Episode 19: Calming the Chaos: 5 Easy Ways to Deal with Overwhelm

by | Feb 17, 2023

The Samantha Leith Podcast WEB Episode 19

Episode Description

Take control of your overwhelm with boundaries and gratitude-no isa full sentence!

Here’s what I cover in this episode:

  1. How to manage overwhelm by using simple breathingtechniques
  2. Discovering gratitude when it’s all too much
  3. Setting boundaries to help reduce overwhelm
  4. Chunking down the bigger ‘stuff’
  5. Prioritising self-care as a preventative to overwhelm

Show Notes

Take control of your overwhelm with boundaries and gratitude – no is a full sentence!

I learned about Dealing with overwhelm through this week’s episode of the Samantha Leith Podcast. I learned that deep breathing and finding gratitude, even in difficult situations, can help us combat overwhelm and activate our parasympathetic nervous system. Additionally, setting boundaries around our time, such as not answering emails past a certain hour or turning off notifications, can help us manage our overwhelm and help us to focus on ourselves and our loved ones.

“No is a full sentence – take that one and stop listening now!”

In this episode, you will learn the following:

  1. How to manage overwhelm by using simple breathing techniques.
  2. Discovering gratitude in negative situations.
  3. Setting boundaries to help reduce overwhelm.

Chapter Summaries:


This week on the Samantha Leith Podcast, we’re talking all things overwhelm. We need to be able to deal with overwhelm and stop it from reaching its ugly point. If we don’t deal with it, it can become chronic, which then leads to anxiety.


Deep breathing not only helps manage overwhelm and help combat stress. It can slow down our heart rate. It puts more oxygen into our bloodstream, which helps our brain work better. When we’re overwhelmed, we don’t think clearly. It’s just chaos.


I want you to breathe with thought. I quite often do some intentional breathing when I’m stuck at traffic lights in my car or stuck in traffic. Getting better without breathing will help you feel better physically and mentally. Think of it like exercise for your lungs.


Don’t stress yourself out by trying to find something positive in a negative situation. It’s about finding something that you’re thankful for or convince gratitude for in that moment. I write five things I’m grateful for every single morning in my journal. Next one, Boundaries. Love Love Love.


Jonathan: One of the things with overwhelm is we just get asked to do too many things. We need to have boundaries for ourselves in terms of our time, our work, our priorities, our relationships. Here are eight areas we’re boundaries in.


Another one would be social media. I really believe that social media is one of the easiest ways to feel overwhelmed in life. My tip number four is about breaking things up into smaller steps. Break it down into small steps will help reduce that stress and anxiety.


Take a break is one of the best things you can do for your self care. Self care could be drinking more water or having a stretch. The more you have self care practices in your daily routine, the easier it will be for you to deal with overwhelmed when that bucket is getting full.



Hello. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Samantha Leith Podcast, where we’re talking all things overwhelm. You know, that like that.

There’s just so much going on. I can’t deal with it. I can’t go, oh, my God, I just need one more thing and I’m going to lose my mind. And your to do list 500 pages in it and you’ve got ten things to do in the next hour in your calendar and the washings to get done, and your long lost customer is just asked if you can make them a Lasagna. You know what I mean?

That absolute overwhelm and sense of, I just can’t cope with everything that’s going on and the feelings that come up, the thoughts that happen, and then the actions you do or don’t take based on those because of that overwhelm. Now, why do we need to not feel overwhelmed? Well, firstly, I don’t know if you can ever not feel overwhelmed, but we do need to be able to deal with overwhelm and stop it from reaching its ugly point and get better at handling ourselves and situations and the things that are going on in our life. So we don’t reach that breaking point. Or we don’t as I like to talk about that point where our bucket is just done.

Like it’s totally done. We’ve got this bucket of life and first goes in the washing and then the work task, and then those thank you cards that you didn’t write for the baby shower 29 years ago. And don’t joke. I actually found thank you cards for baby shower that I forgot to send. They’re all written and addressed, but I forgot to post them 14 years after I had the baby shower.  Whooopsy..

