What To Do When Feeling Overwhelmed

Takeshi Yoshida
3 min readMar 18, 2020

1. Breathe

Know to stop. Stop. Take a deep breath. Slowly regulate your breathing.

Our mind and body is an amazing system. Breathing is the most simple, immediate, no-need-for-tool intervention available to us in times of panic. By the time we are overwhelmed, our body has gone through a cascade of hormone releases and bodily reactions that caused the severe stress. Breathing reduces the production of stress hormones such as noradrenaline and cortisol, and brings us back to our normal state.

2. Check-in with your right brain: Feel

It’s important to check-in with the right brain first, before the left brain. If we check-in with our logical left brain first, we tend to over-rationalize and it fuels the overwhelmingness, which is counter-productive. The right brain, the visual and intuitive side of the mind, helps us tap into our feelings and rhythm.

Meditation and mindfulness is largely a right brain side of exercise, so if you already have a regular routine, activate it. I practice Vipassana which is a meditation of “seeing things as they are.” So when I feel overwhelmed, I scan my body to find where that overwhelming feeling is, and once found, I just stare at it. It’s a quelling technique that works well for me.

3. Check-in with your left brain: Rationalize

Again, at the risk of over-rationalizing, it’s probably still a good thing to think through the rational behind that overwhelming feeling.

Many questions you can ask yourself. Where’d it come from? What was the trigger? There’s probably a reason why I am reacting like this, is there any insight I can learn from? Is it the end of the world? What would happen if…? What’s the other side of the coin? What’s pulling me back? Anything I can let go? Can I give myself permission to let go?

And you can go on and on, so the importance is to put a break on yourself at some point.

Thinking is helpful, but too much thinking is not healthy either.

4. Speak to someone close

It’s hormones again. Speaking with someone close who we feel safe with releases a series of…

Takeshi Yoshida

Chief Coach, Agile Organization Development (agile-od.com) — we are a tribe of change, transformation, innovation experts