How to tame overwhelm in three steps

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by Debra Dane on July 29, 2014

in Priorities

Right now I have a lot going on in my life. It is not just that I am busy, but rather that it feels like I am spinning so many plates at the same time.

With all that spinning I was constantly feeling overwhelmed. My brain was overloaded with too many areas of focus that tested me daily.

What needed to get done next?
How many emails, phone calls, action steps?
Where to start with a project?
What decisions needed to be made?

All of this applied to my different zones and projects- home, blog, study, business, kids, travel, visitors we were hosting, friends/ family, pets, and more.

Just when I was on the verge of hyperventilating I caught my breath and remembered a tool I enjoy using from time to time – the mind map.

This is how I went from overwhelm to calm to action in three steps.

Step 1 – mind map brain dump

I often brain dump the contents of my mind into a list, but this time I knew I needed more than a list.

For every area of your life or projects you have on the boil create a single mind map.
In the centre of your map is the topic/area/project in a circle.
From that central circle draw spokes for any related tasks or steps of your topic/project.
If there are sub steps or related tasks group them as various spokes off the same circle.
I use a circle any time something has more steps. Single tasks remain out of a circle.

The beauty in mind mapping a brain dump instead of simply creating a master list is you can keep adding notes as you think of new tasks, realise something is actually a multi step project instead of a single task and just add all the steps. It is fluid and can grow as you the things through.

In my mind map example you can see how this worked within my business and website brain dumps below.

mind map biz


Step 2- prioritise

The second step requires going through all the tasks you noted in your mind map.
Put a star next to anything that needs to happen next. It can be more than one project, but most likely just a single action within that project.

In my home mind map you can see in various areas I have starred what is most pressing. This separates what is weighing on my mind from what needs to be dealt with here and now.

mind map home


This step is a big part of relieving the stress and overwhelm. A lot of what occupies our thoughts needs to simply be captured and held while we focus on what is important RIGHT NOW.

Step 3- make an action list

Take all your starred items from your various mind maps and create your action list. Depending on how many tasks that is you may need to prioritise them. For myself I took all of my started items and spread them over the course of my week ahead.

Bonus step 4- as new things come up in the week you can add them to your mind maps. You can refer back to the mind maps to update your to do lists as you go forward in the week /month, shuffle as you go.

This tool is excellent for brain dumping, brain storming and brain organising.


Have you ever used a mind map? Do you use brain dumps to get everything out on paper?


Love and light,

Deb xx


linking up with Jess for IBOT 

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The fact that this year is flying by is made even more obvious by the fact that it took me until late July to do my half year review.

My word of the year is nourish and you can read previous posts about it here.

I love my word! I love how simple it is and how it truly helps me make decisions and guide my path.

A word can only do so much for me though and there are still areas I am struggling it with this year. Above all else though I am learning to nourish myself through down times and stress so my lack of literal nourishment at times (ie food) is made up for with spiritual nourishment (ie self care and positive self talk).


My self talk, as I said, is mostly positive, which is important in nourishing myself and accepting / embracing imperfection.

For the 3rd quarter I want to make time to read PAPER books more so I am away from devices in the evening and first thing in the morning.


Seriously lacking right now – gained weight, barely getting to yoga, not replaced gym membership with anything, poor food choices too often.

Plan for 3rd quarter: I have signed up with Operation Move for their learn to run training group program. I felt I needed accountability and other people paid to push me along. Since I am much busier this year exercise is easy to cut out. Running is efficient and my goal is 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes of running. I used to run a 5km fairly well so am hopeful I will finally get a running routine going.

operation move learn to run


Not too bad. We had planned to renovate but the bank has other ideas so we are debating some small projects and continuing to make it more us in the meantime. Frustrations will have to wait for next year to be tackled.

For the 3rd quarter I want to do the last of the decluttering and re-organising the spaces. I also vow to finally dive in and paint some of our old dark wood furniture bold colours. We have nothing to lose as they are 15 years old and I currently hate them.

Family/ relationships

Just enjoying a month long visit from my sister which has been great.
Thanks to her visit hubby and I have had 2 date nights, one of which was a 24 hour stay in a city hotel, dinner etc. Pre-dinner hubby and I chatted for an hour and half over a bottle of red – first block of time like that in months.

For 3rd quarter: more focused attention on hubby. Plans underway for weekend swaps with a friend who also has 2 girls who my kids love. We will each get a weekend away between now and end of the year.

Later this year I am flying by myself to NYC to visit my sister, family and friends. Will be so nice to connect with them all and have 9 days to focus on myself, buying supplies for my jewelry business, and reconnecting with my home city!


I mentioned in this post that I have been binging on the creativity buffet this year. I have been taking workshops, online classes, reading books, participating in challenges and swaps, taking up new hobbies and crafts. I feel truly connected to the creative scenes both in Brisbane and online.

In the 3rd quarter I need to pull back a little as much of my creative energy needs to be directed finally at producing my first range of jewelry to be launched later this year.

My non work goals are to do some crocheting (just learning), work on my embroidery travel map from sconnie and jam, keep drawing and art journaling.

Sconnie and Jam wall map for stitch your own adventure

Goals (business dreams)

I am in the throws of the business side of launching inner compass designs – business planning, creating a brief for graphic design work, planning out details like packaging and production.

3rd quarter is continuation of that and about setting up my home studio finally. My hope is to (fingers crossed) be ready with a soft launch to family, friends and my email list by September sometime with full launch after my late October return from NYC. Send vibes and prayers if you have them.

Nowhere has my nourish word been more important than in this area of my life – trying to birth a creative dream is challenging, draining, scary, full of self doubt one day and confidence another, then back to sheer terror and so on.

Three or four months ago I was pessimistic about my ability to fight through those negative days, but something definitely shifted and now it is mostly about how and when, not if. I do believe a big part of that shift has been my constant return to “nourish” which has prevented me sabatoging myself too much.

When I feel like quitting I reach out to supportive friends or someone new appears in my life (most recently an offer of a month’s coaching with an artist I follow).

Do you have a guiding word? What is it and how is everything going for you?
It is never too late to pick a word or set some goals and intentions.

Love and light
Deb xx


linking up with Jess for  IBOT


image credits from the sources: wall map from Sconnie and Jam shop, Operation Move owned by them.

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