How to Cope with Overwhelm
Photo courtesy of myllissa.

How to Cope with Overwhelm

Written by Bev Webb

Topics: Productivity

Put your hands up if you’ve ever had a bad case of overwhelm.

(I bet there’s a great big sea of hands waving back at me right about now.)

Being a multipotentialite is like being the plate spinner at the circus. We have so many projects on the go at the same time and we try not to let any of them slow down or fall to the floor. This is an impressive skill but it’s also a skill that takes a lot of energy – mental energy.

One minute you’re on a roll and everything’s going magnificently well, and the next you’re retreating into your safe space with a bad case of overwhelm.

Whereas normally you’d be seeking out more input and absorbing information like a sponge, now the off switch has been flicked, you simply can’t take in anything more.

Ever Met A Multipotentialite Who Could Resist A Shiny New Idea?

The need to constantly feed our minds with new and shiny information is like an addiction. Our desire for constant learning is, after all, what makes us pluralists. It’s also the reason we so often experience overwhelm.

There’s only so much you can take on before you need some downtime. Knowing this from experience, I decided to find ways to tackle my overwhelm. Hopefully the techniques I’ve developed will also help you deal with your own overwhelm gremlin when you feel it creeping up on you.

3 Ways To Tackle Your Overwhelm

1) Rest

Anyone who’s ever taken up running or other sports on a semi-serious level will tell you that rest periods are just as important as training sessions. It takes time for those aching muscles to recover and consolidate the benefit from each training session.

In the multipotentialite world, this translates into giving your mind time to process and file all that information. Let it work its way through your sub-conscious before the next influx of new data arrives for processing.

It might also be worth doing something physical, as physical activity has a positive impact on mental well-being. How about using your time off from your projects to go for a run, swim, cycle, or climb?

2) Be selective

You don’t have to start everything right now, as tempting it may be to do exactly that. You might want to make a list of your personal goals and priorities and evaluate how important each project is to you and which ones you should work on now. This process could help you distinguish between the “I really want to do this” and the “This could be fun to try” ideas.

If you’re afraid you’ll forget that great new idea unless you start working on it right away, set up a system to capture your ideas. Systems like these also free up space in your mind and ease overwhelm that way too.

Don’t forget you can always say “no” whenever you begin to feel over-committed, no matter how exciting the proposition is. That brings me to the next tip.

3) Schedule

Okay, so you know you haven’t got time to work on a new book, an album, or a screenplay right now, but you don’t want to feel like it’s never going to happen. So what do you do? You schedule it in.

Booking for your project in for a later date has several benefits:

  • You remember to revisit it.
  • You have something to look forward to.
  • You have a time frame for finishing your current projects.

We all know there’s nothing quite like a deadline to get us motivated!

These are just a few ideas to help you devise your own self-treatment plan for when overwhelm strikes. I’d love to hear how you cope when you get a bad case of this multipotentialite nemesis.

Over to you!

Have you ever found yourself in multipotentialite overwhelm? What techniques have you discovered to help ease your overloaded mind?

bevBev is an artist, creativity coach and founder of Kickass Creatives, a website offering practical support to frustrated creatives. She’s over 20 years of working in the arts: experimenting with everything from performing in a fire circus and managing a hiphop dance company, through to web consultancy and jewellery design. Bev is passionate about using her experience to enable others to fully develop (rather than hide) their multitude of talents too. Connect with her on Twitter @creativekickass.


  1. Andy says:

    Yes Yes Yes! This. All the time. These three methods for tackling the overwhelm are great. I think the promise to yourself that there will be time to do everything is important. Even if I lose interest down the line telling myself that if I focus on something specific today I will be able to do the other thing down the line is very effective!

    • Bev Webb says:

      Hi Andy
      Sounds like you know the overwhelm gremlin well! Yep, there is something really important about knowing that an idea hasn’t been forgotten, and that’s it’s been planned for a later date – which provides a real sense of relief. :)

  2. I needed this now, as just yesterday I acknowledged to myself that I had once again overloaded myself. Trying to do 5 major life changing projects at once, thinking about how to do which first, how long it will take, all in all developing the ‘perfect plan for executing’ has had my mind fried for the last weeks. It comes creeping up on you, and suddenly you burn out and press the ‘off’ button. Thanks so much for these tips, I will incorporate them to my daily habits!

  3. Bev Webb says:

    Hey Jørund
    Wow! Sounds like you’ve had your hands full dealing with 5 major projects at once. Grab some time to regather your strength and start over – you’re so right about how overwhelm sneaks up on you without realizing it.

    Maybe work out a plan where you can you can keep some projects simmering on the back burner whilst you focus on just 1 or 2? Let us know how you get on. :)

  4. gargi says:

    hey bev,

    its gargi from the 30 day challenge, how nice to find you here! I love this post :) I think your next one should be on how to organise +prioritise yourself with projects that you are choosing to do together :)


    • Bev Webb says:

      Hey Gargi! Great to see you on Puttylike. Many thanks for the feedback – I hope all your projects are going well too. :)

  5. Ben Horak says:

    I tend to overwhelm myself with impossible master projects which start simple then get scaled outwards incorporating other projects within another set of projects. Then I say “whoa” how am I going to start this? This is a lot of work, so I eat a banana nut muffin and call it a day. Your tips on saying no and scheduling the break down of projects over the course of a few years may be what I need to do. The urge to make everything right now is so powerful I have been overwhelmed for the course of several months. It does nothing to help motivate me and it reduces healthy productivity.

    • Bev Webb says:

      Hi Ben
      Mmmmm, banana muffins. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t do everything I want to, at the same time. I know all too well that overwhelming urge to give it a try anyway!

      Seriously though, I found I got more done if I spread it out over time, as having too much at once just ground me to a halt. Have fun with planning out your next few years. :)

  6. Tania says:

    It’s a common situation for me as I often have a lot to do. I simply try not to leave all things until the last moment and to do everything gradually. For me it’s the best way to keep calm and safe :)

    • Bev Webb says:

      Hi Tania.
      Great advice – leaving things to the last minute is a sure fire way of adding to your overwhelm. Many thanks for the reminder! :)

  7. Sarah says:

    When I feel overwhelmed, it is usually because I’ve overloaded myself in a particular area. For example, for my wedding, everything was handmade and hand selected (music, readings, etc). I was using 100% of my creative prowess. Right now, I’m physically “overbooked”. I decided to dig and plant a new flower bed, train for a half marathon, and clear brush from behind my house. All address accomplishments that I want in different areas of my life, but all tax 1 single resource – physical prowess. When I get “trapped” into too many projects like this, overwhelm sets in, and I find myself longing to do something completely different. Those banana nut muffins sound great about now!

  8. Bev Webb says:

    Hi Sarah
    Yey again for banana muffins! Sounds like with all that physical exercise you could do with a tasty carb treat. :)

    Isn’t it interesting how similar types of projects cluster together: all mental tasks or all physical tasks at the same time? Good luck with the half marathon training – have you booked a race to take part in? :)

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