I remember the first time I stepped into a leadership role. The weight of responsibility, the countless decisions, and the ever-growing to-do list left me feeling like I was drowning in a sea of overwhelm. (Not to mention the additional weight of raising two sons.)  If you’re nodding your head, you’re not alone.  Here’s the good news: navigating overwhelm is possible and you can come out stronger on the other side.

The Overwhelm Epidemic

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Overwhelm isn’t just a personal issue; it’s an epidemic. A study from the American Psychological Association found that nearly 60% of women report feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities.

Our Collective Story

A close friend of mine recently took on a managerial role in a new organization. She was ecstatic! But within weeks, she found herself buried under emails, meetings, travel and deadlines. One evening, over supper, she confessed, “I feel like I’m losing myself. I’m constantly stressed, and I don’t know how to handle it.” Her story isn’t unique. Simply knowing we’re not alone brings some relief.

Practical Steps
  • Prioritize Self-Care: We’ve heard it a million times. And at the same time, we do all the other things first and are too worn out to take care of us. This is exactly what our culture trained us to do as women. Self-care is paramount to navigating overwhelm. Find what rejuvenates you and make it a non-negotiable.
  • Delegate: As women, we often feel the need to do everything ourselves. Delegation or asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. We need to trust our colleagues and friends. We aren’t the only gifted one in the room.
  • Set Clear Boundaries: It’s very likely that we arrived in a place of overwhelm because we haven’t mastered setting clear boundaries. It’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s essential. Setting clear boundaries on our time and energy helps manage overwhelm and also models it for others in our life. 
  • Seek Mentorship: Finding someone or a group of someones who are in our shoes provides invaluable encouragement, inspiration and refreshing.
Reflect and Realign

Overwhelm often stems from a misalignment between our values and our actions. Take a moment to reflect:

  • What are my core values?
  • Are my daily actions aligned with those values?
  • Where can I make changes to ensure alignment?

Reflection can be a powerful tool in navigating overwhelm. It allows us to pause, reassess, and realign our actions with our values.

Here’s What the Experts Say

Now, you might be thinking, “All this sounds great, but where’s the evidence?” According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, leaders who regularly engage in reflection are more productive and less prone to burnout. Additionally, Dr. Sandra Chapman, a neuroscientist at the Center for Brain Health, found that strategic breaks and reflection can enhance decision-making and creativity.

Embrace the Journey

Navigating overwhelm isn’t about eliminating challenges; it’s about embracing them as part of the journey. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity for growth. And as we grow, we’ll find that what once overwhelmed us becomes second nature.

Overwhelm might be a part of the journey, but it doesn’t define it. With the right tools, strategies, and mindset, we can navigate overwhelm and emerge empowered.