We need to be able to deal with these things because they add up in our bucket. And then someone just might make a phone call or a suggestion or send something to us and that bucket is full. It’s like that tiny little drop of snow that lands on the mountain and causes that final avalanche. There’s just too much going on, and if we don’t deal with it, it can become chronic, which then leads to anxiety.

If you’re prone to that or a depressive episode or physical health problems, your immunity might bottom out and you just get constant colds. Maybe your tummy flares up, maybe your blood pressure goes up. And we sure shit don’t do the things that we actually need to be doing when we’re in that really overwhelmed state. We’ve got to get out of that chronic stress running on the treadmill, overwhelmed by all that we’ve got to do and all that there is to do that we don’t actually necessarily have to do. People.

Should I repeat that? Repeat that for the back row, shall I? Sometimes we’re overwhelmed by all the things that there are to do, but not actually that we have to do. Okay? It’s a big one to get better at learning to manage.

So let’s talk about how we can help ourselves with this crazy thing called overwhelmed. You ready?



Take deep breaths. I know that sounds so simple it can’t possibly help Samantha Mary, what are you talking about? It does, I swear. Okay, so deep breathing not only helps manage overwhelm and help combat stress and, well, just generally actually help us feel better, but it can slow down our heart rate.

It puts more oxygen into our bloodstream, which helps our brain work better, honestly, from a breath, from simple breathing. Now, I’m not a breath work expert or coach, but I know what works for me. And I’ve tried lots of different things over the years, but so I’m going to share that with you. And the breathing that we want to do, we can do anywhere, anytime, day or night. It doesn’t have to be, okay, at 05:45 A.m., I’m going to do ten minutes of breathing.

No, that’s not it. We just need to be able to take ourselves out of a situation and take a deep breath in order to actually stop that final flight mode that we may have gone into. And when we do that and take the breath to get us out of that, it activates what’s called our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract all that little that’s going on. And we get that sense of calmness and relaxation and then we can actually function a little bit, if not a lot better. We can think clearly.

And when we’re overwhelmed, we don’t think clearly. It’s just chaos. Okay. In fact, as I talk about having ADHD and there’s a lot of chaos in your mind when you have ADHD, I kind of think that for someone who’s not neuro divergent when they’re in that constant or chronic state of overwhelm, that’s probably a little like what a chaotic ADHD brain feels like sometimes. I would say my best guess.

Anyway, back to the breathing. You all know how to do it. You’ve been doing it since you were born that we don’t do it with thought, just do it to stay alive. So I want you to breathe with thought. So if you can remove yourself somewhere quiet, but sometimes you can’t.  Sometimes you need to do this with a set of traffic lights in order to calm yourself down when you’re running to an appointment. I quite often do some really intentional breathing when I’m stuck at traffic lights in my car or stuck in traffic. Because one thing that causes me the most anxiety in my life is running late for things, even if it’s not my problem or my fault. Rather I get so worked up and I can feel physically ill about it. So I will do some breathing in those moments to try and calm myself down.

So I use a technique either like box breathing or circular breathing, something like that. So we’re counting how we take our breath in and how we hold it and how we take our breath out. If you’ve got a really good lung capacity, like you’re a diver or a singer or an athlete or something, you’re going to be able to do this for long periods of time. If you’re really a totally unconscious breather and you haven’t made that effort in the past, you might be doing it for two beats each. So you might be breathing in for two, holding it for two, breathing out for two and holding it for two.

Not for good at counting for two, there was I, but you get the drift. So it’s in for count, hold for count, out for account, hold for account. And we want to do it in through our nose and out through our mouth. And that just gets that oxygen circulating and helping everything calm down. And when you’re focusing on that count and your breath, you’re not thinking about the popcorn that’s going off in your brain, okay?

You’re not thinking about all those things that are causing you that overwhelm. You’ve removed yourself from those thoughts in that moment and are completely present with your body, your physicality and your breath, which will help you be able to deal with it. Breathing so simple. Then it can be just like a whole topic. It really could be.

