Busy, Overwhelmed and Stressed? 3 New Ways to Manage.

When is the last time you didn’t feel busy? When was the last time you were catching up with friends and no one commented on how busy they are?

I know that I feel busy a lot of the time. I also know that many people around me feel the same way.  So, this summer, instead of romantic notions around life slowing down and blissfully hanging with family and friends, I have decided to explore what stands in the way of that. Also, what I can actually do.

First, let’s agree that everyone is busy. I know people with partners and children, single parents, double income no children families and retirees that are busy. 

Next, let’s be honest about the pace. Is it something you like or not? 

Some people love to be busy. If you feel that way, don’t be afraid to own it with pride and a smile on your face. Feel free to stop reading this, go out and get things done 🙂 Some say they are tired of hearing how busy people are. I say that the word ‘busy’ does not inherently come with a negative association. If being busy honestly fulfills you – enjoy!

Then there are the people who are busy and don’t want to be.  These are the people who are suffering the negative effects of doing too much. For various reasons, many are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. 

Now, it is important to explore how busy you really need to be.

More honesty required!  How do you feel when you are not doing something?  Do you feel the need to fill time?  If your friends are talking about their busy lives while you recall reading all day, how does that feel? 

With any tinge of inner guilt or self-criticism that comes up, we can start to create more stress than necessary. This happens when we get busy ‘doing’ to feel productive (a.k.a. valued) while avoiding real feelings.  This, in turn, diminishes the power and value of ‘being’ and the cycle continues.  

Use mindfulness practices, take time for self-care or put away distractions like smartphones and TV remotes. These are solutions often proposed to illuminate the unimportant things taking up time. They also support the power of ‘being’.  Sometimes breaking up a routine can reveal new opportunities to do things that fill rather than drain us.  If those are not enough, invest in exploring your feelings of guilt and self-criticism around not being in a constant state of doing.

Then, there are the people who are at stages of life that really are more full than others. For you, here are some, perhaps, new tools to help you manage.   

Raising children, building careers, aging/ill family members and times of transition. These are some of the times when there is a lot to do.  Being busy is unavoidable so the question is this. How do we manage it all so we can keep up without having it take a toll on us physically or emotionally?

1. Shift your thoughts.

When busy is your reality, an inspirational quote or article about prioritizing, taking time for you etc. can feel less than helpful.  I once caught myself swearing at a magazine article about self-care because I felt like if I had time to take care of myself, I would!  Not that I didn’t agree or believe that self-care is critical. it was just that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  

When I have a bunch of things that need to get done (even after I prioritize) and people that need to get places/have things done (no matter how hard I try to not overschedule), I use this little trick I once read about.

Instead of ‘I have to’ think “I get to’. 

When we feel like what is on our plate, is a burden, it carries with it, a really heavy energy.  That energy can bring us down more than the actual pace of life.  Therefore, ‘I have to do x,y,z’ feels like a problem to be solved.  

Conversely, when we feel grateful for what is on our plate, it takes on a lighter energy and with that, more grace and flow with the pace of life. ‘I get to do x,y,z,’ switches from the heavy burden to a pleasant fullness.

Next time, you feel overwhelmed, try the ‘I get to’ trick.  For example, I get to run my children to different activities in between working and making dinner rather than I have to. This turns on feelings of gratitude and you start a new list. I have children, children who are pursuing their interests, children who even have interests other than sitting on the couch, children who are active, money that can help pay for those activities and buy groceries etc.  Do you get the hang of it?

2. Take stock of all that you do and ask yourself ‘is this necessary?’

When we get stuck in expectations of how well we are going to do something, tasks can get very time-consuming.  We are often taught to always do our best but for some of us, ‘our best’ comes with an internal drive for personal expectations that are not always possible.

If you have the time and energy, doing something that you can really sit back and be proud of, can be so satisfying.  So, go for it and enjoy the outcome.  If you don’t, then asking ‘is this necessary’ can shift things in 2 ways.

First, it is an empowering statement of personal boundaries around how you are going to spend your time. Second, it contributes to a feeling of balance. ‘Is this a priority’ can feel like putting off stuff. ‘Is this necessary’ is more about letting go.   

3. Consider the fact that emotional work adds to feelings of being busy. 

Things like conflict, disconnection from loved ones, strained relationships etc. can take a real toll on energy levels. Perhaps at times of heavy emotional work, you take on less physically or reach out for more support.  However, I find just acknowledging and accepting that emotional upheaval is part of the current drain can be a relief.  While it doesn’t take it away, it shifts my awareness of what is happening outside of me to what is happening inside of me. There, I have a lot more influence 🙂 

Most importantly, allow yourself to feel the joy of slowing down whenever and however you can.  Let yourself really own and appreciate the efforts you made (either physically or emotionally) to create extra time or space in your day. 

If having your children around all summer ramps up your busy factor, check out some helpful tips here.

Marny Elliott is a Parent Coach and Relationship Counsellor. She empowers parents, educators and professionals to use the Nurtured Heart Approach®, an effective, heart centred method to transform behaviour, build relationships and grow the Inner Wealth® of children. In addition, she provides holistic counseling to adults seeking to address defeating patterns and improve their relationships with themselves and others. Please visit, email or call 250.218.8702.



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