Techniques to Reduce Overwhelm

One of our clients is the Chief of Staff at a hospital in the US. She asked us to pull together a list of quick and simple techniques she could share with her team to help them build personal resiliency and reduce overwhelm. And she truly meant quick and simple. These were going to be used by doctors, nurses, and frontline health care workers in the midst of a pandemic. Here is what I shared with her and her team. Each one takes less than a few minutes. I invite you to try out a few and incorporate one or two that resonate with you into your daily routine.


  • Deep Breath: Inhale deeply and drop your shoulders.
  • Box breathing: Breathe in for the count of 5, hold for the count of 5, breathe out for the count of 5, hold for the count of 5, repeat for one minute. 
  • Three Deep Breaths: in through the nose, out through the mouth.


  • Positive thought: if you notice you are having a negative thought, try to think of two positive thoughts. We are hardwired to look out for the negative, we have to practice looking out for the positive.
  • Notice: What am I thinking right now? Is it serving me? What is in my control?
  • Reflect: What new thing did I try today? How did it go? What worked well, what didn’t? What’s the most useful thing I learned today? 
  • RULER: Recognize emotion. Notice you are experiencing it.  Understand cause & consequences (what happened to make me feel this way? What will be the consequences of feeling this way?  Label it, (name it to tame it! – I am feeling anxiety)  Express it (Let it out – say it, make a noise), Regulate it. (Take action: Journal, exercise, meditation, breathing)
  • Mindfulness – try out a 5-minute meditation some apps to look into are Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace. 
  • Journal: Use a journal to write down 3 things you were grateful for, and 3 things you are looking forward to.    


  • Physical transitions: use physical transitions like opening a door or a drawer as a trigger to take a deep breath and exhale/relax your physical self. Pick one common action and use it as a transition mindfulness tool.
  • Smell something strong (but pleasant): Deeply inhale the smell of something strong like coffee beans, cloves, flowers.
  • Change the signal:: Change your ringtones, alerts to sounds that make you happy. 
  • Change the sound: Blare your favourite song, put on your favourite playlist, or turn off the music, be intentional in what you hear.
  • Change the smell: Light a candle you like, heat up some vanilla and water. 
  • Visualize: Think of a place that makes you calm. Picture yourself there, what do you see, feel, smell, notice?


  • 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. 
  • Habit Pairing: Every time you do something you already do regularly such as eat, drink a glass of water, stand up, brush your teeth, pause to take a deep breath.
  • Go outside: if you can – go outside (while social distancing). 
  • Journal: Use a journal to write down 3 things you are grateful for, and 3 things you are looking forward to. 

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