Eight ways to Override Overwhelm at Times like This

It’s easy to get overwhelmed right now.

It seems everywhere you turn it’s fires,  floods or your friends and family in crisis.

But there’s a way to override overwhelm, be of service, and live in peace.

Keep turning in the direction of beauty.

Because no matter what else is going on, beauty’s right there. She sits on the shoulder of death, she flows in the tears of heartache, and she dances in the chaos of destruction.

Now it may seem irresponsible and even heartless to turn towards beauty when there’s so much suffering going on, but here’s why I recommend you try it.

With news and social media, we have more information about tragedies all around the world as they happen. We can be up close witnesses to earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and angry white supremacists, even if it’s all happening thousands of miles away. We see it on the news and our friends post it online where we can watch it again and again.

And while a friend of mine said, “Now is a time we have to be vigilant”, we’re at risk of becoming hyper-vigilant;  fueled by anxiety we watch for potential threat everywhere, increasing our stress levels in a vicious cycle.

Though technology has evolved rapidly, our biology has not.

When you watch a disaster on a screen your nervous system responds as if it’s real. It prepares to fight or flee for your survival while you sit unmoving, glued to the image. That can leave you traumatized. A study shows that people who had repeated media exposure to the Boston Marathon Bombing showed higher levels of acute stress than those who were actually present at the bombing.

By staying informed and vigilant are you helping, or are you doing more harm? You’ll know by the way you feel. Letting yourself go down the rabbit-hole of exposure can put you in survival mode and you may not even know it. It can lead to anxiety, depression, problems sleeping, digestive issues and a host of problems that can make it hard for you to be part of the solution.

So what are you going to do?

Turn yourself in the direction of beauty. 

  • Look at things that make you feel good. Whether it’s your kids, some flowers or a work of art. There is still beauty around you.
  • Laugh. Get with friends to laugh, play games, tell jokes, make music together. Sh*t’s still funny, even now.
  • Shut off technology. Give your nervous system long breaks without any electronic input. When I recommend social media breaks to my clients 100% of them feel more creative, optimistic and better about themselves when they do. I know I do too.
  • Let yourself feel. Weep, mourn, feel your fear. It’s not a time to override what is real. Let the feelings move through you so you don’t get stuck.
  • Move your body. A great way to shake the images and thoughts from your mind is to shake your body. Dance. Walk. Run. Jump on a trampoline. It doesn’t matter what. Just move!
  • Give where you can. Whether it’s donating to a cause, volunteering your time, calling a friend who needs cheering up or saying a prayer, give and you’ll feel less helpless.
  • Be silent. There is so much energy coming at you all the time, and an endless list of things to do. Take a few minutes every day to be silent and listen to yourself. Rumi said, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” There is such loving wisdom inside you. It will guide you in exactly the right thing to do if you will listen. Sometimes withdrawing from the world is the most powerful way to be engaged.
  • Rest. Get more sleep. Take naps. Give yourself a break from pushing too hard. Times of great stress require great recovery. If you’re feeling stressed by it all, rest more. Ideally after you’ve moved your body 🙂

Some would call the way I live “sticking my head in the sand” because I can’t feel good when I  expose myself to too much of what’s going on. I don’t watch really violent or scary movies. I haven’t watched the news in over a decade and I don’t log much time on social media, but what I need to know still reaches me.

I’ve been able to give to organizations helping victims of floods and fires, without watching any footage. I check on friends in area of danger, without monitoring the threat. This Sunday I’ll show my support at the local Racial Justice meeting that’s being disrupted by White Supremacists, because a neighbour told me people were needed.

The above are just 8 ways to turn towards beauty. These simple practices can calm your nervous system, strengthen your capacity to handle stress, and make you better able to help when needed. If they work for a weakling like me, imagine what they might do for you.

How do you turn towards beauty, even at a time like this? I’d love your ideas in the comments below.

Love Debra

Tweet these ideas and help others override overwhelm.

How to get more done when you’re already overwhelmed.


Over the years I’ve worked with clients who want to do more. The only problem is, they’re already overwhelmed by what they’re doing. Sound familiar?

Adding more to do would never help them get where they want to go.

My strategy is this:

#1 Eliminate.

#2 Delegate.

#3 Dominate.

While you can do this with any area of your life, let’s assume you want to grow your business but don’t know how you could possibly do one more thing. I invite you to adopt this strategy for yourself.

Before you can implement #1, you have to get clear about #3.

FIRST: Take time to figure out what you really want to do. If you were living the way you want, what would dominate your life? Don’t think about the result you hope it will create, but how you actually want to spend your time, and use your life.

