3 Ways to Handle Overwhelm

3 Ways to Handle Overwhelm | Home Economics for the Modern Age

This has been a rough few weeks. I have three people in my accounting department. Two have been with us about 2 months, and the one who has been with us 2 years just gave notice. And her notice ends the day before my family and I leave on our first family vacation in 10 years.

I can tell you what overwhelm feels like. Trying to think is like trying to pluck a toaster out of a tornado. My brain feels like it’s on a spin cycle. And past experience has been that until I find someone new, I’m back to working 12-hour days. Just that thought makes me even more overwhelmed, and it’s a vicious cycle that basically leaves me frozen.

When I get to feeling like this, there are 3 things that I do to bring me back to normal (or as normal as life is until I’m back to fully staffed):

  1. Make a list. This is the first thing I do. Remember trying to pluck a toaster out of a tornado? When I get the first thought and then the second, usually the tornado starts to slow and I can just dump all the thoughts I’m having onto a piece of paper. Don’t worry about it being in order, being personal versus work – just get it out onto paper.
  2. Take breaks. I’m the worst at working until I drop. See the 12-hour days earlier? It’s not a good thing. Even though you may think it’s a waste of time, take at least a 10-minute break every couple of hours, and make sure you take time to eat (lunch, breakfast, dinner – whatever is happening during the time you’re working). Better yet, take a 15 minute break every 90 minutes and an hour for a meal.
  3. Do just one thing. If you’re trying to get momentum going, start with something small and easy. If all of your tasks are large and scary, choose one and decide what the very next thing you need to do is. Is it making a phone call? Looking something up? Sending an email? Making another list of smaller tasks? Whatever it is, pick one item and do it. Then do the next thing. If someone asks you to do something, add it to the list or take care of it if it’s something you have time to do.

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed?


Sewist, knitter, reader, dancer. Wife. Lover of things vintage and retro.