6 Strategies for when You Feel Overwhelmed at Work

Overwhelm is something I feel periodically, and I’m discovering that I’m not alone. It’s hardly surprising given that our modern lives are so busy and multi-faceted. Feel overwhelmed at work? It can be hard to deal with, but here’s 6 strategies to make it easier. You will also benefit from my course on Dealing with Overwhelm.

Feel overwhelmed at work

Overall, I try my best to take life and all of its challenges in my stride, but I’m not immune to getting caught up in things. From time to time I become overwhelmed and need to step back – and almost reset – to allow me to move forward again in a more constructive manner. I share my approach below.

What is overwhelm?

Overwhelm– Dictionary Definition

If you are overwhelmed by a feeling or event, it affects you very strongly, and you do not know how to deal with it.

–        He was overwhelmed by a longing for times past. [be VERB-ed]

–        The need to talk to someone, anyone, overwhelmed her. [VERB noun]

–        Sightseers may be a little overwhelmed by the crowds and noise. [+ by]

Overwhelm manifests itself for me personally as a slightly giddy, nauseous feeling. Having felt this a number of times before, I now instantly recognize the signs.

You may well experience different symptoms that you class as overwhelm. Or you may have similar symptoms, but label them in a different way.

Sometimes my feelings of overwhelm can dissipate on their own, but often I take steps to address them. Up until now this process has been pretty sub-conscious, but I thought it might be useful, for me as well as others, if I articulate and share this.


Steps for when you feel  overwhelmed at work

This is my approach to dealing with overwhelm. Maybe bits will resonate and help you too.

Recognize the signs of overwhelm

As I mentioned above, overwhelm manifests itself for me as a giddy, nauseous feeling washing over me. For you this could be quite different. The earlier I recognize the signs, the better the chance of dealing with it promptly and minimizing its impact.

Recognise the signs of overwhelm

It’s good to talk

Sometimes just talking through things can help. Once the thoughts rushing around my head get expressed into words, this can often help me to find a way forward. The listener may also have some useful suggestions that can help, or at least help me to put it all into context.

Coaching can also be a really empowering option here!

Write a list

Similar to above, getting things out of my head and onto paper can be useful. This may help to bring things further into perspective, or it can result in a list of actions! Either way, once out of my head, it allows me more headspace to actually deal with it in a proactive manner.

Determine what’s important & what’s not

Once I’ve articulated the situation, this can often help to identify which bits are important versus not. It can also assist in prioritization.

Remember that while some things are within our control, not everything is. Ideally, we should focus only on the bits that are and try hard not to worry about the rest.

Plan accordingly

Once I have my list and know what I need to address, the next step is planning. As you may know, I’m a big fan of planning! It helps me to juggle many different items, and can certainly help things to go smoother and more efficiently than the alternative.

It can also help me to get through one day or week at a time in a relatively structured manner.

Resist taking anything else on when you feel overwhelmed at work

My natural tendency is to take on more than I should across multiple dimensions of my life. When I’m operating at full tilt then I can often deal with this. When I feel overwhelmed I need to constantly remind myself that my plate is already full and to not take on / accept / agree to anything else.


Can I avoid overwhelm at work altogether?

My post here has been about dealing with overwhelm, not how to avoid it. I’d love to say that I’ll never feel it again in the future, but who knows? Yes, some of mine is probably self-inflicted. But it’s also a result of many things coinciding at once, which I can’t necessarily control. I’d rather know I have some tools to deal with it again, if necessary, rather than protecting myself from it. Life is too short, after all.

Can I avoid overwhelm at work altogether?


I’m discovering I’m not alone in my experience of periodic overwhelm. This is hardly surprising  with modern lives and the busy schedules we lead. Everyone can feel overwhelmed at work from time to time.

I hope that you find my approach to dealing with overwhelm useful. I’d love to hear any steps or tips that you have for dealing with overwhelm, or similar feelings, that you experience.


If you’re a decision maker in a  firm, consider booking my Dealing With Overwhelm workshop for your staff to learn more about how to identify and deal with their own symptoms of overwhelm! This will ensure productivity at work.

Thanks for reading. Check out other Blue Diamond articles to help you take control of your work and life.