Fight stress and manage anxiety. Regain momentum. Tools and tips to help you overcome your to-do list before it overwhelms you.

How to Overcome Overwhelm: One practical game-changing strategy

Overwhelm goes beyond a long “to-do” list.
It often involves feeling stalled ~ You don’t know how to restart or where to begin.
You’ve likely lost some perspective and “can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Years ago I learned something that transformed my ability to power through and regain momentum when I was overwhelmed. Since then, I’ve heard this tip mentioned by various experts but it still seems like it’s one of those “best-kept secrets.” It makes all the difference, but it doesn’t stand alone.

It’s kinda like the “secret sauce.”
But it only works when applied to the rest of the brisket.

(That’s a little Texas analogy for you Yankee friends.)

Overcome Overwhelm and Regain Momentum

The Secret Sauce

When life overflows, most of us know that we need to get some perspective and make a list.

But somewhere in the middle of making a list
or trying to find the forest,
we can get even MORE overwhelmed.
Can I get a witness here?

Enter the secret sauce. Simple, yet profound.
Here it is: Do something.

  • Look for a quick win.
  • What can you do that will either be finished or contribute greatly to getting started that will only take an hour or two?
  • Pick something easy or straightforward.

But here’s the secret to the secret:
You can’t stop to make a list first.

Chances are, there’s a whirlwind of things that need to be done swirling in your head. Pick one. You don’t have to justify it or overthink it. Just do it.

Think of it as Newton’s law for humanity: “A person in motion tends to remain in motion.” The sheer act of DOING brings more clarity to the THINKING. And you learn more in the GOING about how you should go. And if you want to try the extra-spicy version of this sauce, put on praise music and pray WHILE you DO.

Nothing is too small. And the only things that don’t count are those activities where you sit and plan and think.

The Full Recipe

Like I said above, this strategy does not stand alone. It’s the sauce to the brisket. So what’s the brisket?

Glad you asked. Let’s eat. But I invited a few friends. As I give you my recipe, I’m going to insert tips and tricks that were submitted when I posted this question ~ consider them “Recipe Modifications.”

The secret sauce is best applied before and after step 1.
Once you are finished with step 2, you’ll be cooking with gas and slide right into step 3.

Step 1: Get Perspective (Thinking)

{Apply secret sauce before attempting this step}

On the deepest level, this may involve a lengthy prayer and journaling session. At other times, it may simply be removing yourself from the swirling thoughts.


• What is under my control and what is not? (Hint: People and outcomes are NOT under your control)
• Where is the anxiety originating?

• Seek God’s perspective and ask for help in letting go of whatever He reveals
• Repent from anxiety and worry

Wisdom from Master Chefs:

“I look at what is worrying me and ask if it is real or self-inflicted.
Usually, I am blowing something out of proportion and need to look at ‘worst case scenario’ to realize that even if it goes totally wrong, I’m going to be ok.
I also ask: Am I trying to require something of myself that no one else is? If yes, I can let myself off my own hook.
And then I preach mini-sermons to myself, such as the reminder that Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light”
~ Michele

“I have to first stop the swirling thoughts and list-making in my head. Sometimes that’s by working out, retail therapy, calling a friend or venting to family.”
~ Madison

{Apply secret sauce before attempting the next step}

Step 2: Make a List (Writing)

List types are varied and personal.
But you DO have to wrangle all those thoughts that are running rampant down onto paper or whiteboard or computer screen.
Once you have them corralled, you’ll need to divide and prioritize. Set a time limit.

Tip: To keep you moving forward, create a category for “Unknown.”

  • Don’t waste time trying to prioritize something that isn’t clear.
  • Just place it in the unknown/misc. slot for now.
  • Once you’ve finished categorizing everything else, it may be clearer.

Bottom line: Don’t get bogged down in this step.

• What is most critical and/or time-sensitive?
• What do I have to do and what can I get help with?

• Discernment on priorities and segmentation
• Protection from distractions and further anxiety as you see the list develop


From "Overcome Overwhelm" ~ You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step


Wisdom from Master Chefs:

“I make a list of every single thing that’s overwhelming me. Then I ask God to help me categorize those items into:
• only I can do this and it has to be done now,
• others can help me with this,
• this can be done later,
• this may never get done.
I usually put this stuff on post–it notes, then move those little slips to their category.

