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Image by Alexandra_Koch 

Overwhelm is what happens when we have too much input coming in and we get overloaded. It's easy to lump everything together, distorting the significance in the grand scheme of things, becoming preoccupied with what needs to be done, should be done, or what we hear in the news. In the extreme, we either run around like a chicken with its head cut off or we become immobile and hide our heads in the sand.

Typically, during overwhelm, we leap from specifics that need attention to global generalities. We default to exaggerations and drama, limited only by our imagination. Small things become earth-shattering and nearly impossible to do. We feel like we're in a pressure cooker, calling ourselves "stressed out."

What is the price we pay? We lose perspective. It's difficult to enjoy the journey or present moment when entertaining thoughts about the implications for the future. In addition, we lose efficiency. And because our minds are racing, we can't hear what other people are saying and lose personal connection. Small things become big deals, causing other people to feel nervous, anxious, or unsettled in our presence.

And what emotion drives the feeling of overwhelm? Fear.

And what emotion eludes us? Peace.

How to STOP Feeling Overwhelmed

1. Move the emotional energy physically.

To get the upper hand on overwhelm, you must move fear energy out of your body by shivering, shaking, trembling, and quivering with vigor. Think of a swimmer before a big competition or a person addressing an audience of 5000. Though it sounds silly, you can restore calm and clarity by shivering and reminding yourself, "It's okay. I just need to move this energy out of my body."

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2. Think supportive thoughts.

It's common when we're feeling panicked to fuel our fear with words like "always" and "never," as in "I'm always failing," or "I'll never get this done." Interrupt such thoughts about the future and past, and other over-generalizations that distort and magnify the problem. Instead, stay present and be specific. Don't allow yourself to entertain thoughts about everything at once.

Help yourself by picking one or two phrases that resonate and say them often, especially when you start getting agitated and stressed.

Think small.

Stay specific.

One thing at a time.

Little steps.

Little by little.

Stay specific.

3. Break the big into small doable steps.

If you feel overwhelmed by the political situation, do what is in your control, and then let go. Limit the amount of information you take in and instead focus on doing what will brighten up your day and contribute to the betterment of your community.

If you are overwhelmed by your responsibilities, make a list of issues, responsibilities, and projects that need your attention. Then break big topics into a series of simple little pieces so you can attend to one manageable thing at a time. The key to minimizing fear and life's tasks is to take the time to get organized everyday. For each task you take on, start by articulating your goal. With that in mind, break the desired goal into a series of little doable steps. Consult your intuition to clarify priorities.

Each step must be made small enough so you know you can finish it. Shiver if you feel stuck and break down the task even more. If you keep an ongoing list of exactly what needs to be done by when, you can evaluate what's most important and essential for today. Put your list in an obvious place so you can see it. Then just do what's next.

Check in before accepting additional responsibility, saying no won't be the end of the world.

Renegotiate what's not possible, delegating tasks as necessary.

Praise yourself lavishly as you complete each little step and then attend to what's next. Keep interrupting the inner critic and instead offer yourself appreciations.  "I'm doing the best I can." "I did good."

One Peaceful Step at a Time

Little steps are the key to heading off feeling overwhelmed and taking charge of your life and your interactions with others. You can deal with specifics in conversations and within yourself, to produce clarity and feeling centered. When you think in specifics and deal with concrete issues, you'll feel calmer, get more done, enjoy what you're doing.

Your life's tasks are easier to handle because you know the secret is to break down big deals into small steps. With your new motto, "little by little" you can truly accomplish almost anything with a clear, present, and peaceful mind.

You'll find that you enjoy whatever your day brings and can willingly participate with humor and equanimity. Acknowledge and appreciate yourself for bringing more peace and enjoyment to your life.

©2023 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.

Book by this Author:

Attitude Reconstruction

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.

book cover: Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life  by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.With practical tools and real-life examples, this book can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with joy, love, and peace. Jude Bijou's comprehensive blueprint will teach you to: ? cope with family members' unsolicited advice, cure indecision with your intuition, deal with fear by expressing it physically, create closeness by truly talking and listening, improve your social life, increase staff morale in just five minutes a day, handle sarcasm by visualizing it flying by, carve out more time for yourself by clarifying your priorities, ask for a raise and get it, stop fighting via two easy steps, cure kids' tantrums constructively. You can integrate Attitude Reconstruction into your daily routine, regardless of your spiritual path, cultural background, age, or education.

For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.

About the Author

photo of: Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT)

Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.

In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education.

Visit her website at