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6 Things to try when your ‘To Do’ list is Overwhelming you

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

To Do Lists when feeling overwhelmed

Today I only had one item on my To Do List. Finish writing this blog! OK, it sounds big but I had already written most of it!

4 hours later I had not achieved anything except feeling frustrated and pathetic. I had been staring at the screen for hours. Frozen in place like a rabbit in the headlights. I was overwhelmed at the thought of it (ironic huh!).

Have YOU ever felt like that?

Feeling so overwhelmed by what you have to do that achieving anything seems impossible. You feel useless because you don't seem able to do the simplest of things. You have too much on your plate that you feel like you can’t cope. You just want to curl up in the corner and wait for the world to stop.

Small tasks become huge obstacles and feel impossible to do.

So, what can you do when you are feeling like this?

1. Write it down

You may find it useful to write everything down. But don’t just write the big stuff. Write down all the small stuff. Every little job you need to do.

When I did this, I realised that as well as my blog, I also had a load of other jobs to do today. Such as cleaning, walking the dogs, washing up, food shopping, prepare and cook dinner, weed the garden, water the plants, clear out the overgrown path out the back and check in with a friend who is going through a bad time. You get the picture.

To Do lists have a habit of clogging up your thought processes, not leaving much room for anything else. Writing them down can give you the head space to start thinking clearly.

Once you have a true list of all the things you need to do, you can start to take the next steps.

2. Just Say No

Now go through each task and ask yourself whether it is critical it gets done today. What will happen if it does not get done? If it is not critical, then give yourself a break and take it off your list.

If other people are asking you to do something, ask yourself what will happen if you say “No”. Will they be able to do it themselves? Is it critical that you help them today? Could you help them tomorrow or later in the week?

As Flight Attendants say, “Put your OWN oxygen mask on first”. You can better help others when your own batteries are charged up fully and you are not worrying about your own To Do list.

3. Start with an ‘Easy Win’

Try not to focus on the whole list.

Just take one item, preferably a small ‘easy win’ and start with that. Once completed cross it out. It may seem simple but crossing something off your list shows things are getting done and your list is shrinking. It can spur you on to the next task and the next. Start small and work up to the bigger jobs. It’s surprising how quickly you can start to feel like you are making progress.

4. Ask for help

Along with saying No we often struggle to ask for help.

Ask yourself this; how do you feel when you’ve helped someone out? It’s a nice feeling, isn’t it! Could your family or friends help you out? The worst thing that will happen is that they may say “No”, maybe they are looking after their own needs (see 2 above), You won’t know until you ask.

If you can get some help with even one of the tasks that is going to reduce the list. It also has the added benefit of making you feel like you are not alone.

5. Take a break and do something you enjoy

When you take a break from everything and do something you enjoy you can come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the list.

Maybe go for a stroll and notice the breeze on your face. Sit in a park and watch the wildlife or on the beach and listen to the waves. Catch up with a friend. Go out for a coffee somewhere nice. Read a book. Maybe watch an episode of your favourite TV programme. Anything that you enjoy and takes your mind away from the constant whirring of things to do.

6. Take a breath

When you are overwhelmed you often stay in your head; going over and over the things that need doing. It is so easy to get caught up in the narrative that your mind wants to tell you.

Take a few minutes and just focus on your breath. Breathe in and out, noticing how your breath feels as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Start with just one breath and build up from there. Even just one in and out breath is meditation.

Meditation is a great way to take your focus away from what is going on in your head. Used in the moment it can connect you with your body and create a sense of calm and peace. Just 5 minutes a few times a week of regular meditation can help you achieve a calmer and quieter state of mind and stop you getting overwhelmed in the first place.

So, how does that sound? It helped me! 😊

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