Overwork, over-give, over-extend, overwhelm
Overwork, over-give, over-extend, overwhelmFeeling overwhelmed?  There can be many reasons for overwhelm.  However, in this article, I am going to write about the 3 O’s:  Overwork, over-give, overextend.  If you do one or more of these, you will end up with feelings of overwhelm at some point.  And overwhelm can lead to burnout or even breakdown.  These can take a year or more to recover from.  It serves you well to tackle these issues now before these issues tackle you.

Let’s take a look at each:


Ths is a big one for me and many of my clients.  There can be a number of reasons. And it creates overwhelm.

Probably the biggest reason is a perfectionist streak.  This is perhaps linked to a love of positive feedback or a dread of negative feedback.  Sadly (or rightly), perfection is not a human condition.  Yet it doesn’t stop many people tying themselves in knots trying to achieve it.

Related to this, I have noticed more and more people having a strong desire for positive feedback.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to receive a compliment from someone, or a ‘well-done’.  But to need it is something else:  it shows a sense of insecurity that is only softened on receiving some kind of affirmation from others.  This is the opposite of feeling empowered (though it may feel empowering for a while) and means you are constantly at the mercy of others.

Another reason people overwork is so that when they are finished with everything on their to-do list, they can finally relax.  That sounds sensible until you realise that there is always far more on your to-do list than there is time to do them.  Another reason is that people are just used to asking you to do things they can’t trust others to do because they know you will put in the hours.  But that isn’t sustainable, and it means they aren’t respecting you or your time.  Nor are you.  It is teaching others how to treat you.

Helpful strategy

The strategy which can make the biggest difference in this complex subject is to be really strict about the time you spend working and start doing more for you.

We are human beings, not human doings.  Balance is the only thing which is sustainable.

On a personal note, my parents always taught me to work hard.  It is imprinted on every cell in my body.  But they didn’t mean for me to work this hard.  I have this “I will relax when I get it all done” mindset.  Crazyness.  It was not until they both passed away that I decided to listen to the spirit of their work hard philosophy and, at this late age, learn how to accept that I can’t do it all, I’m not designed to do it all and that it’s OK not to do it all.  It has helped enormously.  But it’s a crying shame it took the death of both parents for me to apply the spirit of their message and cut myself some slack.


Are you someone who over-gives?  You may be caught up in the role of rescuer as others take advantage of your kindness and generosity.  Or, you may be someone who needs to be needed. I have seen this with parents in particular (of adults as well as children).  What they are doing is creating children who find it difficult to cope or don’t take responsibility because they have this magical support system that appears to save them from any and every challenge.  So they don’t fulfil their potential.  And nor do you.  Life is stressful for them.  And for you.  Who would you be, or what would you be doing, if you empowered others (in an age-appropriate way) to be the best version of themselves without doing it for them?

Helpful strategy

Boundaries are an important solution to consider here.  Though not always easy, it is what will make the biggest difference.  Look at what’s your responsibility and what is the other person’s if you had healthy boundaries.  Ask yourself what you are teaching people about how to treat you and whether that is respectful of you and your needs. Also what you are teaching them about life.


This is where you promise more than you can comfortably give or you find yourself signing up to more than you have time to do, leaving you frazzled and fraught.  This is either because you can’t say no, you have fear of missing out, or because your mind is not focused and you tend to get carried away with lots of ideas, invitations and options.  This may be borne of a need to have it all, or a naive belief that you can do it all.

Helpful strategy

A solution which makes the biggest difference here is build in a strong contingency of time for every commitment.  For example, if someone asks you to a lunch at 1pm but you are in a meeting from 10-12.30, assume the meeting will either overrun or you will have problems getting to the lunch venue.  Who hasn’t been stuck in a traffic jam when they are in a rush?.  Then say that you can’t make that day for lunch but perhaps suggest another.  Or just accept this is one you won’t be able to do.


The solutions provided in this article may or may not help with your specific experience of the problem (there are so many variables).  But, hopefully they give you an insight into how you can ease the burden so you reduce overwhelm.  There are many more options, depending on you, your circumstances and what you are trying to achieve.

Going deeper

If you have tried and failed to beat these problems on your own, whatever the cause of your overwork, over-giving, and over-extending, coaching and/or therapy can move you into the righ place.  Therapy helps to overcome obstacles of the past whereas coaching helps you build the future.  You may, instead, want to work in the privacy of your own mind on the blocks that have you stuck in the pattern which is not serving you.  If you sense this to be the case, you might want to check out this one-day workshop and this retreat.  What I teach in them will help to dissolve the unconscious drivers that create the pattern and to create new, healthier patterns of being and doing.

If you have any questions or want a  no-obligation chat on how to overcome overwhelm and any or all of the 3 O’s, do get in touch.  You’ll be glad you did.


Tricia Woolfrey



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PPS  I saw an article written by Alanis Morisette where she talked about overwork, over-giving and overextend and I thought they were a great way to look at overwhelm.