Case Story: Samantha

In this section I present just a few of the clients who have used the strategies in this book to end their sense of being overwhelmed. You will see that their overwhelm shifts by shifting themselves – their patterns of LAB and their beliefs – rather than by changing the outside world. I share their stories in the hope that you will see that no matter your situation, you, too, can end your overwhelm now. The tools that supported each client in their shift are in bold text. You can find interviews and more stories on our website:


Samantha was an interior designer who was generally well organized. She kept most of her to-do list on a spreadsheet, which made it very easy to see what needed to be addressed. Despite her organized approach to life, she came to one of our calls incapacitated by overwhelm.

We quickly moved to the Organize step of the STORIES process. When asked the question, “What specifically is causing the feeling of overwhelm right now,” Samantha replied with five answers which we wrote down. The first four were specific, manageable tasks. The fifth item on the list was, “Learn everything there is to know about” followed by an extremely complex computer program she needed for work. No wonder Samantha was overwhelmed! People spend years learning all the nuances of this program, and Shelley was trying to squeeze it in between taking care of the hundreds of details required by her busy practice and demanding clients.

That one task, with an unrealistic expectation that she “learn everything,” triggered the “it’s too much” feeling. It was enough to put Shelley into “freeze” mode.

So what we did was break down the single item that was her tipping point into overwhelm. We started by identifying several resources to manage the task so that it didn’t feel like it was all too much. First, she reminded herself that she didn’t have to learn the program today, or even this week. Next, she acknowledged out loud that she had a clear plan for learning the new program, and that she was already registered for a class that would further help her. Much of Samantha’s sense of overwhelm was resolved simply by recognizing the pressure she was putting on herself, clarifying if any of the pressure was real (is this true?), making a plan and identifying the resources to support her.

Using just a few steps of the STORIES process took about 15 minutes, and ended the hours of overwhelm Samantha had experienced. Once we had interrupted her pattern of overwhelm, Samantha was able to remember a classic Confucius quote that she sometimes shared with her design clients: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”


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