So often people move up the corporate ladder, or build a bigger business, hoping for more security or freedom, only to find they’re doing less of the things they’re really good at and love, and more of the things that bog them down. They feel caged and overwhelmed instead of happy and free.

NEXT: List all the things that you do in your business. Get clear on which tasks enliven you. Know what you’re good at and want to improve. Understand what impacts your clients and bottom line, and most of all, your own happiness.

I have a client who we’ll call Jane. She has a business teaching art to elementary school kids. She leads after school programs and summer camps, and hires other artists to deliver classes as well. She had an idea for a new online program that could take her business to a whole new level, and give her more free time. But she was already so busy with running the business she had, there was no time or energy for implementing her new idea.

One of Jane’s gifts as an art teacher was being able to access her intuition and creatively guide her students to new depths of discovery, in a calm and loving way. Working with students to bring out their talents and help them shine was pure delight for her. Jane knew that time in nature fed her soul, slowed her down, stirred her creative juices and got her in touch with her true self. It did for her, what she wanted to do for her students. When she was in that state she was inspired to paint. It flowed out of her easily. Through a simple exercise, she got clear that living in that nourished state, that connected her with her artistic nature and let creativity flow, was her top priority.  

Once her priority was clear, I took her through a process to examine every task involved in running her business, and assess which ones fueled her priorities, enhanced her customer’s experience, or impacted her bottom line.

Once you know this for yourself you can begin. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s a lot more work to be constantly overwhelmed. Tim Ferris says, “Busyness is a form of laziness”. If you won’t use the time to figure out what’s important, you’ll stay busy.

1. Eliminate: Once you know your priorities you can then eliminate anything that doesn’t support them.  These are things that keep you busy and hinder you from living the life you want most.

When you don’t know what to eliminate, consider this: What is the one thing that if you gave it up, would free you up more than anything else?  In business, eliminate one thing you’re doing that doesn’t enliven you, impact your customer’s experience, or your bottom line.

Jane was spending a lot of time online. It could often suck up hours of her day. When we looked into it she could see that it was serving a few purposes. A) It felt like she was working: She could look at her teacher’s posts, send encouraging words, share inspiring quotes and pictures, and create and post ads.  B) She felt connected: Looking at people’s creative projects, commenting and sharing made her feel like she was part of something.

When we looked at what it was accomplishing she could see that she really wasn’t getting valuable work done, nor feeling truly connected. She didn’t know of any students or parents who’d found out about her classes through social media. Though it might be happening, she wasn’t tracking it. Time online kept her indoors and isolated, feeling like she was missing out on life, rather than in nature where she felt deeply connected. And it had been months since she’d picked up a paintbrush for pleasure.

Jane first eliminated technology from her mornings, and started her day in nature instead. She then limited her time on social media, except for 15 minutes a day to read and comment on her teachers’ posts, and half an hour on the weekend for personal use. She then eliminated (unfriended and unsubscribed from) every site or person that didn’t make her feel connected or inspired through their interactions. She was surprised to discover how free she felt.

2. Delegate: There are aspects of your business that you can’t eliminate, but doing them yourself doesn’t serve your priorities.  They need to get done for the business to function properly.

Before you delegate anything ask yourself – why am I doing this?  Maybe it should actually be in the eliminate pile. If you know for certain that it positively impacts your customer’s experience, the environment, or your bottom line, but it doesn’t enliven you to do it, delegate it.

The person taking on the job may have a different way of doing things. Be open. You can easily get stuck in doing something a certain way, just because you’ve always done it that way.

Jane hired a student to manage her business’s social media. The student created ads with a call to action so Jane could track which promotions worked and which didn’t. The young woman she hired was more efficient, and happy to have the work. Jane was relieved to be free of it.

3. Dominate: When you eliminate the things you don’t need to do, and you delegate things that must be done, you dominate your life with the best of you.

Once Jane was spending more time on her true priorities, it became easier for her to see even more things she could eliminate and delegate. She began making simple but dramatic changes. She stopped answering her phone if she didn’t recognize the number, and let all calls go to voicemail to deal with them during her office hours. She got a program for clients to book their lessons on an online calendar and pay in advance. This way she no longer had to deal with accounts payable, and was guaranteed payment if they cancelled w/o noticed. These and other little changes made a big difference in Jane’s focus and energy throughout the day.

Her early mornings were spent in nature, followed by time in her studio with paint, music and a cup of coffee. After nourishing herself she checked emails and voicemails before her day of teaching began. She found time most days to work on the new program to scale her business. In less than five months she implemented her online idea, and it’s been growing steadily for over a year.

If you know someone who wants to make changes in their life, but is already “full”, please share this strategy with them.

The other way to overcome your resistance.

