9 Things Not to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

UPDATED: September 13, 2017
PUBLISHED: September 13, 2017

Do you feel yanked around by your work, your life, or both? Does the mountain in front of you seem insurmountable? Does your list of to-do’s choke and marginalize what you have already accomplished? Do you feel overwhelmed?

Related: 11 Strategies for Managing Stress

Stress is unavoidable, but we can complicate the problem. We get involved in exacerbating it. Actually, when it comes to exacerbating stress, nothing has changed since ancient times. Even King David, more than 3,000 years ago, said, “My anxious thoughts multiply within me.”

The term “stresscalation” sums up this exponential component of stress very well. Stress begets stress. It’s downright combustible. We set ourselves up for higher levels of pressure. We involve ourselves in thoughts and behaviors that escalate it.


It’s easy to look for solutions while continuing to fall prey to its menacing effects.


Stress tips are everywhere—from how you recognize it to how you prevent it, to using it skillfully and advantageously, to how it can be relieved. Yet it’s easy to look for solutions while continuing to fall prey to its menacing effects.

So although it’s helpful to know what to do, the counterproductive things we usually do get in the way of the productive things we should do. Which is why we need to deal with stress via negativa—by eliminating the negative.

Related: 9 Ways to Say No to Negativity

Here’s what not to do when you feel overwhelmed. Or in other words, if you want to increase your stress, here are nine ways to do it.

1. Think negatively. This is particularly effective, especially if you make it about yourself personally.

2. Isolate and amplify that thought when something bad happens. Don’t let any positive thoughts interrupt your catastrophic mindset.

3. When worrying, stop your simulated thinking at the point of greatest dire impact. After all, worry is like a movie. So make sure you stop the movie before it’s finished. This will help you keep the dread and anxiety at an optimum level.

4. Live in the future. We are the only animal on earth that can experience the future before it arrives. It’s like a built-in flight simulator. We can experience ourselves crashing over and over again, even though it hasn’t really happened. Forget about “now.” After all, “now” will soon be “then.” So live in the future because it is yet to come. Brilliant!

5. Promote GMC behavior (Gripe, Moan and Complain). Actually, our research has found that the louder and longer, the better.

6. Procrastinate. Why do now what you could do tomorrow? Postpone working on that project, paper or problem. After all, you might miss the thrill of an overtime sudden-death finale. You’ll be forfeiting that heart-pumping, brain-racing, anxiety level feeling. Why miss that thrill?

7. Eliminate margin. When leaving for an appointment, make sure that the exact time you leave is the exact time you’re supposed to arrive. This is particularly a great technique for stresscalation. The lack of margin is the gasoline on the fire.

8. Get anxious. When you miss the deadline, make sure you panic. Being a non-anxious presence won’t help you multiply the stress. We suggest you panic. It is particularly helpful to start screaming and moaning, getting angry with others and finding someone else to blame. Blame is a great tool for pain-redistribution. Tantrums and scapegoating are particularly rewarding.

One more and we’re through!

9. Hang onto slights and irritability. Keep feeding them, growing them and holding them close to your heart. To escalate them is to multiply them, and that will keep your stress level growing.

Now that you recognize how to multiply your stresses, you can choose your behavior. I have found it to be helpful to extrapolate current behaviors into the future. It shows what will happen if present behavior isn’t altered. And that is a great deterrent.

Related: Use These Mental Techniques When Your Brain Is Overwhelmed


This post originally appeared on LeadershipTraQ.com.

Mick Ukleja, Ph.D., is the founder and president of LeadershipTraQ. He empowers leaders to optimize their talent and equips them to excel in their professional and personal life. Mick is an author, speaker and generational strategist. He writes and speaks on engaging millennials at work. He is the co-author of Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce, 2nd Edition, which is used in corporate training and business schools. He co-founded the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach, which promotes ethics across the curriculum. Mick is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Concordia University. His book Who Are You? What Do You Want? has been praised by legendary coach John Wooden: “I have always taught that success can be achieved by each one of us. These principles provide an excellent life-planning guide for bringing out your best.” Mick has been featured on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business Network, NBC and in numerous publications. Keep up with Mick at Leadershiptraq.com.