It can do so much. People that suffer from a lot of anxiety, simple breathing techniques practiced over and over again can help them get out of it in a flash. And just in general, getting better without breathing will help you feel better physically and mentally. Think of it like exercise for your lungs. You’re not getting like being able to run five ks, but we want to get those breaths up to account of ten or five or whatever you want to go for.  But just keep practicing that. Breathing so important.



Okay, what’s my next thing for dealing with as well? I’ll look, I’ve repeated it a thousand times, and I’ll probably do it a thousand times more. Be grateful people. Be grateful.

Some people say it’s impossible to feel negative or angry and grateful at the same time. You probably I don’t know if it’s getting a bit technical, really, about whether you can actually feel two feelings at the same time or think two things. Feel like multitasking.

Are we actually doing it? Are we actually multitasking or are we tasks switching really quickly? And I think it’s the same with feelings and emotions. So you can be in a really angry situation and then think of something that you can be grateful for, which switches it you out of it really quickly and you may think they’re happening at the same time or not. Tomato, tomato.

I don’t think that’s actually relevant. But we just want to find the place in our life and in our days to find gratitude because it’s a really good tool for dealing with overwhelmed. It can help us stop thinking about the negative stuff or even thinking about our Todo list, which might not feel negative, but if we’re dealing with it in the wrong way, it will have negative connotations. So gratitude can be really simple. I write five things I’m grateful for every single morning in my journal, and sometimes they’re deep and meaningful.

Sometimes it’s, that was a good cup of coffee, like it doesn’t matter. It’s about finding something that you’re thankful for or convince gratitude for in that moment. Now, I’m not going to be or Penelope over the top positive here and say that you should be able to find something to be grateful for in every situation, because I think that’s a lot of bull. There are many situations that either are hard to find or impossible to find something to be grateful for illnesses, death, major catastrophes. And when people say, oh, but look at how how everybody came and helped in that situation, you can be thankful for someone helping you.

But I don’t know if that’s finding gratitude for the bad, if you know what I mean. So don’t stress yourself out by trying to find something positive in a negative situation. I’ll give you an example. Recently, myself and a lot of people I’ve been speaking to, including clients, have been horrifically stressed out about the economy, and about interest rates going up and are we going to have a recession, are we not going to have a recession? Oh, my God.

But still. And so many says that many people find more success in recessions if they just have the right idea. But I can’t think of the right idea, and you get my drift. It’s like this. All the stuff goes on and on and on, and we get overwhelmed in thinking about the economy.

And I turned some of that into being quite angry. So I was very overwhelmed by it all. And whilst intellectually I could understand the fiscal policy and the decisions they were making, emotionally, I was like, what the absolute f are you people doing? This is ridiculous. So many people are finding it hard to put food on their table or petrol in their cars.

I don’t understand. So I just worked myself up about it, and I did what I don’t normally do, which is watched a little bit too much news during the whole thing. So we’ll talk about that again in a second. But I couldn’t find gratitude for my interest rate going up. Like, who the hell could?

Couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t. But I was still trying to find something because it was getting to me so much. So I started to feel grateful for the fact that, hey, I even got the mortgage in the first place, and I have a house we love, then, and this is a new one for me, I’ve started to be grateful for the fact that all of the stuff that’s going on has helped to motivate me. It’s helped to me to get a little more clarity on some things. It’s helped me to get my button to gear on a couple of things, and I’m grateful.

So I’m grateful for that. Not grateful for the interest rates going up, but I’m grateful for what it’s helping me to actually do. See what I mean? And as I said, you can write gratitude down. You can just think it in your head.

You can tell someone, you know, send someone a little note. Thank you for that thing you did today. That’s showing gratitude. And that will help you deal with overwhelmed where where you want to think about what it will. Next one, boundaries.



Blah, blah, blah, blah. Boundaries. Love boundaries. Love these. And boundaries.

I talked about boundaries a bit in episode number six, I believe, and I talk about them quite regularly, so I’m sure you will hear more on this topic. And if there’s nothing else you get out of me discussing this, part of the overwhelmed today in this Podcast is no is a full sentence. Just take that. You can stop listening now. Just take that one.