Many times the Lord, for reasons I don’t understand, will move things around because He’s taking care of it in ways I can’t see (events being cancelled due to weather, so no need for me to waste time preparing; that letter in the “do it now” list was vital encouragement to the recipient; groceries weren’t needed because someone brought dinner).

The key to this is letting God nudge and guide me with these little sticky notes. The most important part of this is writing His follow up in small print, and tucking them away in a notebook for a later reminder of how He works it all out.”
~ Michelle

Step 3: Do the next thing (Doing)

This is different from the secret sauce of doing something ~ anything.
This is taking a step toward whatever you identified was most critical or most urgent.

• What’s the next thing?
• Repeat; You get the idea :)

Pray “as you go.”
• Ask God to bless your efforts and provide supernatural efficiency

Wisdom from Master Chefs:

“After a list-making session, I divide the list into categories (work, home, etc.). I ask myself “What is the next step? What has to be done next?”
I find that by focusing on today’s troubles instead of ALL of it, I can feel less overwhelmed and stay more focused. (The whole eat an elephant one bite at a time thing.)

When I can, I light a candle, put some music on, and make a cup of coffee. Every is better with coffee and dive in.”
~ Kimberly

From "Overcome Overwhelmed" ~ Just take the next step instead of worrying about the next thousand steps

Step 4: Just keep cookin’

The only way you learned to cook was by getting in the kitchen. And you learned to adjust your mom’s recipes to fit your own family’s tastes.

The same is true here. Take these tips and make them work for you. And remember, celebrate small victories along the way.  Whatever you do, however you order it, the two most important things to remember are this:

  1. Start.
  2. Keep going.

 Jumpstart Prayer Challenge

As you read above, prayer is an important part of working through this process. If you could use help restarting your prayer life, I’ve developed a free 5-day prayer challenge that will guide you in that.

Add the 5-day Jumpstart Prayer Challenge to your recipe!

Want to restore hope, renew vision, and revive your walk with God? Take the challenge to pray Scripture promises for five days to start your New Year. Make 2017 a year of prayer and God’s Word!

P.S. Here’s Something else …

Are you involved with marketing a small business, blog, or helping a nonprofit or church spread their message?
The digital marketing world is full of information overload, decision fatigue, and option overwhelm.
I have something that might help. Click here or below to find out more.

Quick Win Digest - Click here for more info
Encouraging YOU as YOU Inspire Others,

Learn more about the author or other popular posts.

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Want to restore hope, renew vision, and revive your walk with God? Take the challenge to pray Scripture promises for five days to start your New Year. Make 2017 a year of prayer and God’s Word!

A person in motion tends to remain in motion.Click To Tweet
The sheer act of DOING brings more clarity to the THINKING.Click To Tweet


ChristiHow to Overcome Overwhelm: One practical game-changing strategy

Comments 23

  1. stultsmamaof4

    Christi, I came across this on pinterest again tonight and decided to read it for a second time (why not – it’s a new year?!). I believe this is one of the Enemy’s tactics – to keep us feeling overwhelmed and confused so that we are stunted in our efforts. At least, that seems to be true in my life lately. Thank you for this encouragement to press on, even just one baby step at a time.
    Jen :)

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  2. Pat Fenner

    Found this on Twitter! But I’d love to invite you to share it on our Coffee & Conversation today, at! Your are SO right – I’ve FI-NAL-LY learned to just do one thing when I’m stuck – and it works every time! My only caveat is that it has to be something NOT like what I usually do – which translates to: get off the computer and clean or cook or do yard work or go for a walk or…well, you get the picture, right? ;-) LOL
    Have a great day <3!

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      Hi Pat! We tweeted at each other today, but I’m behind in fully processing comments. I’ll have to check your place out. Thank you for the kind words and fun conversation. You brought a smile to my face today.

