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Feeling Overwhelmed? How To Crush Your Anxiety (Right Now)

If you want to know how to stop feeling overwhelmed, here’s some of the best tips on how you can deal with anxiety immediately in 2020.

Ramit Sethi

So you want to know how to stop feeling overwhelmed and start dealing with that anxiety…

Well, are you tired of people blowing smoke up our generation’s asses and not telling us the truth?

  • LIE #1: Parents telling their kids that they can be anything they want (even kids who never built the discipline to finish their homework)

  • LIE #2: TV “experts” — and even the government! — telling us that buying a house is the best investment

  • LIE #3: Our friends telling us to “be yourself” and people will be attracted to you — totally neglecting the part about improving yourself so you’re attracting the right people.

The best time to build healthy habits was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Download my Ultimate Guide to Habits to get started TODAY.

Your Surrogate Asian Father will never lie to you. You might not like what I have to say, and I might make you uncomfortable enough to unsubscribe (which is fine with me). But I’ll always tell you the truth.

Yesterday, I got over 1,000 emails from people who wanted to ask me about their deepest problems during Ramit’s Therapy Week. You know what’s interesting?

A lot of people told me about their anxiety and how they were dealing with it — ‘I can’t follow through, I don’t know how to deal with my unsupportive family, I think I’m incapable of starting something new since I’m so afraid of failure’ — and I answered a lot of them by email.

But a lot of people CLEARLY knew what their problem was. They obviously think about it every day, and they’re quite adept at knowing exactly what’s holding them back. So I wrote back with 8 words:

“So what? What are you going to do?”

90% of them never wrote back.


You sitting there and saying, “I’m really afraid and anxious about life” isn’t shit. Anyone can admit their problem. That’s the BEGINNING of the process. It takes real work to actually start fixing it.

For example, notice this: You’ll never hear a top performer say they’re “overwhelmed”.

Someone using that word is effectively raising their hand and saying “I’m not a top performer and I’m probably not going to do the thing I’m complaining about.”

Like anyone, top performers get overwhelmed. But if you listen closely to how they describe their challenges, they always add something to the end of their sentence: “Yeah, I’m swamped right now, and it’s overwhelming, but I started waking up 30 minutes earlier so I can answer emails before my family wakes up.”

In other words, IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO JUST ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PROBLEM. You have to DO something about it.

The good news is, you can change the way you think about yourself. If you’re a chronic “non-finisher,” I can show you how to change that and deal with your anxiety. Just imagine how it would feel to stop calling yourself “lazy” or “unmotivated” and to know that when you say you’re going to do something, you’ll actually do it.

Today is Day 3 of Therapy Week with your Unemotional, Gruff, Yet Secretly Caring Surrogate Asian Father, Ramit.

“I get super passionate about something… and then after a couple of days I don’t really care anymore”


If too many to-dos and too many options are giving you anxiety attacks, follow Ramit’s Rules of Letting Go:

The best time to build healthy habits was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Download my Ultimate Guide to Habits to get started TODAY.

How to stop feeling overwhelmed: Ramit’s Rules of Letting Go

Let go of “should do”s that you don’t actually care about

In the scheme of all the things you want to do, do you really care about this? When I went to my cousin’s wedding in India a few years ago, I saw one of my friends order his food in fluent Hindi, and I thought, “Hmm…I should take Hindi lessons.” But when I got back to NYC, I put it on my to-do list, only to skip over it for months. The truth is, I really didn’t care enough to do anything. It wasn’t important enough. When I acknowledged I wasn’t going to do it and crossed it off my list, I could focus on doing the things I wanted to do.

Let go of feeling guilty

STOP LYING TO YOURSELF! Do you really care about learning how to kiteboard? Or is it just because that random guy you met told you how fun it was, and you said, “Yeah, I need to do that”? Life is short. It’s OK to use this exact script: “That sounds really interesting, but I’ve decided not to tackle that right now so I can focus on a couple other things I want to do this year.” Nobody is making you feel guilty except YOU. We realistically have the time to learn maybe three new major things per year. Do you really want this to be one of them?