No is a full sentence. What do I mean by that in terms of boundaries? Well, one of the things with overwhelm is we just get asked to do too many things. We say yes to too many things. We get the movies or dinner, a new project at work, mentoring someone, a client that’s a pain in the bum that you don’t really want, doing the gardening, whatever it is, someone can say to you, hey, Mary, want to go to the movies on Friday night?

No. Hey, Jonathan, notice you’ve got a bit of time during the day. Can I give you this other project to work on? No.

Simple. No. We don’t need to explain ourselves out of things. Kind of work. Example, you may need to give a little tip, but you can actually quite often just say no, and they’ll take it as the answer.

We often think we need to clarify, explain why we do and we don’t do things and we actually don’t. People generally don’t actually care that much about us to know the nitty gritty of why we’re saying yes or no to something, and no will suffice. But no is not just the only boundary that we need to have.

We need to have boundaries for ourselves in terms of our time, our work, our priorities, our relationships. There’s so many things. I think there’s eight areas we’re boundaries in. Again, go back to politics. So I’m going to go through a couple that I believe are really, really important in order to help you with dealing with overwhelming.

And one thing I want to stress with boundaries is it’s not about you controlling someone else. It’s not about you telling someone else what to do. It’s not about you going my way or the highway. This is about you knowing what’s clear to you and what your limit is. Sometimes you may need to explain it to people if it’s not getting through, but a lot of the time you just need to act on that boundary.

So, as I said, here are a couple that I think are really, really important for overwhelming and not getting into overwhelm. The first one would be work hours. So say someone sends you an email at 07:00 on a Friday night and you’re normally very reactive, and you’ll have the notification come up on your phone and you’re out at dinner with your friends or family, like, oh God, I’ve got to answer this email. I know somebody goes to bed with their mobile phone under their pillow with their notifications on, and they answer emails from clients, like two or 03:00 in the morning.

Okay, not good. Constant sort of overwhelmed. So how about you don’t answer that email and you either have an order responder that says, “thank you for contacting me currently after work hours, your email will be responded to within 24 office hours or two business days, or you contact me on Friday night, your email will be outset on Monday morning”, something like that. And if you don’t want to have an autor-esponder, you could actually just go back to them on the Monday morning. Go. ”Thanks for your email. You may not be aware, but I’m actually actually don’t work on the weekends, so I’m getting back to you now”. Okay. Really, really good one. You can do the same with phone calls.

I have my phone goes on to sleep mode at about 930 at night, and I don’t have notifications for emails or social media and how that on my phone? I just have phone calls and messages, but I still have that boundary with myself that it’s personal time at night. So phone goes into sleep mode. A bowl, don’t go near it. Okay.

Another one. And if I was a politician, I’d probably do something about this. Family time or loved one’s time or you time on a Sunday afternoon. The world did not go to hell in a handbag when we couldn’t do grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon, or we couldn’t go to a bar at midnight, or we couldn’t insert anything. We’re used to doing things twenty four seven and I don’t know if it’s actually doing us any good. So setting a boundary where it’s like Sunday afternoon, there’s no tech, there’s no going out, there’s no maybe it’s a Sunday roast lunch and you go for a drive, but it’s your time or your family time.

I think that’s a really good one. For personal time, I try and do it like a 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. time for the people. 05:00 p.m. to 09:00 a.m. is me and Elodie and family and loved ones kind of thing.

So that’s a really simple way of doing it as well. But having clear boundaries on that, I think is a really, really good one. Why kill you to not go to Kmart at midnight on a Thursday. Just try it. I dare you.

Another one would be social media. So one of the things in this modern world that overwhelms us so much is information. We are in information overload, whether it be news or updates on the weather, or what the latest celebrities doing, or who’s so and so going out with now. Or can you we’re all talking about Rihanna. There’s so much going on.

So set yourself boundaries around that. And if you work with the team, make sure they have the same boundaries around it as well, because you want to lead by example with this stuff. Me, for example, I have 15 minutes allotment six times a day for social media. And I will go into that 15 minutes and I’ll post, I’ll respond, I use auto posting things for some things, but I might post something native or I’ll respond to things, comment, etc., interact. And then I’m out.

