The Three Places Your Overwhelm Comes From (and how to take control of each)

by Robin Sacks

· Stress Less,Stress Management,Take Control,Self-Talk,Boundaries
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Whenever you feel stressed, chances are a lack of control is at the core.

With an "out of control" feeling can come anxiety, frustration, confusion, upset, anger and a host of other emotions that do not serve you in the moment.

That feeling of not not having control is typically brought on by one of three things:

Possibility #1: Someone else overloads you with things to do.

An example might be that someone at your company left or was let go and, all of a sudden, your workload has doubled because you have to cover some of those responsibilities, in addition to your regular job responsibilities.

Possibility #2: You have overloaded yourself physically by saying 'yes' to one (or seven!) too many things.

It's not uncommon to do this to ourselves. It happens because we want to be helpful and kind. And, sometimes, we overload ourselves because, let's be real, we have a hard time saying 'no.'

But when we say 'yes' to too many things, we lose ourselves. We often don't realize that until it's too late, and we're out of energy and time for ourselves.

Possibility #3: You have overloaded yourself mentally by living in your head WAY too much.

This is a biggie for many people - so let's spend a little more time here. ;)

It's easy to keep everything up there, in that six inches of real estate between your ears. The problem is that pretty much everything in there seems about ten times bigger than what it actually is in real life...and that can overwhelm you quickly.

Let's say I have four things I have to do today. If I don't get those things out of my head by the simple task of jotting them down, for example, on a to-do list, a separate piece of paper, or on my calendar, here is what will inevitably happen; I will play those four things over and over and over in my head again and again and again. If I have thought about those things five times, my brain and body suddenly don't feel like they have four things to do, rather they feel like they have 20 things to do.

That's basic math. ;)

Another way we overwhelm ourselves is to use what I call 'inflated language.' Inflated language is simply where you blow things out of proportion with the words you choose to use to describe them.

As in the example above, one person might say, "I have four things to do today" while another person, who's keeping it all in their head, might say, "I have a million things to do today!"

The reality is, no you don't. You still have four things to do today. Your choice of words is actually what overwhelms you, not the number of tasks you have to do.

Start paying attention to where your worry or stress is coming from, and then do something about it!

If it's coming from someone else, sit down and think about what you can do about it (i.e. what you can control). Is this a short-term situation, or could this last for a while? Can you have an honest (not martyr-like) conversation with this person about being overloaded? Can you discuss your concern about not wanting things to start falling through the cracks because of truly not having the time and energy to do it all? Is there opportunity for delegating?

In other words, anytime there's a problem, there's also a solution. Figure out how you can be a problem solver in that particular instance and, more often than not, you will find a helpful solution.

If it's coming from you overloading your time, and saying yes to too many things, it might be time to start setting some personal boundaries.

Here's where to start - give yourself permission to say "no."

If you find that difficult to do, here's a trick to use until you get more comfortable with it. If someone asks you to do something that you either cannot or do not want to do, make your answer about them, not you. For example, if someone asks you to take on the chairman position with a membership group you are in, you can say, "Thank you for thinking of me for that position. Unfortunately, I don't have the ability right now to give it the proper attention it needs. I don't want to do you a disservice by saying yes. Maybe I can help you think of someone else who would be able to do a better job right now."

If you find that stress often comes to you via your thoughts through things like inflated language, commit to making some shifts in your self talk to help deflate them. You do this by listening to yourself. Only when you begin to LISTEN to your words (internal and external words) that you realize how much of a catastrophizer you may be! Think about what you would tell a friend who is going through the same situation - and just share the facts, not the story you've made up around the facts!

Become aware of where your stress is coming from. No judgment, just awareness! Start to pay attention when you do feel stressed, anxious, worried, nervous, concerned or overwhelmed. Where is it coming from? What's the cause?

The more quickly you become aware of what is actually causing those feelings, the more quickly you can take control. If feeling out of control is what causes all of those feelings and emotions, imagine what feeling in control will make you feel like! :)

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash.

WRITTEN by Robin Sacks

Professionally, I am a Confidence Coach, speaker, author and motivator.

Personally, I am a mom, wife, and friend.

I live for bad puns and cozy mysteries.

Learn a lot more at

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