Let go of waiting for inspiration to strike:

Inspiration is for amateurs. I wake up every morning, rain or shine, feeling great or sore, and I get to work. Not because I’m a machine, or a better person than anyone, but because I have systems that I depend on — not willpower or inspiration.

The emailer above, Cristina, says she wants to find a new job. Really? Let’s see how she describes her job hunt: “I was in ‘I hate my job’ mood, so I applied…”

Her own language betrays her. Depending on a “mood” or “inspiration” is what dilettantes, unemployed Brooklyn writers, and unprofitable life coaches (redundant?) do.

Waiting for inspiration to strike is a quick way to randomly pursue something, then give up, only to yo-yo back a couple weeks later, eventually leading you to hate yourself. Trust me, I have enough hate for all of you. I really don’t need you to hate yourself.

Instead of depending on fleeting motivation, build a SYSTEM to deal with this anxiety. This means you work through the steps of finding a new job, add it to your calendar every week, and make sure you have the time and mental energy (which are much easier once you know what to do). If Cristina were serious, she would know that I cover all of this in my Dream Job program.

Here’s an example of a system:


Look at this one:


This is a random to-do that I would normally put in the back of my head…and it would never get done. Instead, I added it to my calendar so it always gets done. Advanced tip: You can set up weekly, monthly, and quarterly “to-dos” for things like reviewing your systems, planning an annual negotiation, or even checking in on your relationship.

These are some of the tactics you can use to conquer anxiety, overwhelm, laziness and procrastination. But they barely scratch the surface of the full arsenal of tools I use. If you want more please check out my FREE Ultimate Guide to Habits.

*     *     *

P.S. You know how I normally ask you to comment with your response to a question? I don’t want you to comment today.

I want you to sit quietly for 30 seconds and think about what it would mean to actually FINISH what you start and deal with your anxiety. To know that you could commit to things and TRUST yourself to follow through. How would it feel? What would it mean to your life? Think about it — and then sign up for the Insider’s List above and I’ll add you to the Finisher’s Formula waitlist. You’ll be the first to hear about it when I open the course for enrollment in the future.

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  1. avatar

    What about times when you set up the system (like you did in the article with a calendar) but then ignore it. I have calendar items and phone alerts, and I just ignore them.

  2. avatar


    Over\under on the number of people that will post their email address requesting more information about Finisher’s Formula?

  3. avatar

    “Trust me, I have enough hate for all of you”. Ramit, you are hilarious and keep too real. I feel some of your frustration comes from some of us overcomplicating things when it could be a lot more simple. I get mad at myself when I start to do that. I have gotten mad at my job before and went into “I’ll show them, I’m getting a new job” mode, but the truth is they could honestly not give an eff if I go. They would just replace and keep it moving . Annnd these mofos have blocked access to Somebody’s ass doesn’t want me to be rich I see. Anyway, I’m about to a single mom to a baby girl in 3 wks or less. My whole focus is changing. Thank you for the hate and tough love, Ramit.

  4. avatar
    Robb Gorringe


    I think you’re right— we LIE to ourselves too often. We’ve got so many things on our lists, that we’ll NEVER get to them. Instead of just trimming the fat and moving on, it ends up weighing us down with undue guilt & overwhelm.


  5. avatar

    Just the other day I said I was going to write a blog. Wrote a few small intro posts, and haven’t done anything since. I’m going to add it into Gneo (my to do app), and make it an important activity to do once a week for an hour, probably by waking up earlier.

  6. avatar

    Ramit, I’m interested in knowing what the sales of each of your
    books are at.

  7. avatar
    Ca m

    You need a babysitter, not another system.

  8. avatar

    I find that getting up early to write blog posts is the best technique for making it happen (if you leave it for ‘sometime’ during the day, other work will take priority). Start with just once a week – say Wed – and block out 5.30-6.30am (putting a time limit on it helps me write faster and with greater clarity). You could even give yourself a head start (and mentally psyche yourself up/commit to the early start) by doing the post outline before you go to bed the night before. When the alarm goes at 5.30 you’ll be ready to jump right in.

