Dealing with overwhelm: 6 tips to prevent burnout

Becky Mollenkamp
6 min readMay 8

In a productivity-focused world, It’s easy to slip into a state of stress. Here are 6 tactics to stop feeling overwhelmed so you can avoid harmful burnout.

By Becky Mollenkamp, PCC

People were more productive in 2021 than at any other point since the tracking of such data, and 5x more than in 1950. These numbers look at worker output per hour worked. Americans are working fewer hours than in decades past, but we’re working harder when we work.

Plus, more women are in the workforce so that means household and parenting duties are added on top of work hours rather than being handled by one spouse while the other works. (In single-parent homes, one person must do it all.)

People are overworked, time-crunched, and overwhelmed. Very likely, you recognize it in yourself or you have felt it in the not-so-distant past.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Feeling overwhelmed symptoms

Signs of overwhelm include feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration, worry, doubt. It can manifest in the body as tears, a racing heart, headache, muscle pain, illness, or panic attacks. It can cause you to lose sleep or sleep too much, make it difficult to focus, give you a short fuse, and decrease self-esteem.

Some people use overwhelm and burnout as synonyms. Neither is a clinical diagnosis, so their definitions are open to interpretation. I think of overwhelm as stress from feeling like there is too much to do and too little time to do it, and burnout as the sustained, chronic, excessive state of overwhelm that results in complete mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.

To avoid burnout, then, you need help dealing with overwhelm. Here are a few tips for how to overcome overwhelm.

When you feel overwhelmed, do less.

Despite some of the messaging we see about doing or having it all, it’s just not possible. We can’t do all the things and be the person we want to be, and certainly not without a whole lot of overwhelm and potentially burnout.

When you’re already in a state of overwhelm, give yourself the gift of less.

Becky Mollenkamp

Accountability coach for feminist founders.