15 minutes, timer goes off, I’m done skiing. A couple of hours later, it’s 15 minutes on another app. But it’s not a constant thing, okay? Doing that is critical to your mental health. I really believe that social media, that tech thing, is one of the easiest ways to feel overwhelmed in life.

And it is also one of the easiest ways that we can stop feeling overwhelmed. I think that’d be the three biggest boundaries that would be most beneficial to you, that you can do, like, straight away. Straight away. You could start the second. You could stop this Podcast now and set up a boundary with one of those things.

My tip number four is about breaking things up into smaller steps. So I talk about this when we’re in terms of goal setting, and if you’re working with a personal trainer or in that kind of realm, they’ll break up what you’re doing in terms of a fitness goal. Like you want to learn to run a marathon. They’re not going to get you to run a marathon straight away. It’s going to be around the block.  Then it’s going to be this, we’re going to build on it. And often when we’re in a state of overwhelm, we lose, almost lose our ability to actually do that. So we just have this, oh my God, I’ve got to write War and Peace. You don’t have to write War and Peace. You have to write the first word or the second chapter or 100 words, whatever it is.

So whether it’s a personal task or a household task or a business related task, even if it’s something fun, if it’s something that feels like it is a big thing, breaking it down into small steps will help reduce that stress and anxiety. It will help you stay more present. It will help you actually get it done. Because you can do that one thing, get it done, tick it off, give yourself a little metaphorical pat on the back, or a physical pat on the back if you want, and then get on to the next thing. So I’m going to give you the example of a dinner party.

I love having dinner parties, and for a lot of people, they can be really stressful events and I’m one of those lunatics. If I’m having a dinner party, I will cook three, four, five, however many things I want to cook for the first time. I’ve never made them before. It’s not like my old favorite dishes I work out. So I don’t get overwhelmed.

I will write out my menu four days in advance. I do my shopping list and check out what the cupboards the next day. I might make a dish if I can. The day before, sometimes even two days before, depending on what it is. Then on the morning of the dinner party, I’ll sit the table so I’m not rushing that evening.   I do flowers or whatever I’m trying to do, I will break it down so by the time the dinner party gets there, I can have a glass of wine, relax, and I’ve got like two things to throw in the oven. And it just feels like it’s a pleasurable experience rather than actual chore.

And whether you’re studying something or cleaning out your garage, you can chunk down any of those big things that are feeling overwhelming to you, which will just help that it’s like a sense of relief. If you’ve only got one smaller thing to do instead of ten big things, one big thing to do, rather you’re like, oh, yeah, I can actually do that. My brain in this overwhelmed state while it’s feeling just chocolate block and it’s going to explode any second. Can deal with that one thing right now.

But if I thought I had to redo my whole website today, I’m out, I’m done, can’t do it. I’m going to lie on the couch and go, it’s all too hard. Okay. I’d probably get a touch of the dramatics about it, which is what we do when we’re overwhelmed because our executive functions go on to hell in a handbag and we can’t cope with things.  I think Helena handbag may be my new favorite saying. Not sure what it means, but I’m going to keep saying it.

Okay, so my last tip, tip number five is all about you. So it’s about practicing self-care. And one of the best things you can do for self-care is to take a break, have a kick at some water, take a break, look at the stars, breathe.

But taking a break is honestly probably one of the best things you can do. Even if you’re not overwhelmed, it’s one of the best things you can do for your self care. Say you have 6 hours to get something done and you will have all done this at some point in your life. You sit at your desk and you’re like, I’ve got the 6 hours to get it done. I’m going to get it done, I’m going to get it done.

And you start stopping productive at about hour three because your brain’s gone into meltdown. Had you had a break at 50 minutes or an hour for ten minutes and come back to it, you would have extended your range of function. So taking a break is really, really important, okay? It’s not being lazy, not avoiding something. It’s really important.

You need to do it. And it’s self-care. What else is self-care? Now, yes, self-care does involve hot stone massages and facials. And ironically, I am actually sitting here with a face mask on while I record this Podcast.

