3 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

At the start of last year, I had big goals for myself. I wanted to officially start my own consulting business, finish writing my book, get in better shape, find a new place to live, and start working out and meditating more. This all looked so wonderful on paper. But for the first half of last year, I was so laser-focused on achieving these goals that I wouldn’t let myself rest.

By May, I was working 80+ hour weeks and planning a move. I committed to a 21-day vegan cleanse, which was an intense diet change, to say the least. As I was achieving my goals, life was happening too—and my grandmother was dying. So I spent as much time as possible with her until she passed away, which happened to be the very same day that I moved to a new town.

Where did this leave me by August? Well, I was able to check all the boxes next to the goals I’d set for myself, but I was a wreck. I had completely burned myself out and spent the next three months trying to figure out why I didn’t feel right—only to discover I had a chronic illness that flares up in response to stress and lack of sleep. What good were my accomplished goals if my health was suffering?

So, my biggest takeaway from last year was that while goals are wonderful, and it feels good to accomplish them, I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Overworking myself leads straight to burnout. And  it’s okay to take off the pressure to do better and be better…and to just be.

Here are some things I learned (the hard way) to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and to find more balance in your life.

Break down goals into simple actions

Get out a notebook, notecards, or Post-its. Write down one of your goals. Then write three simple actions you can take to achieve that goal. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, your three actions might be: go on a walk this week, research some healthy recipes, do some meal prep next Sunday. One of my goals is I want to get better sleep. So my three simple actions are to take a bath before bed, to limit screen time, and to meditate before I fall asleep. By breaking down your goals into simple actions, you reduce a sense of feeling overwhelmed and give yourself direction for moving forward successfully.

What do you turn to when you’re overwhelmed?

Take breaks

It’s easy to want to cross everything off our to-do list and to forget to stop. Schedule breaks, at least one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Allow yourself to step away from your work by a certain time each day. Read a book. Meditate. Carve out 10-30 minutes every day to just do something that clears your head. Taking breaks helps us switch our focus, reduce stress, and create the space we need in our days to feel less overwhelmed.

Pick one day per week to completely unplug

This one is hard, but once you get in the rhythm, you’ll feel how this day recharges you for the rest of the week. Pick one day (usually Saturday or Sunday is best) to completely unplug. This means no email, no social media, and try to keep your phone on silent, if possible. Also, try to limit errands and work by preparing for your rest day ahead of time or allocating tasks for another day. Aim for no to-do list on this day. Do something fun, go out to eat, read, listen to a podcast, take a bath. Give yourself one unstructured day a week without being on your phone or computer all the time. Think of this day as the one to refill your tank for the other six in the week. Letting yourself remember what it’s like to just be, without the to-do list and the constant connection, is actually super beneficial for our productivity, creativity, and well-being. Just like our devices, we need to be recharged too. By designating one day a week when you unplug, you’ll have more energy and end up feeling rejuvenated.

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Caitlin Elizabeth is a writer and creative consultant. She is passionate about equality, creative living, and wellness and has spent time in 11 countries around the world. She owns her own creative consulting business and lives with her adopted pup Tula. Connect with her at caitlinelizabeth.me.