The #1 Way To Immediately Stop Feeling Overwhelmed (and it's not just taking 3 deep breaths)

Updated: May 6

Help! I can't think clearly...

It's crazy how many times I thought this over the last 5 + years. Whether it be when I was asking for a raise and negotiating my salary, navigating tricky dynamics at work, or even during this exciting transition phase I currently find myself in. I just wanted someone safe, who I could trust to help me sort through my thoughts. Yes, I have my husband and dear friends, whom I feel very supported by, but I was desperate for someone to provide non-bias reflection and insight. Unfortunately, everyone was too close to the situation to be able to do that for one reason or another.

I'm also hyper-aware that I never want to overload anyone with my "stuff." I realize we all have so much going on that it's unfair to monopolize any time I share with my incredibly loving friends. Truth be told, when I am talking to a friend, it often becomes a venting session without any real goal in mind. I was longing for someone I could chat with at any time, that I could be selfish and spend the entire time talking about my current circumstances while identifying actionable steps. (Sidenote: I say "selfish" because that's how it feels, but let's question and reflect on that next time.)

I have come to understand that this is how I process things. This is how my brain works. Saying it out loud to someone immediately stops the spiraling of thoughts in my head. The moment I say them out loud, they become more defined. More tangible. Something I can consider and take action on versus continuously swimming around in and sometimes even drowning in. I love this new self-awareness because it's led to feeling more empowered and has created a new sense of personal agency. The worst feeling in the world is when I feel stuck and powerless. I find that's the most dangerous thought spiral of all.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but we've all survived hard things. Without knowing your details or life story, I know you've been through some serious sh*t. I know you are resilient; I know you can figure IT out. You just need the time, space, and intention to do so. Women are strong, brilliant and natural creative problem solvers; we just don't typically get to use those superpowers on ourselves for our own well-being.

When you're overwhelmed, you could try to get everything down on paper. This can be a powerful tool, but you're still alone. Thinking out loud with someone creates a sense of connection, and you don't feel isolated in your head. Someone is there listening and holding space for you.

Do you have a thought partner? If you do, that's wonderful! If you don't, might I make some suggestions? First, identify someone you trust and would feel safe doing this with. You'll need to be open, transparent, and probably even vulnerable. It also needs to be understood that you are asking for some dedicated time to unpack and think aloud with this person.

You must also be very clear on what type of feedback you are looking for. Do you want just to be heard without any feedback at all? Do you want advice and personal suggestions? Or would you like them to ask clarifying questions to help you get down to the issue without any other input? The more specific you can be with what you are looking for, the better. I would also offer to reciprocate if they were open to it. If you do not have someone you feel comfortable doing this with, there are plenty of skilled professionals (Counselors, Thought Partners, Coaches, Mentors, etc.) who would love to help you.

The power of these moments lies not just in clearing your mind for real problem solving to occur but that you are giving yourself 30 min., an hour, whatever it is, to focus on YOU—real dedicated time. Getting clear with your thoughts then creates actionable steps. Tangible ways to stop the overwhelm. Once this happens, the shift is immediate, and you begin to remember who you are. For the record, I do believe taking three deep breaths is necessary but let’s get you out of your head! Once you have clarity, YOU will be unstoppable.

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