Whenever my schedule is too packed and I am running late, I find it very easy to blame others for my predicament. I fume at the cab driver who, in my mind is deliberately driving slowly; I get annoyed that people are not going up the subway stairs fast enough; or stand impatiently in the elevator that is packed, in my opinion, with too many people.

However, when I am more in charge of my life, when things are running smoothly, none of this bothers me and life is good.

What affects my perspective so strongly? It all has to with whether or not I am feeling overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed makes me feel stressed, behind schedule and unsure of what action to take next. At different times, many of my clients feel exactly the same way and are looking to find answers to why it occurs.

In my experience, when we feel overwhelmed in some area of our life, it’s usually because we are under-supported. A system is not working, a schedule issue has to be addressed, an emotional concern needs attention or a physical problem has to be resolved. Whatever the area, if it is not attended to, it usually continues to show up and slow us down. That’s when the wave of being overwhelmed rises and we find ourselves feeling out of control.

Being under-supported can be a chronic pattern that has continued to be ignored for years or it could be caused by a series of current events that get added into your already overloaded schedule without the time, foundation or space to support them. Whenever this happens to me or any of my clients, I always consider two questions.

1. What area of life needs the most attention right now?
Make a list of 5 things that are pulling your focus, list them in order of priority and start with the first one and only the first one. Yes, it’s hard to imagine that focusing on one thing will have an effect on the others but it does. You will feel relief, satisfaction and a sense of momentum in completing what needs to be done. This creates energy and allows you to take on the next item.

2. What needs to be taken off your plate?
Often we want to do something when we are feeling overwhelmed-take on something new to address the problem, learn a new skill, buy a new product or read up on a new perspective. All of these are great ideas when we have the capacity to absorb the information. But being overwhelmed means we have reached capacity and need to lighten the load. We do this by taking a hard look and what can be taken out of your schedule in order for you to address the most important things on your list of priorities.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are three common areas to look at where you may be under-supporting yourself.

Time: What activities do you want to participate in and what activities do you have to participate in? Make sure there is good balance between the two. Continue to monitor where you want to put your energy. Use your body as a gage to see if you feel anxious or calm when accepting an invitation or taking on new projects.  

Health: Keep checking in with yourself to see if you are operating in your life the way you want to be. Are you making habitual, short term choices for health situations that may require deeper examination? Are there physical, nutritional or psychological changes that need to occur so that you will operate more optimally in your life? Create the time to feel better.  

Rest: When we rest we acknowledge that we are human and not machines that can be productive every minute of the day. We need to rest more often than we think and when we do, we provide ourselves with the space to rejuvenate our bodies and clear our heads. Give yourself a 10 minute break to close your eyes, look at nature or listen to music and see how it feels.