Multitasking at its best. And that’s self care for me. But it doesn’t have to be that. Self-care could literally be drinking more water. Self-care could be having a stretch. Self-care could be going out into the trees and having a scream.

I like sipping my water. If I sip my water for five minutes, I can feel overwhelmed, evaporating from my coping bucket. It’s like, oh, it’s just like coffee goes into the ether. Baths, candles, yoga, mindfulness practices, meditation journaling, all of these things can be self care. Baking a cake, to me, is relaxing in a form of self care.

Okay? Find what works for you, what is going to help you take yourself out of the chaos that’s going on in your mind in that moment, doing something for yourself that can actually then enable you to get back into it. Okay? And the more you actually have self care practices in your daily routine or your daily success formula, or even if it’s just once a week, I do X, Y and Z, the easier it will be for you to deal with overwhelmed when that bucket is getting full because you can go back into yourself. You feel like you’re looked after.

One of the first things to go when we’ve got a lot on our plates is looking after ourselves. And then by the time you’ve got, I don’t know, a quarter of a way down your list of all the things you’ve got to do, you’re exhausted because you’ve spent no time filling your personal cup. It’s all just full of all that stuff. Even if you’re in Sydney at the moment when this Podcast comes out, it’s World Pride Mardi Gras in Sydney and there is so much to do. Like, it’s amazing.

It’s like Sydney when the Olympics were on or Sydney in the Mardi Gras days when that festival was just jam packed. And you know, when I was 19-20, all those ages, I literally wanted to go to everything and be everywhere and to all people. And I thought I could do it. And I don’t know, somehow I managed. Sometimes my liver certainly didn’t like me, and my bags under my eyes didn’t like me.

And at the end of the day, I ended up not having a good time because I was trying to do too many things and was incomplete overwhelmed because I didn’t want to miss out on anything because it’s all so exciting. That’s life. There are these phases in life where there is so much going on and we want to be a part of it all, whether it’s not even necessarily Fomo, we actually generally want to go and do it. Well, in order to do the most that you can do, you need to look after yourself and you need to stop that overwhelm from actually getting to the top of that bucket. So play some calming music and work out what are actually priorities to you at the moment.

Okay? Self-care. Self-care. Self-care, people. Self-care.

Oh, I’m going to give you a little bonus tip, actually. Quite often when we think we’re really, really overwhelmed, there’s actually not that much going on. It’s just our head telling us a story that there’s so much going on. So people refer to it as a brain dump, a mind dump.

You just write whatever it is in your head at that time and it’s like getting a piece of paper. I like to do different colored bits of paper. I’ll do like a personal one, a business one, a household one, and I’ll just write all the thoughts I’ve got about everything that’s got to get done about that thing at that moment. And once it’s out of my brain, I actually feel better and the overwhelms slightly diminished. And then I can take those lists and I can go, oh well, that’s irrelevant.

Get rid of it. Why would I worry about that? Or I can put them in my project management software and going back to that chunk it down thing, small steps. That’s what project management software was invented. That’s what project management is a thing, because we need to, as humans, break things down to see and have a clear plan as to what’s happening.

Okay, so I’ll just remind you about that chunking it down thing. But that’s a really good tool. Get it all out of your brain and then you might actually not feel as though it’s so overwhelming. And while you’re doing it, breathe properly and have some nice relaxing music going at the same time. Thank you so much for listening today.

Honestly, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. It’s a crappy place to be. I don’t want you to feel like one more thing is just going to tip you off over the edge. I want you to feel like you can actually deal with everything. So listen to this Podcast again, save it, take some notes and try some of these tips.

And when you get a chance, I would love it. You screenshot this episode, tag me in a post and just let me know what’s the one thing you’re concentrating on this week so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Have an extraordinary week and I will see you next time.

Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Samantha Leith Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode and wanna dive deeper into the world of personal development and what’s possible for you, then I’d love to invite you to join the club. It’s my monthly membership designed to guide and support you with the tools and the coaching you need to be extraordinary. Head on over to samanthaleith.com/theclub for more information. I’d love to see you on the inside.


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