How to cope with overwhelm


Image credit: Anne-Clair Brun Photography

Overwhelmed and out of control does not a happy bride make.

We speak about planning a wedding in the same way that we speak about getting engaged – with excitement, love and enthusiasm. While those are certainly emotions you may feel while planning your wedding, we rarely speak about weddings as the high-stakes events that they are. And large, formal, high-stakes events require careful planning and event management.

You might think that wedding planning is all cake tastings and frothy dresses, until you find yourself in the midst of a paralysing amount of options to choose from and an overwhelming number of decisions to make. Not to mention the whole rest of your life that you need to keep living… your job, friends, family, hobbies, and spouse all still need your attention! Overwhelm creeps up on the best of us. Here’s what to do when you are feeling completely overwhelmed and have no idea where to start.  


01. Breathe

Take a minute to calm your breathing, do some stretches, make a cup of tea. Whatever you need to do to relax your body. Breathing is a good place to start.

02. Sleep 

Sleep changes my perspective of the world like magic. Most of my feelings of worry, stress and overwhelm happen when I’m tired. If at all possible, get a decent night’s sleep before you seriously think about tackling whatever is making you feel overwhelmed. Or at least take a nap.

03. Eat

I make very poor decisions when I’m hungry. Like when I’m sleep deprived, I cannot trust myself and the attitude I have when I’m hungry. Have a healthy snack (or an emergency Snickers, I won’t judge) before you progress. These two steps make the absolute world of difference to me in nearly any situation.

04. Tidy/clean something

Outer order contributes to inner calm. Don’t try to spring clean your entire house, but taking care of the dishes or folding some clean laundry could have a surprising impact on your mood. Completing a small task like that boosts your feeling of productiveness. Pick something that will visually make a big difference, as clear spaces help create a calm mind.  

05. Write a dump list

Write down every single thing that is swirling around in your brain. Let it all flow out, the idea is to get it out of your head and onto the paper. If it’s written down, it won’t be forgotten, so free up some mental space.

06. Remember your priorities 

Cross a few things off the dump list. It can be helpful to get someone to help you with this step – your mum, spouse, a friend. Someone who knows you well, knows your values and priorities, and someone who will be honest with you. They will help you cut the unnecessary tasks and get down to what you actually need to do. Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, we add even more unnecessary things to our lists. It’s like our subconscious way of validating how we feel. “I have 50 things on my list so of course I feel overwhelmed!”. In actual fact, it might just be one or two particular tasks that are really making you feel overwhelmed.

07. Write down 3 things you can do today

Keep it manageable. Firmly restrict yourself to only 3. I repeat, only 3. The idea is to create a small, achievable list for today. Everything else can wait.  

08. Do those 3 things immediately

Take action immediately. A small amount of action will make you feel better than any amount of planning. Action helps you gain clarity, momentum, and prove to yourself that you are capable of getting things done.

09. Make a plan

Now that you’re feeling a little more in control, you’ve crossed a couple of minor things off your list, and you have a better idea of what your priorities are, make a plan. Build a structure that will support you getting it done. Create something that feels manageable and achievable for you, but remember that action is the focus here. Consistently taking small steps is better than feeling paralyzed and not doing anything at all. You could try one of the following ideas to start your plan, or try something totally different, as long as it feels right for you:

  1. I will do 1 thing from this list each day
  2. I will spend 1 hour each day working on my list
  3. I will set aside 2 whole days to get everything on this list done.

How do you cope with overwhelm? When do you find yourself feeling the most overwhelmed in life?


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