Overwhelmed? Stepping Away Can Save the Day!

OverwhelmedWhen you’re overwhelmed, what’s your first response?

For many of us, the knee-jerk reaction is to increase our efforts immediately … because we want to do something about that feeling. But working faster or harder or longer simply isn’t the optimal  reaction to feeling overwhelmed.

In fact, ramping it up often makes things worse – AND leaves us exhausted and depleted.

So, what’s a better course when you’re overwhelmed by your to-do list or by a sudden change that puts your workload over the top?

Overwhelmed? First, You Have to See It!

Taking time to regain your perspective when you’re stressed is vital, but quite often, we don’t even know when we are at or near our breaking point.  So, step number one is tuning into yourself and learning to recognize the signs of overwhelm.

For each of us, it’s going to be different; but I’m going to guess that working harder is a predictable reaction, as is heightened anxiety.  You may feel that your fuse gets shorter, too.

And, the more overwhelmed you feel, the LESS efficient and effective you are going to be.  This, in turn, just increases your overwhelm. So, it’s a downward spiral.

Overwhelmed?  Try Stepping Away …

So, once you realize you are overwhelmed (and you’ll get better and better at this the more you tune in), your next step is to take care of YOU!

Give yourself some time and space to regain your footing and your perspective.  You want to respond, not react to whatever is happening. Simply put, when you respond to a situation, you are retaining your power; when you react you give it away.

And this applies to that feeling of being overwhelmed!

Overwhelmed? How Much Time Do You Need?

I recently read a very interesting post on Dumb Little Man titled How Not To Make A Drastic Mistake You Will Regret that offers some excellent insights into the question of how long you need to step away.  It is going to very, based on your unique personality, your situation, and your level of stress.

Simply put, when you respond to a situation, you are retaining your power; when you react you give it away. Click to Tweet

The key point he makes is that it’s important to recognize what you need – AND that it’s variable.  Small challenges require smaller amounts of time to reboot, while major stress requires more.  Tailoring the time you take saves you time and assures that you give yourself what you need.

By practicing timeout – stopping, stepping away and not focusing on a problem, it allows our nervous system to calm and get out of flight or fight mode and our unconscious mind can get to work finding the solution and the path forward, without us having to think and worry about it so much.

Overwhelmed?  One Final Thought

Too often, when we are overwhelmed we also get down on ourselves about being in that situation.  So this is just a quick reminder that self-criticism NEVER helps.


And if you find that the voice of your inner critic gets in your way, my Exercise and Guide Book, “These Critical Voices Are Driving Me Crazy!” gives you proven exercises, checklists, and tips with step-by-step support to take back your power and quiet the self-criticism that saps your confidence, your energy, and your time. Click this link to get started!


  1. Love it! With a bit of time and perspective, it’s easier to locate the thorn that’s creating the limp.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Alison. I’m glad you liked the post, and I love that image!

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