  3. Candice

    I love the cooking reference cause when I am overwhelmed there’s nothing like cooking to centre me and making sure my kitchen is clean. Than I am ready to move onto the rest of your list :)

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  4. Lori Schumaker of Seaching for Moments

    I love the Texas twang! It’s such a fun treat to this Minnesota-born-and-now-Arizona girl! It was such a creative way to weave the brisket and sauce in with strategy! Love it! I find myself in overwhelm waaaaaay too often and your steps are spot on! Stopping by from #GraceandTruth! Have a wonderful weekend!
    Blessings and smiles,

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      Thank you, Lori! What fun to hear that you “got” the bit of Texas analogy :) And I think this is a waaaaaay too often for many bloggers! Love that you are my Grace & Truth friend. That’s one of my favorite spots to visit!

      Thanks for being here!

  5. loisflowers

    Christi, it takes a gifted writer to incorporate brisket, Newton’s laws and being overwhelmed in the same blog post and have it all make perfect sense! I’m in the middle of a “slog-my-way-through” kind of week, and I’m also working on several things that, beyond a certain point, are out of my control. So this wisdom from you and your master-chef friends is so helpful to read right now. I just recently discovered Grace & Truth, and seeing you there made me feel right at home!

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      You are CRACKING me up! That comment made me actually LOL.

      Thanks for that laugh and for letting me know it was some bit useful. Love that you’ve found G&T!!! And that is the SWEETEST compliment to tell me you felt right at home with me there.

      LOVE all of this!

  6. Forever Joyful

    Prayer is sure to keep us moving in the right direction. When I was a child, my mom always taught me to knock out whichever of my homework was easiest first. It built momentum, and it all had to be done anyway. I like your advice.

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  7. Ruthie Gray

    Girl, you know I needed this. I’ve been so overwhelmed I could only read the first part of this and tweet it two days ago. Today, I read the rest.
    I’ve been applying the secret sauce all week (without knowing it was the secret sauce), and Tex, you know I always love Dory quotes – especially THAT one THIS week.
    I did stop applying secret sauce that one day though. You know. THE day. But, I felt it was good and probably what God wanted for me. I needed to just get away from it and spend time with the fam. And it was so.
    Applying #2 today!!!
    You are awesome. I love, love, LOVE this. I’m studying your form, just so you know. ;)

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      Haha. Yes, if anyone can relate, it’s likely you, dear friend. I’m not worth “studying” as you call it, but I’ll take the prayers and encouragement :)

  8. BlessingCounterDeb

    Such great advice here! I can be a terrible procrastinator with things I don’t really want to do. And the crazy part is just doing and getting on with it is so much better than worrying about it! Your graphics are awesome!!

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      You are so right about “just getting on with it.” I don’t know why that’s still so hard for me when I’ve seen it work so many times ;) Thanks for the compliment!

  9. helloredds

    What a practical post, Christi!

    I love all of the helpful suggestions you have given! I’m one of those crazy clipboard carrying girls! I make a massive list and then divide it up into smaller tasks and certain days.

    I really love the do the next thing step. Sounds like Elizabeth Elliot’s advice. When asked how she survived the brutal murder of her missionary husband, she replied, “I got up, got dressed, fed my baby, and did the next thing I had to do.”

    Thanks for using your gifts to help others!

    I pinned several of your pins here:

    You are a blessing~

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      I had forgotten that part of Elizabeth’s story. Thanks for that reminder. What a testimony, right?

      Thank you for all the ways you add such fullness to my life! So thankful to be stepping side by side with you these days. God is so faithful!

  10. Daddy

    Karen is indeed “spot on.” Even though we are a few decades past having college age kids, what Karen said is fresh in my memory of a daughter who occasionally called with anguish to share. We hurt for her. After all, our precious child was hundreds of miles away hurting and we could do nothing to help. But the old King James Version said it in many places, “It came to pass,” and it usually did before we were finished worrying about it. We survived it, and so did she, with not too many grey hairs accrued.

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      Haha. I don’t how I feel about featuring my own dad’s wisdom gained from parenting ME :) But then, I’d be withholding the absolute BEST advice available, so I guess I will share this :) Love you!

  11. Karen Potts

    My advice for college parents would be not to get too upset if things aren’t going perfectly for your student. My son once poured his heart out to me on the phone and after listening and trying to say some reassuring words, I spent a lot of time worrying about it. When I next talked to him, he had already forgotten the situation he had complained about and all was well! This is the time for your child to begin solving his own problems and they can do it if we let them!

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