Easy first step to tackle overwhelm!

Take a deep breath and shoulders down!

Have you ever had the feeling you have too much to do? I figured so. I would say all business leaders have felt that way sometimes. Some feel it all the time. I am at that point right now, for the moment I really feel I have too much to do. When overwhelm hits you it is important to wake up fast before you lose control completely. Because then it is so much harder to get back on track again. Then it is so hard to get an overview. Then you start making mistakes. Then you start to forget things. Then you …..

The list of what happens when you feel overwhelm can be made very long. I am sure you can add a lot of things that I haven’t even thought of. But at this point it is more important what you can do to get out of it.

People tell me that you shouldn’t get into overwhelm to start with. Well, easy to say and hard to do. I believe every business leader is on the edge of it every now and then. The thing is to see the signs early and react.

What are the signs? Some easy recognized signs are when your agenda is starting to be double-booked or when you take your work home in the evenings. These are things most of you would say are common. I would say they are very common.

You can learn to tackle the feeling of overwhelm in its infancy. Here are some simple steps to follow:

Step 1. When you suddenly (it is usually suddenly) understand you have fallen into the trap of overwhelm again it is common to start to hyperventilate. That may cause a panic reaction and you get ineffective or even paralyzed. A simple trick to avoid this is to take 2 or 3 deep breaths. Taking a deep breath does two things. It forces you to concentrate on the breath and be present in the moment. It also oxygenize your brain which is necessary to avoid the panic reactions that may follow if you get scared and that will make it possible for you to think clearly again.

Step 2 is to let your shoulders down after your deep breaths. The shoulders automatically go up in a tense position when you feel overwhelm or fear. If you can make them fall down and relax you will release a lot of energy more needed to solve your problems than to make you muscles hurt.

Step 3. Now you are present in the moment and you are relatively relaxed and oxygenized. This is the time to take a look at the present problem. Just focus on the present situation. The best is if you have a pen and paper and write down what you have to do. Dived things into important or not important and then you ask yourself if they are urgent or not. The things that are urgent and important are the ones to start with.

Maybe some of the not important and not urgent things are things you should let go. Keeping them on your to-do list may drain your energy.

Of course it is more to do to keep out of overwhelm then just breath and relax – will write more about this in another post.

I am having my fun “Grand Opening” of my new office on Friday (you are welcome too!) and there are so many things to do. I have been close to panic many times last week but I get by using this simple method I have shared above. Everything on my to-do list right now is urgent and important. This blog post, for example, is among the things important and urgent because to me it is very important to be consistent. At this point I struggle most with the “good enough” issue.

What is being overwhelmed to you? How do you tackle it? Do you have any simple tips you want to share?

If you find this information useful I would be happy if you share it in your network. Maybe you even know someone who really needs this – feel free to give them the link to this blogpost.

If you need professional help maybe Dr Annika´s mentoring program for business leaders “Strategies to cope as business leader” will suit you. The groups are small with maximum six participants to keep it confidential; the program can also be done individually. You can also get the program as teleseminar in groups or individual via Skype. Read more (Swedish) or contact for more information.

Keep smiling!

8 thoughts on “Easy first step to tackle overwhelm!

  1. Dr. Annika – your reminder is right to the point! Overwhelm causes the “wise You” to notice, and then make that simple choice to breathe to balance and re-center. Notice how the word OVERWHELM — has as the last 4 letters HELM. Who’s at the HELM of your “ship of work and service”? Open to letting that heart, caring and wisdom “helm” steer the answers to prioritizing all the things to tend to.

    Cheering you on for your upcoming Open House! Local folks — DO visit and Meet Dr. Annika!!

  2. This is such an important post Annika – I love the tip about focussing on your breath is you’re hyperventilating – so vital.
    Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  3. Wonderful reminder of how important it is to just relax and breathe deeply! It’s amazing how much easier it is to deal with things, such as overwhelm and stress, once we’ve taken a few deep breaths and relaxed into being present. Thanks Annika. And I hope you had a wonderful “Open House’ to-day!

  4. WOW! I needed to read and be reminded about what to do when I have overwhelm! I need to pray. This is one thing that I need to remember which makes a difference. Thank you Dr. Annika! You did it again!

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