Lucas Brenner » Articles » Avoiding Overwhelm

Everyone has felt stress in their lives. And everyone will probably continue to have such feelings in the future. The techniques I will explain in this article cannot prevent it, nor do they promise to do that. However, you can learn to handle stress in a healthier way.

However, in my experience, especially through numerous musical stage performances, I have noticed that it is possible to combat stress, excessive demands, and anxiety. One is not helplessly at the mercy of these feelings.

Stress cannot be prevented, but it can be alleviated. My techniques have always worked very reliably for me. I hope they can help you too![1]

Have a Plan

A simple step-by-step approach is very reassuring. A project that seems unmanageable and overwhelming as a whole is broken down into simple tasks.

A plan not only prevents procrastination, but also simplifies time planning. But probably the greatest advantage of a detailed plan is that it removes a great burden from the subconscious. For example, you can plan your day.

The Zeigarnik effect describes that uncompleted tasks return to memory more often. The subconscious mind pushes to complete these tasks. In experiments, it has been proven that the subconscious mind is calmed by scheduling the uncompleted tasks.

On a psychological level, making plans makes perfect sense. If you have designed a clear roadmap for a difficult project, you can relax and trust that you won't forget anything and will be well prepared.

Have a System

If you have a simple, robust system for processes like emails, you're less stressed. By having this system, you know that even a barrage of emails, numerous deadlines, or other challenges won't affect you.

No matter what, by having your own structure, you can handle these challenges and make the best of them. Your system can make use of checklists, for example.

Moreover, such a system prevents problems from piling up. Answering ten emails a day is much less overwhelming than having to write 70 emails a week.

A Tidy Environment

A work environment in which everything you need is within reach is essential if you want to work in a relaxed manner. This refers not only to the physical desk, but also to the digital desktop. Furthermore, cleaning up has numerous other benefits that you should take advantage of!

Tidy doesn't mean that the office has to look like a furniture catalog. What is needed here is a purposeful environment in which people, but especially you, feel comfortable.

Visualize and Write Down

Maybe this technique helps me because I am a visual person. If you are more auditory, maybe recording your thoughts will help.

Especially when I'm brainstorming ideas, I like to write down my thoughts. Tastes may differ here, but I prefer drawing graphs or mindmaps, making lists (for example, pro-con lists), and writing down my ideas in bullet points.

The advantage to writing in whole sentences is that these techniques are closer to my “speed of thinking.”

I find my whiteboard particularly helpful in this process. I can draw all sorts of things there with different colors and pens. I don't use a ton of paper, and if I do want to keep a permanent record of what I've written, I can just take a picture.

A Task Inbox

Especially when I'm brainstorming ideas, there are usually numerous tasks that come to mind that I need to complete. These tasks involve all areas of my life - from my studies to my personal life to working on this website.

I created an inbox list in my task manager, so that I don't have to divert my attention to categorizing ideas during this creative phase.

This list is where all new ideas, tasks and ideas are created by default. Then, when I finish brainstorming, I can assign the tasks to individual projects, life areas, and time slots.

Not only does this allow me to be more creative, but I also know that I can always trust my system. I won't forget anything because everything is written down.

The Main Principle of Stoicism

A guiding principle that has helped me in every situation so far comes from ancient Greek philosophy. Briefly summarized, the principle says that you cannot influence external events, but you can influence your actions and reactions.

So when I'm overwhelmed by a plethora of tasks, emails, or an exciting deadline, I try to remind myself that the only thing I can control is my reaction to these events. You can read more about this principle in this article.

After a brief pause, I try to see things from a different perspective. It can also help to sleep a night over a problem. Sufficient and quality sleep can solve many problems.

I try to see the trigger of the stress as a challenge that I must meet with the calm attitude of an ancient philosopher and from which I will emerge stronger. With this attitude, it's easier for me to lean into feeling overwhelmed and accept it as part of life.

Personally, it also helps me to meditate in such situations and thus find peace in the chaos. There is no absolute order in life, so you should let go of the perfectionist desire to be in such a state at all times.

Combined with the other techniques in this article, this makes it easier for me to keep cool. Of course, I don't succeed in never being stressed, but that's not my goal at all. I want to grow, and these methods have done me a great service in doing so.


[1] Please seek professional help if you are suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, or similar reactions! This article is no medical, nor psychological advice.