There are two ways we usually deal with resistance:

1. Push through it.

2. Succumb to it.

There are times when pushing through resistance is exactly the right thing to do. Until this summer when the ocean where I live became very warm, every time I’d go in I’d think “It’s too cold”. I’d want to rush back to shore and watch from the beach. But then I’d miss the fun of diving into waves and being pummeled by the surf.

So instead I’d focus on the fun and let it pull me through my resistance, running into the ocean as fast as I could. My body always adjusts to the temperature, and I have a great time.

Then there are times when it makes sense to just succumb to resistance. For some time I’d been wanting to write some of the practices I’ve developed over the years for myself and my clients, and offer them as a sort of manual. I tried to force myself to sit down and write at the same time each day as real writers advised. But I couldn’t find the juice. My internal voices said succumbing to my resistance was based in fear or laziness. I tried to push through my resistance and keep my bum in the chair as I was advised to do, but there was no pleasure it in. (how ironic would it be to write about pleasure while feeling none?)

So I succumbed to my resistance, and did other things. Pleasurable things. It took some experimenting for me to effectively describe these practices in words on a page. Now the words seem to be flowing out of me with greater ease, in my own rhythm and pace. (You can subscribe below to get yourself a free chapter)

These two approaches will work in different circumstances, but if you only operate with these two you’ll miss much of the wisdom your resistance wants to teach you.

There’s a third and less known way of dealing with resistance, and it’s this:

3. Honor it.

A client of mine has developed a successful program that other people purchase and teach to their clients.  Over the past year she’s been refining it based on the teachers’ feedback. As she was implementing the feedback she noticed that there was one change she kept avoiding. She would distract herself with other things, and kept missing her own deadlines for making the change. She knew she had to do it but she was procrastinating, and feeling bad about herself for procrastinating.  So I recommended we examine her resistance to getting it done.

What we discovered underneath the resistance was her wisdom that this change would alter the integrity of the program, which was built on honesty, intimacy, and face to face support.  She wasn’t consciously aware that this was at the core of her procrastination, but this wisdom was lurking under her resistance all along. Once she said it out loud she knew it was true. Once she understood why she wasn’t making this change, even though some teachers had requested it, her confidence in herself, the program, and its power soared. Examining her resistance made her revisit the core values of the program.

She wrote to me: I’ve never really thought of it in this way before but I honestly LOVE exploring resistance! I love my instincts.  My resistance to something is kind of like my instincts saying, “DON’T Do this.” Since it’s a stopping/slowing/reversing motion it doesn’t feel as good as “Do this.” 

I really didn’t know why I had this resistance. It didn’t become clear until you and I talked about it the other day.  It makes sense to me now why I don’t like the idea – because, it breaks the human connection, and the key to [this program] is the human connection.  But it became crystal clear when we talked it through. 
The beauty-part of this is that now, with a clear understanding of my resistance, I can take proper action. Instead of just [making the changes] because people have asked for them, yet not feeling good about it, I can really explore if there is a way to keep the human connection while utilizing these modalities.  I’m totally open to seeing if I can.  I would actually love it if it could work.  That would be win-wins all around. And, if it truly doesn’t work, I can then say clearly and with integrity that that will not be part of the program, explain clearly why, and then let the instructors figure out how to deal with that on their own.
~ Coaching Client
(printed with client’s permission)
Can’t you just hear the enthusiasm and confidence in her voice? I promise you it was a big change from how she’d been feeling before examining her resistance.
1. She could have pushed through her resistance and done what she thought she should have done to make the teachers happy. She could have continued feeling bad about it, not really knowing why.
2. She could have continued succumbing to her resistance, worrying about what she thought she should be doing, procrastinating and zapping her confidence and creative energy.
3. By honoring it she discovered the underlying wisdom, made clearer decisions, felt empowered and created a kick-a** program, the teachers love.
How do you honor your own resistance?
There are many ways: You can speak with it, write to it, draw or dance with with it.  Whatever modality suits you best, here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Treat it like a wise friend or teacher with something valuable to share.
  • Respect it, ask questions of it, listen closely, get intimate.
  • You can ask it whatever you like.
  • Then get quiet. Breathe. Listen for an answer.
  • Know that it’s an ally in your evolution. Not the enemy.

And if you really want to understand your resistance, become it.

  • Embody it. How would it sit, stand, move? Do that.
  • What would it think, how would it speak? Do that.
  • Experience yourself as the resistance, and feel what motivates your actions.

By becoming the resistance you are no longer separate from it, in reaction to it, nor the victim of it. This can be a very empowering exercise.

If you know someone stuck in their own resistance, please share this with them as a potential way through.