How To Catch Your Breath When You’re Drowning in Overwhelm

Have you ever noticed how overwhelm keeps coming back like a boomerang?

There you are, minding your to-do’s, jumping along from one meeting (workshop, podcast, FB group, blog, flat white…) to another, as productive as can be. You feel full of energy. Alive. Proud of how swiftly you ‘x’ on the tasks in your bullet journal. You’re gaining momentum. You’re in the flow. I’ve got this, you think to yourself. One step at a time, and all will be well. And it is. Until it isn’t.

As if entering a different reality, you slow down. You’re no longer riding the productivity wave – you’re drowning under what now feels like chores. A wave of frustration comes crashing over you and it takes you double the time to schedule something as simple as ‘dinner with mom’. Your shoulders tense and your jaw locks. All of a sudden, the overwhelm is back – like a boomerang.

But is it really all of a sudden? Over the past 10 years of dipping in and out of overwhelm myself (I am a recovering hyper-achiever after all) and coaching clients through this spellbinding state, I’ve noticed a pattern: overwhelm is an outcome. It’s a result.



Typically, the thoughts are based on frustrations from the past or fears projected into the future. These energy-sucking thoughts gain so much traction that it leads you, Hansel and Gretel style, straight into the flow-blocking, mind-fogging land of overwhelm.

Let’s take an example. Imagine while working away, you get the urge to share a photo of some blooms you snapped the other day. Without giving it too much thought, you open up Facebook. You click the camera button, write a witty message, upload the matching photo and hit post.

Done and done. Except…you’re not done.

Overwhelm the place you land in after a set of self-defeating thoughts have gained too much momentum. Click To Tweet

You don’t just share your blooms. Your eye catches a drool-worthy photo of a vegan rice bowl – with a link. Don’t click it, you think to yourself. You click it. And off you go into food blog land.

As the clock ticks, you jump from one recipe to the next, ignoring your gut feeling to log off. Your body tries to save you with warning signals – shallow breathing and tight shoulders. But you’re blind to them.

Under the surface, rapid-fire thoughts are being triggered: I should log off. I’m getting distracted. But this looks so good! I wish I had the time to create meals like this. But I’m too busy. Shoot – I forgot to send that email to my client! I’m so lousy at following up with them. And I didn’t even react to that new opportunity that landed in my inbox two weeks ago! I’ve got so much to do! I’ll never get it done. I’m such a ….

See? Overwhelm is an outcome. It doesn’t sneak up on you. It builds up on you – often without you even knowing it.

The good news? You can slow those thoughts down and slide back into the flow lane super fast. All you need to do is to shift your thoughts towards a better feeling direction.

And the best tip for changing direction?


Focus on your breath. Go on…take 3 deep belly breaths (because when you’re in overwhelm, the breathing gets really shallow!).  This will slow you down, shift your focus to the present moment, and THEN you can pick up a new thought.

This concept of slowing down the momentum first before heading in a new direction is exactly why we created the FlowFix. It’s a pattern interrupter for those moments when the overwhelm boomerang rears it’s unproductive head. It’s free, you can do it with your eyes wide open and it only takes 4 minutes.

What’s unique about this compared to other visualizations we’ve used in the past is that we designed it to leverage the research that says ‘what we resist, persists’. That’s why we start by meeting you where you are – in the overwhelm – before leading you into a more productive place. You can thank our coach training for that insight!

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the FlowFix yet, give it a go. Here’s that link again: FlowFix

And once you do, let us know what you think! Did it work to get you out of Overwhelm-city?

Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you.

Before signing off, here’s a flow tip: if you’re anything like me, overwhelm creeps up at the most inopportune times. So go ahead and make this mp3 accessible on your mobile so that you can access it on the go – whenever you need it! One way is to add it to your Dropbox folder and make it available offline. Will you do that?

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4 years ago

How did you know this happens to me?! I go through productive cycles all the time where I’m flying through my to-do list like it’s nothing but then all of a sudden I start feeling lethargic and uninspired and almost like I’ve reached burnout. I also find that when I start mentally telling myself: “I’m stuck…I’m uninspired…this feels so hard”, I feed the beast, haha. Love this pattern interrupt idea!

4 years ago
Reply to  Janine

Nice visual of ‘feeding the beast’! Enjoy interrupting the pattern of overwhelm!

4 years ago

Umm…Seema? Have you been reading my mind? ?

A reminder to set my intentions each morning and nip this overwhelm business in the bud!

4 years ago
Reply to  Kelly

YES! Intentions are great…and what can you do right in the moment when the overwhelm hits?