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Feeling Overwhelmed? You’re Not Alone

man running in a wheel getting no where and feeling overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed can stump even the most productive of us. We can’t expect ourselves to do everything all the time.

Do it all

We think we can do it all, all the time: manage our home, take care of the children, maintain a relationship with our partner, go to work, tend the garden, take care of the pets, keep up with the laundry, make yummy meals and the list goes on.

Technology doesn’t help

Technology adds to feeling overwhelmed. We are constantly bombarded by technology. Our phones make different sounds to indicate a text was received, an email has arrived, or someone is phoning us – wanting to talk to us!

So, what do we do? Of course, we check our phones. Do you ever not check your phone? Try it for a few hours or a day if you dare to see what it would feel like to not be tethered to this electronic instrument.

Checking your phone diverts your attention away from other tasks. The messages, social media posts, and emails add to these feelings of being overwhelmed.

Unrealistic expectations

Let’s face it we can not do all of this everyday all by ourselves. That’s simply unrealistic.

A friend of mine, Jonda Beattie, recently wrote a blog post about having a meltdown over something she had done wrong. It had no major consequence, but it was so unlike her to make a mistake of this nature that it completely undid her. She was feeling overwhelmed.

 Jonda was unrealistic in her expectations of what she could handle by herself over the course of a weekend. The next day, she modified her expectations and was back to herself.

I can do it!

I get overwhelmed at times because I am a “I can do it” woman. I often get asked to do tasks by volunteer groups I belong to, by friends, or by my children and my response is typically “Sure!”.

I like being asked and generally, honestly enjoy getting whatever it is done because I love to make people happy and enjoy the process of seeing a project through to completion.

Get it done

I know I get asked because I have a reputation for being reliable. People know they can count on me to get it done and done well.

However, this can take a toll on me. I sometimes get overwhelmed and feel like the hamster in the cage running after something I can never catch – the end of my list of things to do.

Is this you, too? Are you an “I can do it” person?

I’ll tell you what I do about this in a minute.

In person friends

I am reading an excellent book right now by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler called Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process. I am long past the child rearing stage of my life, but I was intrigued by the title of this book.

Friends and community

In her book, Dr Zeigler talks about the importance of community and friends. People you can do things with and share. She relates stories of moms who are feeling overwhelmed by all the things they expect of themselves. Often times those expectations were not realistic.

Dr. Zeigler recommends cultivating friendships. Putting down your phone, talking with and listening to your friends. Be available to your friends and they will be available for you.

Ways to combat feeling overwhelmed

Let me tell you what I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list or by the sheer number of things I have committed to doing.

Delegate some tasks.

I either reschedule some tasks to another day or I delegate them to someone else.

Break down the project into small steps

I talk about this often. Breaking down projects into small steps makes accomplishing the project attainable. Some projects like cleaning the house are on-going. Here’s a great article which teaches how to realistically break down cleaning your house into achievable steps so that keeping your house clean doesn’t become an overwhelming chore.

Know your limits

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I know I’ve reached the limit of what I can do that day. I stop and evaluate my to-do list. Then I create a new small list of things that absolutely must be done. The rest can wait for another day. Read more about that here.

Eat, drink water, and rest

Chances are if you’re feeling overwhelmed you haven’t had enough to eat, enough water to drink and probably haven’t had enough sleep. Get something to eat, drink a glass of water, and take a rest. You will feel better.

Look at the things you are doing and ask yourself if you’re being realistic in your expectations. Acknowledge your limits and try not to push yourself past them. Doing this is not only kind to yourself but also to those you care for.

Relaxation time

Schedule some white space in your day and use it as relaxation time – whatever that means to you. Reach out to your friends. And, if you are looking for objective help figuring this out, you can reach out to me. I’ll be happy to work with you to create realistic expectations and goals so that you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives.


  • Oh, Diane! I so relate to what you wrote- especially about taking on too much and being that “yes” person. I have learned how to say no. It’s taken time, but I’ve realized how essential it is that before I commit to a yes, I evaluate my current “landscape.” There still might be times of overwhelm because life throws us surprises. Or, we say yes to something without fully grasping the time demands. But I do my best to be hyperaware of the time I have so that I can enjoy all that I have committed to instead of feeling resentful and pressured. There have been many periods in my life when I have taken it all on with that “do it all” attitude. And I did get through those times but at a cost.

    You are an amazing giver and I can attest to what an incredible volunteer and asset you are to ICD. As someone who was often in a position to recruit volunteers, your name was always at the top of the list because we knew you were capable, trustworthy, smart, devoted, and an all-around terrific person. I know that you’ve worked on finding that right balance between saying yes and honoring what you need for you. I’m guessing it’s an ongoing negotiation. Thank you for all that you do. The world is a better place because of you.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Linda, thank you so much for your support and for joining this conversation. I always love to read your perspective. Back at you, my friend – the world is a better place because of you, as well.

  • This is soooo true and familiar – the faster modern life the more we think we can do and it’s ruining our perspective. Thank you for the ideas and encouragement for the rest!

  • Jamie Steele says:

    I feel a sense of calm after reading this. Get tips to combat overwhelm. So much overwhelm comes from our technology. I tend to have mine on do not disturb so I don’t hear the notifications. I look at my phone enough that I don’t need it to remind me to check on something. If I do I set an alarm. Great post!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Jamie! I love the alarm function on our phones. Whatever did we do without them?

  • Seana Turner says:

    Sleep and down time definitely make a big difference for me. I know when I’ve packed my schedule too tight, and I often see it come out in a lack of patience. When everything has to happen “perfectly” for the day to come off, I’m in danger. My best flow is when I have a healthy amount to do, but pockets of time to respond should the unexpected arise. Great post!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      I know what you mean, Seana. When I hear myself send back a quick reply that’s maybe a little too flip, I know that it’s time to step back and regroup. Thank you for your comment.

  • I love this post. I do find that I have had to know my limits. Doing my business for a long time now, I know what I can do, and I recognize that I have to stop when I get tired. No judgment. Just stop and pick it up another day.