Overwhelmed? 2 Steps to Ease

Finding peace through gratitude in the workplace

As I came back to work after a month off, I noticed myself feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of work in front of me. I felt a ton of resistance, and stress about how much work had to be done. A perfect practice ground for me! In this article, I’m going to share how I’ve been practicing with the overwhelm with some delight.

Relaxed handsome young man sitting and meditating on office chairThere are two practices that have helped me:

  1. One breath at a time.
  2. Finding delight in the task.

Let’s talk about each one.

1. One Breath at a Time

When there’s a pile of undone things, it can feel overwhelming. How in the world can we tackle all of that? It can be stressful and shut us down from actually doing the work.Young businessman working with laptop at desk, meditating, improving work - life balance, reduce office pressure, stress free

The way that I practice this is simple.

  1. First, I make a list of things I need to do. Possibly a long list. Making a simple list like this can really help get everything out in plain sight and let you know what you’re up against. This is where people often feel overwhelmed, so if you start to get stuck here, just move to the next part.
  2. Second, I make a shortlist of what I want to focus on for today. I can’t do the whole list today, so I chop it down to what I would love to accomplish for today. I try to keep this list short so I don’t feel overwhelmed, and it feels doable. If it doesn’t feel doable, make it shorter!

Ease Overwhelm One Task at a Time

Finally, I pick one task and really just focus on that. One small one, something doable that I can use to get some momentum. Then that task becomes my whole world. It’s the same as meditation—one breath at a time, one task at a time. When my mind starts to go to all the other things on the list, I simply return to that one task and give it my full focus.

Often you might still feel overwhelmed because you still have a big pile left. The way I think about it is: I have millions of breaths left to take in my life. I can’t take them all at once, nor would I want to! So I take one at a time.

One breath at a time—don’t try to take them all at once.

2. Find Delight in the TaskWoman happy with her accomplishments at work

  1. Okay, so we do one task at a time. The challenge is that it can still often feel like we’re just trying to get through the list, cranking through tasks, not really loving what we’re doing.
  2. What if you could find delight in the tasks? What if it could be an adventure or a way of expressing your love for others?
  3. As I take each task off the pile and give it my full focus, I try to find a reason why I care about this—a reason to be lit up by it, a reason to love what I’m doing and put my full self into it. I get fired up about the task—if I’m successful at finding a reason to love it, or if I even remember to try (hint: I don’t always!).
  4. Then I take it on like a man in love with life. I find the joy, the dance, the music, the adventure in the task. Every task has this possibility in it. We just need to find it.
  5. What might light you up about your next task today?


Reprinted with permission from Leo Babauta and zenhabits.net
Leo Babauta

Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. It has over a million readers.

My name is Leo Babauta. I live in Northern California with my wife and our two teenage kids (we have 4 adult kids, for a total of six!), where I eat vegan food, write, run, and read.

Recent articles


Upcoming courses

Yoga for
every body

How to Avoid the Top 3 Pitfalls of Forward Bends

With Julie Gudmedstad

Recent articles


Sorry, You have reached your
monthly limit of views

To access, join us for a free 7-day membership trial to support expanding the Pose Library resources to the yoga community.

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial