Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 6 things you can do to help in the moment

by | Apr 22, 2022 | Last updated Apr 5, 2023

Dani Kam, Content Writer at Noom

Tell me a more frustrating feeling than being overwhelmed. I’ll wait. 

You can’t, right? That’s probably because overwhelm is a unique discomfort that comes from too much of something (work, social obligations, family stuff…you name it). And while I’m a huge proponent of sitting with feelings and addressing the problems at hand, there are a lot of other useful tools that don’t involve having a mini therapy session. Whether that looks like organizing, managing other people’s expectations, distracting yourself, or something else, here are six ways to calm the overwhelm when it tries to take over.  

1. Create a “no” list 

Ever look at your calendar and feel like throwing your phone out the window? Same. That’s why you’ve got to set boundaries. The things that bring you joy or will help calm your feelings are a “heck yes.” The things that don’t bring joy and will stir your overwhelm to the point of no return are filed under “no.” While it may feel hard at first, it’s important to set these hard-and-fast rules. Besides, will Aunt Martha’s poodle really remember if you weren’t there when he turned one? Probably not. Will your pottery club president banish you from the group if you don’t hop on a Zoom? Unlikely. So, say no (emphatically) and replace the birthday and happy hour with things you’ll actually enjoy doing—like listening to a podcast while doing a puzzle or combing the internet for salacious celebrity gossip. 

2. Delegate

Hi, my name is Dani and I’m a control freak. While I am indeed the princess of procrastination, I still like to do every teeny tiny little thing myself, because I know that it’ll be done and it’ll be done well. But, when I zoom out and think about it, it’s kind of silly to never ask for help. That’d be like being stuck in quicksand and replying “Nah, I got this, I can do it” when someone offered me a hand. Because overwhelm often feels like mental quicksand, it’d probably be worth it to reach out to family, friends, or colleagues for an assist. And even though I want to take it all on, I know that I don’t have to do 100% of my tasks on my own. So, learn from my mistakes and choose a few jobs that you can pass on to your buddies and let the quicksand dissolve. 

3. Take a nap 

There’s nothing better than a nap. Not only does it afford you an extra 20 minutes to an hour of sleep, but it also makes you feel like a kid. You know what happens when you’re a kid? You don’t have any responsibilities. None. Your only job is to eat chicken nuggets and brush your teeth. What a world! So, revert back to being a child for just a few beats and wake up feeling ready and refreshed. (I’d also like to note that some people can’t nap, which I’m very sorry to hear, but even closing your eyes and listening to soothing music can help.)

4. Cross out what you’ve already done 

I love a physical list. Yeah, my phone does the trick in a pinch but there’s just something about putting the pen to paper to outline your to-dos that feels organized and like you have your life together. And then when you cross it out? *body shudders* Sheer bliss. The next time you’re writing out what you need to get done, include a few things you’ve already finished. Then go back and cross them out. It’ll feel as good as being first in line on Black Friday, and it’ll give you some perspective on how much you’ve already accomplished. 

5. Procrastinate 

If you’re like me, then you’ve dubbed yourself as the princess of procrastination. There’s nothing I love more than shirking responsibilities when I’m feeling like I just can’t. This may feel a little counterintuitive because it’s common for procrastination to lead to even more overwhelm. While that’s not false, it’s also not entirely true. When we force ourselves to do something we don’t feel like doing, it can lead to disappointingly unsuccessful results. (One time I coerced myself to go through all of my old receipts when I was overwhelmed, and it ended with them scattered on the floor while I made snow angels.) Plus, when you do get that burst of motivation to organize underneath your bathroom sink or sort the laundry that’s been sitting on your chair for a week, you’ll be able to complete it to the best of your ability. 

6. Straighten up 

Not only am I a control freak, but I also identify as a clean freak. Nothing feels better to me than tidying up an unsightly corner of my apartment or fixing a picture frame that’s .05 centimeters off-center. Now, you may not have the same tendencies that I do, but controlling a small amount of chaos can help to calm your mind. Besides, messes can be overwhelming! So take some time away from what’s overwhelming you to scrub, dust, or organize. 

Whether you heed my advice, or this article served as a calming dose of distraction to aid your overwhelm, to you I say, “good day.” 

And if you’re looking to better manage feelings of stress and overwhelm, check out Noom Mood today.