Building resilience begins with effectively managing ourselves, and our tendency to take on too much all at once. By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can cultivate a mindset that not only navigates challenges but thrives in the face of adversity.

Consider joining our Certified Resilience Coach Program, starting on January 27, 2024, to delve deeper into these principles. Our program, now in its 14th offering, has proven to help individuals and their clients lead healthier, happier, and more resilient lives. Don't miss the opportunity to embark on this transformative journey toward greater well-being and success.



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