3 Ways to Cope with Overwhelm

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to maintain a job, pay the bills, have strong relationships with people around you, take care of yourself and start a creative career. Hell, even trying to find time to write a journal can be complicated.

But ignoring your creative urges will only lead to you resenting other aspects of your life, including your job and your relationships with other people. You have to carve that time out of your day–however small the chunk of time might be–in order to continue enjoying life. Luckily for you, there are hundreds of articles about time management and scheduling.

Of course, creating a schedule that gives you time for creativity doesn’t prevent overwhelm. In fact, depending on how much time you schedule for creativity–and how rigid the various aspects of your schedule are–it might mean that you burn out even faster. After all, you can’t be productive every minute of the day. At least, you can’t keep up that kind of work pace for very long without facing overwhelm.

So what can you do if you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Try these three strategies to cope with overwhelm and go back to enjoying your life–both the creative aspects and everything else:

1. Read more. If you’re feeling uninspired and every time you attempt to be creative you feel like you’re dragging your feet, pick up a good book and get reading. Reading is what inspired you to write in the first place, right?

If your schedule includes lots of writing time but no designated reading time, it’s time to fix it. You should be reading a combination of non-fiction and great fiction so you can learn both facts about our world and how great authors have made their novels stand out from the rest.

Reading a great book often inspires me to work harder on my craft. With any luck it will inspire you to do the same. At the very least, you’ll have fun reading–and that’s what it’s all about, right?

2. Get together with old friends. Friends come and go all the time, but that doesn’t mean we miss them less. Well, sometimes it does. But more often than not we still miss them. Facebook and other social media let us keep in touch, but it’s certainly not the same as spending entire days with them in real life.

Loneliness is a major contributor to overwhelm. When you spend almost no time socializing outside of your day job, you’re bound to start feeling lonely and resenting all the commitments you’ve made. You might even start wondering if you’re worth being friends with.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and especially if you’re feeling lonely, take some time today to contact a few old friends. Pick people you miss, people you haven’t seen in a while. You can call them and chat for a few minutes, but it’s even more powerful to get a few friends together for a night at the pub or a picnic in a park. Taking some time to enjoy your friendships and the world around you will help rekindle your love for creativity. After all, what’s more inspiring than good friends and a beautiful day?

3. Learn when to say no. Part of the reason why so many of us are frequently faced with a feeling of overwhelm is because we agree to everything. We agree to help our friends move, to babysit for another friend, to contribute to five different blogs, to cook dinner, clean the house oh and go out with friends every weekend. Meanwhile, we also want to run our own blogs, write our own books, and market our own work.

We can’t do everything. I’m tough, but I’m not superwoman and neither are you(my boss just might be, but no confirmation). We only have the same 24 hours in a day that everybody else does–16 if you actually get eight hours of sleep–and we don’t have super speed or super strength. We can only accomplish so much.

Being helpful is great to a point. At first you feel great every time you help a friend with something. You find time to cook for yourself afterwards and you feel great. But after a while you need a break. You start to feel resentment towards everybody who keeps asking you for help. Your creative juices stop flowing.

Learn to say no before you start resenting the people asking you for help.

We all feel overwhelmed sometimes. What separates one writer from the next is how they cope with it.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? How did you deal with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “3 Ways to Cope with Overwhelm

  • That’s a great idea to schedule writing time. I’ve never done that. Although, I always, always read before going to bed. I can’t go to sleep without it. But I’ve been considering making more time available for reading. There’s no doubt about it that my reading time has greatly diminished since starting writing. I always have a massive to be read pile.

    A little extra day should take care of that.

    • dlgunn

      Hi Deborah,

      It’s so easy to forget to set aside reading time! Back when I had an hour long commute–that is an hour each way–to and from school, I used that time to get all my reading done. When I first finished school I read like a maniac, but now that I’ve been settled into working from home and primarily creating my own schedule most of the time, I actually have to set aside time for reading or it doesn’t happen.

      Good luck finding more time to read!


  • Reduced to its simplest form – overwhelmed is any emotion that takes over your heart. You lose all reason, and feel fragile as you are caught in the emotion. It feels like that emotion is all there is. Fear, disappointment, excitement, even love can be overwhelming. The overwhelmingness influences you to the extent that all that you think and all that you do is at the effect of it. The way out is to remember what Goethe said, and apply it – “One always has enough time if one will apply it well.” (1) March directly toward a worthwhile objective. (2) simplify everything … Rob White – international best selling author (And Then I Met Margaret)

    On the contrary, love is a tremendous insight, clarity, sensitivity, awareness.

    • dlgunn

      Hi Rob,

      Wise words! Falling in love is certainly an overwhelming experience just as much as a 65 hour work week is.

      “One always has enough time if one will apply it well.” — I quite like that quote. It’s a great reminder that we need to take control of our time. Our employers, friends, family, and everything we want to do–none of it controls our time. We do that, so it’s up to us to find time for all the things we care about.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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