  9. avatar

    Thanks for the reply Cam. I was getting up early to go to the gym, but have decided to change that (gym is way too busy), so instead of my routine being wake, coffee, gym, it’ll be wake, coffee, write. I’m only writing short posts, quick thoughts, and have about 20 topics to write about already done, so I’m well on my way. I’m trying to get enough posts together so if something goes badly wrong, I have posts to cover me.

  10. avatar
    Jon Maroni

    Love the point about letting of the should you don’t really want to do. Just because I should work out in the morning doesn’t mean that I’m going to do that. I’m glad to be at a place where I’m able to be honest about what I want and don’t want to do.

  11. avatar
    Daniel Eskin

    Whoever finds this post resonates with what they are looking to accomplish, this video has been one of the most impactful ones on my psychology to-date:

  12. avatar
    Kelly Anderson


    How about LIE #4: Parents and the educational system telling their kids to ‘go to college and get a degree so you can get a great job earning lots of money and retire from said job and be secure in your old age’.

    Also–It never occurred to me that “checking in on your relationship” should or could be something scheduled–what a great idea. Its easy to take relationships for granted; I’ll start scheduling relationship maintenance from now on. Thanks, Ramit!

  13. avatar
    Ben Oerwhelmed

    I’ve been struggling with overwhelm for months now. We have had to move my mother in law out of her house and in to assisted living. Trying to coordinate all the pieces has been very time consuming and stressful. In our case her old and new locations are both over 70 miles from home. I feel like we live on the freeway some days.

    I have learned some valuable lessons…

    1. Just because it makes sense on paper doesn’t mean it will work in real life. Emotions, fear, and disagreements all come to play and the final outcome is usually very different than my best laid plans. I’ve had to learn to be flexible and patient.
    2. Things always take longer than expected. I now take my time estimates and multiply them by a factor of 2 or sometimes 3. (3x is especially true if the government or red tape is involved)
    3. There is no training for life. You learn as you go along. I’ve been lucky to have some very wise mentors (yourself included) whose wisdom has been invaluable in the tough times.

    Over the past few days I’ve found myself in a daze. I finally decided to make an overarching complete to-do list of all the things that I want to do or have to do over the next few months. I’m usually pretty good at making lists, but they are usually compartmentalized… work, home, blog etc. I just started writing and tried to put everything that came to mind on the list. I was amazed how long it took and how hard it was to get everything on paper. It is a very long list.

    As David Allen says if it’s rattling around in your head and not written down, it is consuming mental energy. Just the act of making a COMPLETE list has helped immensely. I put this list in Evernote and add or subtract as things come up. Using this big list, it’s now easier to prioritize using my top 6 daily planner.

    My next step is to take this list and put time and resource requirements in with each item. Your list above will help me prune this list into something manageable. Can you recommend a good project or priority tool that isn’t too complicated, that can help with an overall plan? Years ago I used David Allen’s plugin for Outlook, but I’m sure there are better tools now.

  14. avatar

    Ramit, thanks for this post, and Daniel, thanks for linking that video. All very helpful. Good karma for you.

  15. avatar
    Noping Fromthisbull

    Your example schedule has vacation time on it. Clearly not the top performer’s schedule you elude to. Either that, or I know an entirely different tier of top performers from you.

    But still, congrats to you. I finally found something underwhelming. Your sympathy.

  16. avatar

    Daniel, great post, thanks for sharing!

  17. avatar

    “Trust me, I have enough hate for all of you. I really don’t need you to hate yourself.” LOL

    Good post, interesting to read about the section on learning around 3 major things per year…

    I keep daily lists to get things done – a sports coach once taught me this as I struggled with depression and getting out of bed even. It was and still is one of the best tips of getting things done on a daily basis, even down to doing the laundry. I also time myself – I can cook, but don’t enjoy it, so I time myself and move quickly, this seems to help!

  18. avatar

    It’s a great, relevant video. Thanks very much Daniel!

  19. avatar

    Thank you for this Daniel!!

    Also thought I would share the below blog, as I think anyone who related to this article and responded to the tone might enjoy it :

  20. avatar
    Don’t Let Your Analytics Overwhelmed You (How to Deal with Anxiety) - Practico Analytics

    […] Ramit Sethi has a great quote on how waiting for inspiration can be your downfall: […]

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    ferari poker

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