Overwhelm has got to be one of the most prevalent and debilitating feelings a person can experience. It can range from bouncing between browser tabs, accomplishing only 10 seconds of work at a time, to full blown paralysis that results in copious Netflix-watching and take-out-ordering.

Overwhelm causes you to focus on absolutely nothing (or all the wrong things), accomplish very little, and feel like crap about that. Overwhelm makes you feel like you should be doing a bajillion-and-one things, while wondering “what.the.fuck. am I supposed to do first?!” It’s a downward spiral of unchecked to-do lists, endless Facebook scrolling, and December 31 realizations of “oh man, where did the year go?”

You can get overwhelmed in one specific area of your life (your business, your marriage, your propensity for eating Haagen Dazs instead of carrots), or you might just generally feel like, “Ugh! I’m so over EVERYTHING!” Doesn’t matter how it’s showing up; overwhelm is a beast that must be slayed if you want to lead a happy and productive life (says woman who has experienced nearly every form of overwhelm possible).

Learn the 5 sneaky reasons you feel so overwhelmed in your small business and what to do about them (do you have a brutal inner critic? That's one reason you're overwhelmed!).

I could give you 10 strategies for ditching overwhelm, but I think it’s important to really understand where the overwhelm comes from so you become more aware of the actual CAUSE of your feelings (I’m not big on patches because things have a way of leaking out around the edges of your patch).

Lack of balance

Creating a balanced life is all about feelings. You may feel balanced if you spend 10 hours working, 30 minutes exercising, and 2 hours playing with your kids. But another person’s definition of balance may involve 4 hours of working, an hour of exercise, and every waking moment after that hanging out with their kids.

Take stock of every facet of your life.

How do you actually FEEL about them individually? How much time or energy you spend there is irrelevant, only how you perceive that area to be functioning in your life matters. Give attention (time and energy) to the facets of life that are feeling out of whack (neglected), and don’t worry about what someone else’s definition of balance looks like.

Which brings us to…

Comparison

You’ve probably heard others talk about how social media is like a highlight reel of everyone else’s life. You might be guilty of scrolling through a new Facebook friend’s (couple hundred) photos, just to see how you stack up against them. You might read income reports from other entrepreneurs and wonder what on earth is wrong with you and your business.

Dig into why you’re comparing yourself to others. Are you just curious or looking for inspiration? Or are you looking for another reason to beat yourself up?

Comparison itself isn’t dangerous, but the judgment that often quickly follows a comparison is a slippery slope into not feeling “good enough,” and that’s what feeds your…

Brutal inner critic

Your inner critic is the voice in your head that usually starts all questions with “why” or “how come.”

“Why don’t I have more customers?”

“Why can’t I focus on anything?”

“How come SHE is able to stay at home with her kids, make $10k a month, live in a gorgeous house with a Ryan-Reynolds’-doppelganger husband, and take afternoon naps?!”

“WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!”

(Note: there is probably little you can do about the hot-spouse thing… my apologies.)

These thoughts sometimes come so quickly that they run into one another – you haven’t even finished thinking one thought, and the next one is already forming.

Turn off the track that’s stuck on repeat. Slow down your thinking, and consciously choose what you’re using your neurons for. Know what it is you’re working on at that precise moment (even if you’re “working on” building an epic Mega Bloks tower or chopping onions for dinner), and why. If that’s tough to do, it’s because you have…

No (or the wrong) priorities

There is no substitute for knowing what you want out of your life (this workbook can help you do that). And don’t fool yourself – this is always needing refinement. Your huge dreams and values probably won’t change much, but your interim priorities shift regularly (a few times a year or so… not weekly) based on your circumstances and accomplishments. These priorities should directly help you fulfill your vision and live in alignment with your values.

If they don’t, why are they your priorities? Have you assumed someone else’s priorities as your own? Are you simply reacting and responding to everything that comes up?

Get clear on what you want on a lifelong scale and then boil it down to your priorities for the next 3-6 months. Ask yourself, every day (EVERY.DAY!), if what you’re doing is directly contributing to those priorities.

On the same token, don’t form…

Unrealistic expectations

The number one cause of unrealistic expectations (of ourselves) is impatience.

We channel our inner four-year-old and get all, “BUT I WANT IT NOOOOOOOW!”

Tough.shit. (If only I could tell my kids this…)

Marathon runners would love to be at mile 25 when they start, but then that wouldn’t be the start, now, would it? Business owners would love to earn {number of epic proportions}, but it’s not happening until they have something to sell and actually SELL IT.

You’ll get completely overwhelmed if you try to start somewhere you’re not. That’s not to say you can’t make fast progress, but progress, by definition, implies one foot in front of the other… movement from one place (where you are now) to another (where you want to be).

The only thing you can expect of yourself is to take the NEXT step, not the next 30.

Look, this list isn’t to imply that you’ll never get overwhelmed. Things happens. Other people’s lives bubble over into your own. Thirty unexpected “catastrophes” happen in one week while your husband is away on business and your nanny has an appendectomy. But the day-in-day-out, always-on-the-verge-of-losing-your-shit feeling can be avoided by digging into these five areas.