Tackling Overwhelm

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Tackling Overwhelm

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

Lately, I find myself faced with an endless to-do list that in spite of my best efforts just keeps growing. It’s all good stuff. First world problem kind of stuff. It’s just that there’s a lot of it and for every thing I’m able to cross off, I end up adding two or seven or ten new things. We all have busier times. I assumed that after a week or two, things would ease up. Sadly, they haven’t and weeks later this list of things I need to take care of just keeps getting bigger.

I’ve tried breaking tasks down into smaller chunks. I’ve tried scheduling tasks to a specific date and time. I’ve tried making a master to-do list. I’ve even tried delegating. While each of these strategies has it’s merit and some items were completed, many more are still left undone.

The worst part of all this is how I feel. I feel guilty that I can’t seem manage it all.  I feel stressed about the magnitude of what I’m facing. I really want to schedule these appointments and run these errands and make the calls. I really want to finish my docent tour and gallery talk for the art museum and wrap up my EFT certification. I really want to join the class and paint the bookshelf and have lunch with my friend and write. No matter how hard I work, how much I do, there’s just more at the end of each day and I end up feeling like some incompetent looser.

I wasn’t surprised when the crash came. The alarm went off that morning and I just crawled back into bed. I couldn’t do it. Not that day. I stared at the bare branches outside. I contemplated the quagmire in which I found myself. I asked for guidance.

Then I got up and did some laundry. I cleaned my son’s room, hung a rack in my daughter’s closet, and fed the dogs. I sorted through items in the garage and changed the cat liter. I had tea with a friend and chatted with another online. I watched a movie and a television show. I waited for divine intervention.

Finally, it came.

And I realized that I really just needed to let it all go. The answer is not in doing more. It’s in focusing on doing more of the right things. I realized then and there that I needed to redouble my efforts with the important, if I was to have any chance at getting a grip on this crazy making to-do list.

So, I decided that instead of thinking about what I was grateful for, I would write it down. Instead of meditating once a day, I would do it twice. I committed to walking an hour instead of my normal thirty minutes and doubling my time on the yoga mat as well. I promised that every single time I felt the least bit of stress or overwhelm, I would stop and tap. I decided I’d continue to focus on family and friends. I vowed to pray for guidance and pay attention to the signs instead of going it alone.

I realized for me, the best strategy to get a grasp on the overwhelm is to dedicate myself to those practices that strengthen my connection with spirit and honor this earthly existence. A to-do list has it’s place, and  I need to keep mine in it’s proper place. I need to remember and focus on what’s most important. I’m trusting if I can do that, everything else will fall into place.


  1. This is really good stuff, love your writing and your heart. We ALL struggle with these thought, so much to do and so little time. Thank you for your insights!

  2. I’ve missed your blog! So nice to find it in my inbox this morning. NOT that I want you to feel the need to add it to your to do list , but want you to know how much I enjoy it! Always so good. 🙂

    • Thanks, Holly. I know you can relate with your art. Writing is one of those things that I need to do more of as it is a soul strengthening. I plan to keep the words flowing.

  3. A+

  4. I needed to read this today. I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed lately and don’t know how to pare down. I love all that I’m doing but in the back of my mind I wonder if it’s too much. What to let go of? I don’t know. I can’t decide. For now I’ll just take baby steps each day–they do seem to add up—and breathe more. Thank you.

  5. That’s the key, Denise–not doing, or trying to do, more. It’s a never ending cycle. Tapping, breathing, and dumping emails are all good ways to cope 🙂 Thanks for this, Denise.

    • I’ve been unsubscribing and deleting any chance I get, Shana. It does make me feel good. I’m realizing I need to create space if I’m going to get more of what I really want.

  6. I love this post, Denise. I’ve missed your blog. It’s rich. My to do list is so long I’ve stopped composing it. I am reminded of a statement shared with me in a writer’s workshop: “Each day, make positive effort for the good.” And then I ask myself, “What matters most.” Sometimes it’s making myself a delectable smoothie (Sunshine in a glass.) Sometimes it’s clearing up the clutter that has accumulated in my study. (I know you’ll appreciate that.) And sometimes it is a decision to put EVERYTHING on the back burner and just sit with my words or my books or my new friend, acrylics. Glad you’re back.

    • I’m happy to be back. I’m with you Sue Ann. Since writing this post, I gave up my to-do list. I only write down appointments and time sensitive items.I decide each day on three things I will attempt to accomplish (a Tim Ferris trick) and figure anything else is a just a bonus. I realized that most of the things I was jotting down and that were driving me crazy would get done anyway…eventually. And yes, there have been days where my “goals” are things like “don’t leave the house” and “take a nap.”

      I’m still struggling with filling my day with the trivial. A bad habit that I NEED to break. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  7. Denise, your thoughts reminded me of the ol’ saying “I need to gather my wits.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines that as: to make an effort to be calm and think clearly. You have succeeded. You also helped me. Thank you.

  8. So true on all levels! Thank you for sharing, Denise!

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