5 Powerful Ways to Cope With Overwhelm Without Losing Focus

Tue Feb 5, 2019

As we’re living such busy lives, having the ability to cope with overwhelm, without losing focus, is a distinct advantage.

It doesn’t take much for us to start feeling overwhelmed because we have to deal with many things in our personal and professional lives.

Things That Can Cause Overwhelm

Whenever we feel overwhelmed, it means certain things are happening or playing out for us. Some of these include:

  • Lack of clarity on what’s most important now.
  • No clear criteria for managing priorities.
  • Having more things to do than we have time available to do them.
  • Not having the confidence or competence to do something.
  • Failing to set boundaries with others.

The Costs of Overwhelm

Even though feeling overwhelmed is self-generated, it’s not a pleasant experience to have. The costs of overwhelm include:

  • Emotional turmoil which can cause irritability, frustration or anger.
  • Failing to meet deadlines.
  • Not being able to focus well which can cause poor quality work.
  • Having low confidence and motivation to get things done.
  • Losing self-trust and trust with others.

Being able to cope with overwhelm means we’ll still complete things without losing focus.

cope with overwhelm

how to cope with overwhelm

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, it’s usually a sign I’m trying to do too much at once. I have to remind myself of a few things every time so I can focus my energy on what I want to do.

5 Ways to Cope With Overwhelm

  1. Ask yourself new or better questions. The questions we ask dictate what we focus on. By changing the questions we ask ourselves, we can see our situation from new perspectives.

    Questions we can ask include:

    • What’s coming up that’s causing me to feel this way?
    • What’s most important right now?
    • If I could only get one thing done today, what would it be?
    • What options do I have to make things easier for myself?
    • Who can I ask for help if I need it?
    • What can I learn from this experience so I don’t have to put myself in a similar situation again?
    • What will happen if I don’t get everything done?
    • Why must I complete the things I want to?
  2. Capture everything that’s on your mind. When we try to hold a lot of information in our minds, it can make us feel we have too much going on. Having a way to free our minds by writing things done in a notepad, a journal or a software program is helpful.

    That way, we can see what’s going on for us. Here is an effective process to get out of overwhelm quickly.

  3. Decide what’s feasible in the time you have available. We can feel overwhelmed if we believe we don’t have enough resources. Not having enough time is often an issue. If we know how much time we have available, we can decide what we can do and what can either be deferred, deleted or delegated.
  4. Get some quick wins. Momentum is the antidote to overwhelm. Sometimes, we give ourselves more time than necessary to get things done. The more time we have available, the longer it takes to complete things. Getting quick wins, whether they’re small or big, can help us get back into doing what we need to.
  5. Keep the big picture in mind. If we don’t have clear intentions, it’s easy to get distracted and be unfocused. Knowing why it’s important to do the things we want will support us in staying focused. By having the big picture in mind, it will allow us to say “no” to new requests and also resist the temptation to multitask.

Mental Adjustments You Can Make in the Moment to Cope With Overwhelm

If we’re feeling overwhelmed, it means we’re not in a healthy mental or emotional state. There are things we can do, in any moment, to adjust our mental and emotional states, and they include:

  • Practice mindfulness techniques, which can include managing our breathing better.
  • Have a break from what we’re doing.
  • Speak to someone about how we’re feeling.
  • Let go of any resentments or judgments that may come up for us.
  • Be okay with taking imperfect action because we can always refine and adjust at a later time.


Having ways to cope with overwhelm will allow us to maintain our mental and emotional states and continue making progress. If we don’t deal with feelings of overwhelm well, it will affect our ability to focus and get things done. If we learn to cope with overwhelm better, we’ll continue to develop and bring the best out of ourselves.

Action Step: Reflect on the last time you felt overwhelmed and evaluate how you dealt with it. Next time you feel overwhelmed, apply these ideas to better deal with it and stay focused on your highest priorities.

Question: What are other ways to cope with overwhelm without losing focus?


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