How to Manage Feelings of Overwhelm and Stress

Stress and overwhelm used to send me into a screaming rampage with my kids. Sometimes it still keeps me from enjoying the good that is happening all around me. And it almost always makes me grumpy to be around. I’m not saying it isn’t okay to feel overwhelmed from time to time, but we have to be able to monitor our emotions and recognize when it is taking over our lives.

Overwhelm is an emotion often leading to burnout, mental stress and physical health problems. It’s not fun to feel, and yet it is often our go-to emotion when we start feeling busy. We usually can’t change our circumstances, but we can choose how we want to respond to them. When we allow the overwhelm, stress, and anxiety to seep into our thought process, it keeps us from living the kind of life we really want.

There are many good reasons for wanting to get control of the overwhelm and stress you might be feeling.  My first suggestion would be to lean into what you’re feeling. Try to identify where you feel it, what it feels like inside your body, and then decide if it is helping or hurting – is it serving you well? If not, here are a few ideas to work through and manage those emotions that might be overpowering you.

☐ Stop Striving for Perfection

Perfection does not exist. It is not possible to obtain it in this life. Let good enough be good enough. When you have completed something, move on. I’ve started telling myself B- work is okay, it is good enough. This way of thinking has helped so much.

☐ Let go of Control

Control is a hard one for me. I’ve learned it’s okay not to be involved in every detail. It doesn’t matter if they don’t do it the way I would. Perfection is not the objective. Getting the job done and learning a little bit along the way is much better.

There is a lot of stress involved with needing things to be done a certain way every time. Let go and relax.  The world won’t end, and you’ll be a little happier when it’s all said and done. I promise.

☐ Take the Time to Pray

Connecting with a being greater than yourself has been proven to have health benefits to both your brain and your body.  Sometimes my prayer is a conversation with God while I’m driving, other times it is in the privacy of my room where I can pour out my heart.  Having a conversation with Him helps me to put my priorities in order and see things from a different perspective.

☐ Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

When I decided to ride my first single race, I didn’t get on my bike and ride 60 miles the first day. I broke the process down into bite-sized pieces and focused on the training steps I needed to accomplish, and how to improve my overall strength.

Focus on putting one foot in front of the other, each step individually instead of the finish line.  It will always be overwhelming when you look at the whole picture instead of the steps to get you there.

How to Manage Feelings of Overwhelm and Stress 1

☐ “Turn Off Notifications” and “Do Not Disturb”

If you don’t have notifications turned off, take your phone out right now and flip the switch.

For me, there is nothing more irritating than to see the little notification badge on my emails or text messages.  It puts pressure on me to respond and take care of them right away. It also makes a huge difference to put do not disturb on when you’re working to get a project done.

Almost everyone and thing can wait. There is no reason for you to be interrupted and alerted every time one of your friends posts a new update on social media, or every time you get a new email. I’m amazed at how much more effective I am when I am free from these alerts. 

☐ Slow down

When overwhelm and stress seem to be everywhere in your life, stop what you are doing. Take a few deep breaths. Look at what is going on around you objectively, focus on one task, then get started again.

☐ Evaluate Your Why

Stop keeping busy just for the sake of keeping busy. I’ve talked about the busy badge before. Our society has led us to believe we have to be busy if we are making any kind of difference in the world. It’s really not the case.

When we are intentional in the way we spend our time, we realize it’s okay to say no. We make sure our to-do list is only full of the essentials.

☐ Delegate and Follow-up

Learning how to pass things off to other people.  Allow someone to do something for you. We all know we CAN do everything, but we don’t have to. A good delegator takes responsibility by following up but lets the burden sit with the one doing the task.

☐ Create an Evening and Morning Routine

Get 7 to 8 hours of good sleep every night. To do that start with the end in mind. I created my morning routine and my evenings followed. Studies show that you can’t “catch up” on sleep later, and this simple, daily practice can lead to fewer feelings of stress and anxiety.

☐ Regular Exercise

Exercise keeps your body happy, and healthy organs promote a healthy brain. This means high levels of “feel good” hormones and chemicals, and low levels of stress-causing hormones.

☐ Eat right and drink lots of water

Water is incredibly good at detoxing our bodies, and eating a diet high in plant-based foods has been linked to fewer health problems, and decreased feelings of overwhelm and anxiousness.

☐ Remember the Research

“60% or more of all human illness and disease is caused by stress.”* Sometimes reminding yourself of how dangerous stress can be is motivation to help you reduce the amount of stress in your life.

This also might help: 5 Steps to a Stress Detox


Stress and overwhelm can have an extremely negative impact on our lives. Too often we try to ignore it and push through. Next time you find yourself going through a particularly stressful time, try using this checklist to help you manage how your feeling when life gets overwhelming.

How do you work through feelings of stress and overwhelm?

Stress with Clocks showing different time


*How Stress Affects the Body, 2010. Infographic. Institute of Heartmath, Retrieved 8 Oct 2018.

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4 thoughts on “How to Manage Feelings of Overwhelm and Stress”

  1. Turning off notifications is probably the best tip for me. I’m constantly distracted by texts and other beeps from my phone. I used to be so good at focusing, but I’ve allowed distractions to enter my life and I need to learn to ignore them.

    1. I get so distracted by all the notifications, too! I’m in the middle of a social media fast and have felt a difference in my overwhelm by just turning off the distractions. Thanks for the comment, Ama!

  2. Great checklist, Lori. I learned over the weekend the latest iOS allows you to limit your screen time by app. I plan to set up some limits on my phone by the end of this week to accompany the do not disturb limits already in place. I also wanted to say a hearty “amen” to the exercise point: getting in intentional movement 2-3 hours a week has made a huge difference in my life.

    1. I had a bit of an eye-opening experience when my first weekly report came in for my screen time. Yes! I will be setting limits for my time as well! Exercise has been a huge benefit to managing my feelings of overwhelm and stress, too! I’m glad the checklist helped – thanks for the comment, Jen!

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