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Strategies to Combat Overwhelm: A CBT Perspective

Feeling overwhelmed is a common experience in our fast-paced world, but Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) offers effective strategies to manage and reduce this stress.

Here are some CBT-based techniques to help you regain control:

1. Identify and Challenge Negative Thoughts

Often, feeling overwhelmed stems from negative or distorted thinking patterns. Start by identifying these thoughts. Are you catastrophising, assuming the worst possible outcome? Are you overgeneralising, thinking that one bad event means everything will go wrong? Once identified, challenge these thoughts by questioning their validity. Ask yourself for evidence against these thoughts and consider more balanced, realistic perspectives.

2. Break Tasks into Manageable Steps

Overwhelm can occur when tasks feel too large or complex. Break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Create a step-by-step plan and focus on completing one task at a time. This not only makes the workload seem more doable but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you complete each step.

3. Prioritise and Plan

Use prioritisation techniques to tackle your tasks effectively. The Eisenhower Matrix (refer to my blog on this technique), for instance, helps you categorise tasks based on urgency and importance. Plan your day or week ahead of time, allocating specific time slots for each task. This structured approach can reduce the chaos and help you focus on what truly matters.

4. Develop Coping Skills

Incorporate coping strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation into your routine.

These techniques help calm the mind and body, reducing the physical symptoms of overwhelm. Practice these regularly to build resilience against stress.

5. Set Realistic Goals

Ensure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Unrealistic expectations can exacerbate feelings of overwhelm. By setting attainable goals, you can maintain a sense of control and direction.

6. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and that everyone experiences this at times. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend in a similar situation. This reduces self-criticism and promotes a more supportive inner dialogue.

7. Seek Social Support

Share your feelings with friends, family, or a therapist. Talking about your stress can provide relief and offer new perspectives. Social support is crucial for emotional well-being and can help you feel less isolated in your struggles.

8. Review and Reflect

Regularly take time to reflect on your progress. What strategies are working? What needs adjustment? Reflection helps you learn from your experiences and refine your approach, making it easier to manage future stressors.


Overcoming overwhelm is a gradual process that involves changing how you think, behave and interact with the world.

By applying these CBT strategies, you can reduce stress, increase productivity and improve your overall well-being. Remember, it's about progress, not perfection. Take one step at a time and be patient with yourself.

Embrace these tools and you'll find that managing overwhelm becomes not just possible, but a pathway to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t have to control your life. By applying these CBT strategies, you can take meaningful steps toward a calmer, more focused and balanced existence.

Start by identifying one technique from this post and put it into practice today. Share your progress and let’s support each other on this journey to mental well-being. Don’t wait—take action now and reclaim your peace of mind!


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