Written by Karen Campbell


Life goals = score! The overwhelming

In her column on dealing with life’s challenges, life coach Karen Campbell talks about how to cope with being overwhelmed.

drowning arm
I’ve not been too well lately. Actually, I’ve been completely out of action for a week with a horrendous virus that left me with just enough energy to lift a tissue to my nose and that’s about it.

As a result of finally being back in the room, what has come alongside feeling slightly better is a huge overwhelming sense of the work I’ve missed, emails I haven’t replied to, clients I haven’t delivered for and general life management (trying to buy a house and sort a wedding – you know, casual). This all got me thinking about how can we deal with feeling overwhelmed: that sense of a lack of control and mild panic.

What I tell my clients to do when they come to me with similar issues is to calm down and take each step slowly. Write lists about lists, do one thing at a time, delegate. And so I am telling myself this, but being a very typical Gemini, I am abandoning said list halfway through to start a brand new list, oh and quickly texting that person back I forgot to and popping some washing on… and cue that sensation of being overwhelmed again.

Being overwhelmed is, to put it mildly, not nice and can find us flapping around like a fish out of water, but there are ways to deal with it (even if you are a Gemini).

Know that it’s pretty normal

Most of us at one time or another feel overwhelmed and that things are on top of us. It’s just your turn. Don’t try to fight the feeling – accept it, clock that you’re feeling overwhelmed and then look at how to deal with it.

Take a deep breath and write that list of priorities

You only can do what you can physically do, so prioritise. Even though you may have a million things on your to-do list, not all of them will need doing immediately. Write it all down then segment your lists into urgent and non-urgent. What can be left a few days? Can you get any extension on deadlines?

Really look at what is urgent and can’t wait and what can. Be ruthless. Your urgent to-do list will become a lot shorter and therefore more manageable. Everything else can wait. Once you have that list, do one thing at a time. No multitasking as it will only make things take longer. There’s nothing more satisfying than a big tick next to a list entry – get a red pen and go for it.


I was never a fan of delegating thanks to being a control freak who had to do everything herself. Who needs sleep?! But since having my business coupled with a full-time job and a busy social life, I’ve quickly realised that I don’t need to do everything – especially the stuff I don’t enjoy or am a bit shit at as those tasks ALWAYS take the longest.

“Will anybody die? Will the world stop spinning? If no to both then you’ll be OK.”

Have a look at your list: What could you realistically farm out? Could someone help you organise that event or research suppliers? Could you skill swap with an accountant to look at your numbers for you and file the dreaded tax return? Send that email or make that call: it could save you hours.

Be realistic

When we’re in a sense of panic and feeling overwhelmed, we don’t always think straight. And occasionally we turn in such a fabulous dramatic performance that the Academy may come a-knocking. In times like this we need to breathe and be realistic.

If this thing doesn’t happen immediately, what are the consequences? Is the pressure you’re putting on yourself unrealistic in comparison to the actual expectation? For example: you know that person who goes to EVERY meeting but they’re so so so so busy, they struggle to get things done. They don’t need to be there; all those meetings are serving their sense of insecurity and justifying their self-worth, but that’s a whole other topic.

At my workplace, there’s a woman who actually runs everywhere: between meetings; to the toilet; to grab lunch. Nobody needs to run like that. And she looks ridiculous, not busy and important like I think she thinks she does.

Focus on what is important and devote yourself to doing that well.

Look after yourself

In times of overwhelming, there’s an urge to work all hours to get what needs doing done. This is not helpful. If you’re having to pick your head up from the desk and keep yourself alert with buckets of coffee, I hate to break it to you but your output will not be the best. It will be rushed and frantic.

The best way to power through that to-do list is to sleep well, eat well, exercise and generally look after yourself. You will be more productive for it.

Plan your time

Time management is the key to all success. People that are smashing it are great at it. Plan your week to the hour, recognise when you’re fannying about (generally on social media if you’re like me), be strict with yourself on timings for getting things done and most importantly, say no to things you don’t need to be at or do. It’s empowering and saves a lot of time.

Talk to people

A problem shared… Pick up the phone or grab a cuppa with a mate or colleague and explain how you’re feeling. Saying things out loud or writing them down really, really helps and adds a sense of relief as it’s out there in the universe. More often than not, the person you’re speaking to will have experienced similar feelings and will be there to calm you down and talk you through it – as well as add that all important bit of encouragement when needed.

Relax. The world won’t stop

As much as it seems hugely stressful, take a reality check in the big world out there. Will anybody die? Will the world stop spinning? If no to both then you’ll be OK.

Good luck my friends.

Check out all of Karen’s excellent life tips here.
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Written by Karen Campbell

Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.