• Anita Chastain, MBA

15 Things to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Life can feel overwhelming at times, but there are things you can do to help you get life back under control.

Life can feel overwhelming at times. The buzzing of your phone. The dinging of email notifications. The never-ending to-do list. The demands of the people around you.

All of it can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

With all of these things piling up, it’s no wonder you start feeling stressed out, discouraged, and overwhelmed.

So what can you do?

After years of fighting feelings of being overwhelmed, I discovered some things that work for me.

Today, I'll share those things with you.

15 Ways to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

Here are 15 things you can do to help you feel like you're getting control over your life. For me, getting that control over back plays a big part in feeling less overwhelmed.

These are the strategies I use:

1. Eliminate unnecessary, low priority tasks from your to-do list.

Tasks come in all shapes and sizes. They carry different levels of importance and weight.

Don't put time or effort into doing things that you don't have to do (because they’re not important) or you don't have to do right now (because they’re not time-sensitive).

2. Don't allow yourself to become consumed by negative emotions.

Your feelings are valid. Feeling overwhelmed is a real thing, and when you experience that feeling, it's time to do something different.

But after acknowledging how you feel, move on to action.

Get busy doing things that will make you feel less overwhelmed.

3. Stop assuming the worst about the situation.

Catastrophizing is taking something and assuming the worst possible outcome.

Doing this only serves to make you feel more stressed out and overwhelmed. Instead of catastrophizing, put your mental energy into taking actions that reduce your stress and bring order to the situation.

If it isn't going to make much difference in your life, don't let it take up much room in your head.

4. Don't turn small problems into big problems.

Sometimes, our emotional reaction to a problem makes the problem seem bigger than it really is.

To keep that from happening, keep the situation in perspective.

Ask yourself what difference this situation will make a year from now or five years from now.

If it isn't going to make much difference in your life, don't let it take up much room in your head.

5. Start identifying your options for dealing with the situation.

Worry doesn't change any situation. It's an emotional response, not a solution. All it does is make you feel worse.

Instead of worrying, start identifying the options you have to deal with the situation. Once you have options, you can take action. Options help worry less and make you feel in better control of the situation.

So, remind yourself that you have options for making the situation better. After you decide what action makes the most sense in the situation, put your ideas into action.

6. Break the cycle of negativity with a gratitude moment.

Gratitude makes you feel better. Think about what you have in your life that you can be grateful for.

One way to do this is by stopping whatever you're doing or thinking and taking a moment to be grateful:

For the next 60 seconds, think about what you have in life to be thankful for. It can be anything.

No matter how challenging a situation is, there are always things we can be grateful for.

Figure out the one thing - the most important thing - you need to work on right now.

7. Figure out the one thing - the most important thing - you need to work on right now.

Building on what I mentioned earlier, remember that our to-do list includes tasks with different levels of priority and impact.

Looking at your list, what task is more important right now than any other task on the list because completing it (or not completing it) will have the biggest impact on your life?

That's the one you need to start working on right now.

8. Break big tasks on your to-do list into smaller tasks.

We eat a meal one bite at a time. We can solve problems in the same way.

One of the reasons that big problems seem so overwhelming is that we can't imagine solving them because the solution seems out of reach or too complicated.

Break solutions down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This will also help you stay motivated and avoid the tendency to procrastinate.

9. Complete one task before you move on to the next one.

When you feel overwhelmed, it's easy to jump from task to task.

If you do that, you end up with a bunch of tasks that are partially done. Then you feel worse because you haven't completed any of them.

Accomplishment plays a big part in reducing how you feel when you’re overwhelmed. You feel better because you see that you’re getting things done.

10. Don't waste valuable mental energy worrying about things that you can't control.

There's no point worrying about things that you can't control. No amount of worrying about them will ever solve the problem. All worrying does is make you feel more stressed out and anxious.

Differentiate between what you can control and what you can't. Put energy and effort where it will make a difference - on those things you can control.

11. Stay grounded in the present moment.

You can’t change the past. Nothing you do now or later will change what happened before this moment.

But you do have control over what you do right now.

Put your energy into figuring out what you need to do right now to deal with the situation.

This mindfulness practice can help lower your stress and make you feel better.

Clear the clutter in your line of sight.

12. Clear the clutter in your line of sight.

Look around you. What do you see?

Whether you’re looking at the clutter on your desk, the kitchen table, the coffee table, the bathroom floor, or wherever, take five minutes to clear the clutter.

There are benefits to decluttering, including bringing calm back into your space and into your head.

A calm space leads to a calm mind. And a calm mind frees up energy to focus on getting things done.

13. Say no to more demands from the people around you.

Sometimes you just don't have more time or energy to give.

When you need time for yourself, it's okay to say no to the demands of others. Don’t feel guilty about it either.

Do what you need to do to take care of yourself first. Taking care of you now gives you the energy and strength to be there for them later.

14. Avoid electronic distractions while you're doing anything else.

In other words, when you're working on something, don't let social media, email, or mindlessly scrolling the Internet take you away from what you're doing.

Stay on the task.

When you feel overwhelmed, put your focus on the task in front of you. Get it done, and leave the distractions for another time.

Step outside for five minutes to breathe in the fresh air.

15. Go outside for five minutes and get some fresh air.

Step outside for five minutes to breathe in the fresh air. While you’re there, soak up the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Don't do anything. Just enjoy the moment.

This change of scenery gives your brain a mental break and helps you feel better:

The fresh air and mental break will refresh and recharge your internal battery.

The result? You'll have more mental energy to do what you need to do.


In this article, you learned 15 steps you can take to feel less overwhelmed by whatever you're dealing with. Remember that even when you feel overwhelmed and it feels like there's nothing you can do to make the situation better, there is.

Which suggestions do you think would work the best for you? Feel free to drop me a line at anita (@) simplelife365.com and let me know.


NEXT: You might enjoy reading Feeling Discouraged? 36 Inspiring Quotes to Lift You Up.