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Please note that Current of Life was previously published under the title: Living Your Potential

Living Your Potential

When Overwhelm is on the Rise

A Matter of When and not If

Recently a woman called me for a consultation.  After sharing her plans for evaluating two possible new career directions, she asked me what she could do to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  I teasingly asked her, "Do you mean… What can you do when you feel overwhelmed?"  She laughed and was even a bit relieved to acknowledge that it was a matter of when and not if.  We then talked about what she had done successfully in the past when this feeling surfaced, as well as some new strategies she could employ.

Make it Productive

Overwhelm, like any other uncomfortable feeling, can be either productive or unproductive.  It is unproductive when we notice the feeling but don’t gain insight from it.  Instead we just get “all lathered up” and overwhelmed that we’re overwhelmed.  It is more productive when we heed the message it is carrying: that some kind of adjustment is needed.

I often use the phrase “breaking through overwhelm” yet I do not mean to imply that overwhelm can be wiped out.  Instead I speak of breaking through to the other side.  You can learn to have the rising wave of this feeling wash over you vs. knock you down.

It's Information

If the purpose of overwhelm is to deliver information, then what is the message and what do you do with it?  Answer the following 10 questions to gain insight into what your feeling of overwhelm is trying to tell you. 

 For each question, answer with:


Yes, this is often true for me.
Sometimes this is true for me.
No, this is not often true for me.

 1. When I feel overwhelmed, I say negative things to myself.  
 2. When I feel overwhelmed, my mind feels so cluttered, that I can't seem to focus.  I feel like I'm all over the place and easily distracted.  
 3. My typical reaction to stress is to speed things up and pack more into my schedule.  As the saying goes, if you want something done, give it to a busy person.  
 4. I often underestimate how long it takes to get something done.  
 5. In the morning, I have a reasonable grip on the day's priorities.  Then something comes up and the best laid plans go up in smoke.  
 6. Sometimes I stare at my "to do" list, mesmerized.  Everything is important and I don't know where to begin.  
 7. I have so many things going (responsibilities, ideas, projects) it's hard to keep track of them all.  
 8. I often misplace important information.  I am frequently late and sometimes forget I had an appointment scheduled.  
 9. I find it difficult to say no.  
 10. I often feel that my boss, co-worker, client, friend, or family member doesn't really understand how busy I am.  

Insights to Gain

Where did you answer “yes” or “sometimes”?  Each question correlates with a specific area:

  • Questions 1-2:   Mindset
  • Questions 3-4:   Goal-setting and daily planning process
  • Questions 5-6:   Making decisions
  • Questions 7-8:   Organizational style
  • Questions 9-10: Communication style

Now, choose the area you want to strengthen.  Then, go here to connect you with a technique that you can practice right away: 3 Questions: Move from Overwhelm to Momentum.

The next few issues of Living Your Potential will elaborate on specific approaches you can use when overwhelm is on the rise. 

Here's to you,
Ginny's signature

© 2006, Virginia M. Kravitz and In the Current®. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided it is without any alteration, includes the copyright above, and if distributing electronically includes a link to

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