too much

16 Actionable Tips when Life Feels Too Much!

I don’t know about you, but I find that life can feel ‘too much’.  Too much to do, too many emails, too many commitments, too many distractions, too much choice, too much complexity and too many thoughts racing around my head.

This week I felt the tide of ‘too much’ rising, it felt like I was in water up to my neck, like those movies where someone is in an upturned car in a raging river and they have a little gap where they can still breathe.  I don’t think our brains were ever designed to cope with what we ask of them today, with dozens of tabs open in our brain ‘browser’.


The irony is, once these feelings of overwhelm take over, my productivity becomes minimal, I lose focus, I jump from one task to another, half completing something and then being sucked into a completely different activity, everything feels ‘urgent’.  I go back and forth, doing this and that and then realise I am working on something I never intended to do, chastising myself for not keeping focussed.

In the background there is a feeling of scarcity, not enough time, so much to do.  When I finally stop, (I have sat at my desk without a break for several hours) I want to forget about the pile of ‘stuff’ and escape, feeling a sense of dread about returning to tackle it. I feel exhausted, stressed and with little sense of progress, demotivated.


I decided that tomorrow would be different. Before I left my desk I made a decision on what I need to achieve the following day and wrote it down (it’s a closed list for that day i.e. so I don’t add to it if at all possible).  That meant I was clear on what I was going to tackle 1st, 2nd and 3rd and was less tempted to start on other tasks.   This provided real clarity of what I would do, and my mind knew where to focus.  I also let new emails wait and avoided checking my in-box constantly.

I got up on time and went for a walk before I started work.

I then filed recent emails and moved any emails I hadn’t dealt with, that arrived before yesterday into a Backlog folder. I find an out-of-control in-box really mentally weighs me down. Chances are you’ve already picked out the urgent items so you move everything else to a Backlog folder and you make a commitment to spend a defined amount of time of time working through this every day.

I learnt this technique from a book called ‘Do It Tomorrow’ by Mark Forster.  He shares lots of tips on being more productive and one of the most useful. There is something so freeing about seeing the end of a list of emails in my in-box.

I took breaks and did some yoga in my lunch break.

At the end of the day, I planned my next working day.  Of course, plans sometimes need to change but it’s that feeling of being intentional rather than just reacting to everything that really helps me feel calm and measured.  At the end of the day, I’d made good progress and I am clear on my what my focus will be next time I sit down at my desk and felt motivated about getting back to my desk.



Self Care When it Feels Too Much

  • Go for a walk before and ideally after work, 6000 steps a day ideally but even just 10 mins will make you feel better and work better.
  • Take 3 deep conscious breaths, regularly, particularly between activities.
  • Take regular breaks and MOVE your body, squats while the kettle boils or dance to a favourite song?
  • Celebrate successes, however small and find moments for fun and playfulness
  • Connect with a colleague or friend & encourage conversation about feelings not just facts.

 Prioritise & Focus When it Feels Too Much

  • Stop DOING, pause, reassess what’s your priorities are
  • Apply the Pareto Principle, look to work on the 20% of your work that provides 80% of your results!
  • Be mindful of importance over urgency, important tasks are often harder to tackle but bring more progression. It’s often more appealing to deal with the small easy things and never make any headway on meatier tasks, set aside focus time each day/week.
  • Make a list of tasks for today, don’t add to it if you can possibly help it, anything you do after your listed tasks is a bonus
  • If you feel stuck on how to tackle something collaborate, arrange a meeting or chat with a colleague to talk it over

Planning & Workload Management When it Feels Too Much

  • Plan your priorities for the next week & month and periodically the next 12 months
  • Plan your tomorrow, make a closed list for the following working day.
  • Work through emails methodically and use a backlog folder if you get behind.
  • If you know you are going to be slow to respond due to an important piece of work, manage expectations by setting up an out of office warning senders you will take a few days to respond.
  • Don’t take on extra work and add to your pile if you can avoid it; negotiate realistic delivery dates if you do. Better to do fewer things well than many things poorly.
  • There are only 24 hours in a day and 7-8 of them you are ideally asleep.


I sense my inner world of overwhelm mirrors the ever-increasing and frenetic pace at which life seems to operate, it seems we get swept along, desperately trying to swim alongside everyone else, even if we are not sure where we are going.

When we look through the lens of sustainability, with so much uncertainty and volatility and climate and bio-diversity issues, if can feel like the challenges we face are insurmountable, it’s not surprising how feelings of overwhelm and disempowerment affect not just individuals but society as a whole.

When we focus on the whole picture it is overwhelming, it can feel pointless, hopeless.  Whilst we need to acknowledge, rather than deny these feelings as they arise, we can equally acknowledge that things are shifting, more and more people are contributing to positive change.  We all stand on this amazing planet Earth, whilst it’s hard to understand the actions of others sometimes it’s useful to remember that each of us…..

has a body and a mind, just like me

has feelings, thoughts, & emotions, just like me.

has experienced pain and suffering, just like me.

has at some point been sad, just like me.

has been disappointed in life, just like me.

has sometimes been angry, just like me.

has been hurt by others, just like me

worries, just like me.

is frightened sometimes, just like me

I wonder if you ever came across this award-winning documentary “An Unlikely Friendship” about the astounding bond that developed between CP Ellis, Exalted Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan and outspoken black, woman activist Ann Atwater.  Who could have believed this would have ever come about and that, on the final night of the 10-day community meeting, in front of 1000 people, including his fellow Klansmen, CP Ellis tore up his Klan card.  Who would have believed that could have possibly happened, but it did.

Our power lies in our ability to connect and work with others, we are all tiny parts of the whole, each action we take, word we speak, energy we emit has a ripple effect, that we may never see or know about.

If we look back in history there have been some remarkable changes that have stemmed from a movement, of people joining together, of standing up for what is right, in a belief that their part, amongst many others, is still an important one.

It’s easy to be sucked into cynicism and apathy, this limits us and closes us down, it is those that have looked for the what if’s, imagined how things could be better, and stepped toward that vision, taking others with them, that go down in history and enjoy a fulfilling and interesting journey.

The challenges our world faces are complex but we are each capable of more than we perhaps realise. Perhaps the simplicity here lies in maintaining our focus on where our skills and talents lie and how we can, alongside others, grow and shape something that truly impactful.

Often overwhelm is linked to self doubt, check out my blog  Stories – 4 Ways to Create A Positive Self Narrative | Jules Etheridge

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