Power Tool: Empowered vs.Overwhelmed

Case Studies

A Coaching Power Tool Created by Keely Capel
(Business Coach, PORTUGAL)


In today’s modern world women’s roles have expanded exponentially. Once only caregivers and homemakers, women now often fulfill multiple roles, sometimes more than their male counterparts. Whilst still primarily the caregiver for children or elderly family members, in addition to managing a home they hold career aspirations, lead teams, and/or run businesses of their own.

Managing the work-life balance is just one of the goals highlighted in a 2014 Global Consumer study commissioned by the ICF brought to coaching by women and often it is seen that they are in a sense of overwhelm with the main tasks, responsibilities, and goals that they are trying to achieve.

This power tool is designed to place distance between the client and they are overwhelming, enabling them to reframe their perspective, gain clarity around what actions are required, and thus empower them to take the action needed to achieve a sense of freedom and flexibility.


What is the meaning of overwhelmed?

Overwhelm: To be too much to deal with, to also cause someone to feel a sudden strong emotion. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Being overwhelmed is more than just being stressed. It can leave you completely submerged in a tide of your thoughts and emotions. Creating a sense of paralysis, feeling “stuck” even when you think you have a clear objective.

When confronted with overwhelming, it can be hard to think, feel, or act rationally. Under an immense amount of pressure, that there is too, much to deal with it can create feelings of sadness and fears of failure

Overwhelm could be viewed as “failing ahead of time”. Often accompanied by very strong emotions, not only does this embody the client’s thoughts. These emotions very often overflow into to cause symptoms within the physical state as well.

In the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the researcher determined that the relationship between the positive things we dream of; such as outstanding personal achievements were significant enough in creating the sense of overwhelm that they ranked it #25 on the list of life events and the likelihood of getting sick.

What is the meaning of empowerment?

Empowerment: The process of gaining freedom and power to do what you want or to control what happens to you.

Empowerment is used abundantly in many forms of society, from poverty and women’s liberation to coaching and psychology. It has been classified as a multi-dimensional social process, for use in communication and by organizations to support their employees to adopt new behaviors.

The author of Empowerment, Participation and social work, Robert Adams, offers a minimal definition:  ‘Empowerment: the capacity of individuals, groups and/or communities to take control of their circumstances, exercise power and achieve their own goals, and the process by which, individually and collectively, they can help themselves and others to maximize the quality of their lives.

Whilst Rappaport’s (1984) definition includes:

Empowerment is viewed as a process: the mechanism by which people, organizations, and communities gain mastery over their lives.

Being empowered is a powerful state, in which we come to recognize that control is within our power and we are capable of affecting the outcome of our life. Through recognizing that you have choices and those choices matter, we free ourselves from shifting the blame from an external source and place the responsibility of achievement within ourselves.

It allows us to release the feelings of being scared and confused by making conscious choices by embracing the concept that power can change, shift and we have the control in which to make that happen. Empowerment is being able to shift our perspective from believing we have no choices in identifying what our choices are.

Gaining a conscious understanding of why we “feel stuck” is the first step in moving from overwhelmed to empower. Empowerment is about taking inspired actions and recognizing the power to provide the answers and give the permissions is within us and not someone else.  Taking us from talking about what it is we wish we could achieve to being empowered to achieve it.

When I reflect on a very challenging moment in my life, faced with the prospect of becoming a single mum to a very young boy and newborn baby, Coupled with the reality of divorce hitting me, I was overwhelmed. 

Many factors were at play regarding my overwhelmed state, but most prominent was my core values around marriage and family and my fear of failure.  It held me paralyzed in making decisions and taking actions, I knew I needed to take.

In hindsight, I have allowed myself to become disempowered by my view of what was happening to me and the underlying beliefs I held around what my parents thoughts about marriage and raising children. The questions I internalized were, why had this happened to me? What had I done to deserve this? I agonized over what I thought others would think about me, and how I would be perceived by the outside world, and by the disappointment, I felt I would bestow on my parents for having failed in my marriage.

It was through a conversation with my mother, that my perspective began to change due to the awareness I gain, that it was only me who had placed this expectation on myself and that my parent’s viewpoint was not the one I had convinced myself they held.

Once this realization occurred it was like a huge cloud shifted from my view and I was able to see another way forward, my questions started to take shape in the form of, what can I do now to improve this situation? What are the things I can do to move forward with my life and rebuild a new vibrant one I knew I would love?

Those questions also can a complete realignment of my goals with my purpose, which through marriage had been comprised.  With these now in sync, I found that whatever I set my mind too I was capable of achieving. 

I emerged from that time empowered to shape a future that both my children and I would cherish and value deeply.


To move from a state of overwhelm into empowerment requires you to recognize and release any dis-empowering perspective that is blocking you from seeing the full range of opportunities or options available to move forward from the point of overwhelming.

Often rooted in a misalignment of our goals and/or actions with our true purpose and core values, evaluating what this truly means to us, will allow us to make adjustments that will realign our goals and actions, creating a structure and energy that will empower you to achieve those goals. 

The self-awareness that is created through observing and questioning your purpose will support you in identifying any underlying fears or beliefs and the emotions associated with these, which may be giving power to the negative perspective you, have held.

This deep dive into what is really underneath your perspective and thus your overwhelm will enable you to reframe your original dis-empowering perspective into an empowering one.

Because of the shift in perspective, growth in both your emotional intelligence and confidence will ensure you can be present at the moment instead of allowing the fears and emotions to dominate. Empowering you from intention into action.

Coaching Application

Coaching has the power to extend people beyond their current capabilities to realize and develop their full potential. It is through a coach and client partnership that individuals are ably aligning their thoughts and feelings to their behaviors so that they can create a true path of success.

As a coach, you can support clients to move from a subjective state of overwhelm into a more objective perspective that can enable the client to feel in control and empowered.

Through this partnership, the coach can provide the client with the judgment-free space required for them to reach a state of mindfulness where the client can identify what is going on and any of the emotions that may be attached to it.

It is the coach’s role to challenge the negative beliefs that underpin their sense of overwhelm by addressing what is it that is stopping them, and showing curiosity on what the client feels is within their control, allowing them to release the judgment attached to it.

Through the exploration of their purpose, values, and beliefs, whereby the coach may challenge any assumptions the client may hold around the way things currently are and how the can be.  The coach can facilitate the creation of awareness for the client.

As the client becomes more conscious in the actions they take and the feelings that are associated with these. They begin to be able to see how the choices they make either consciously or subconsciously can affect them.  By acknowledging this, the coach can support the client in building their confidence to move from a place of intention into a place of action.

With the use of NLP or visualization techniques, the coach can assist the client in imagining if all barriers where removed what they could achieve if anything was possible. Thus enabling the clients to permit themselves, they need to succeed.

Once established it becomes easier for the client to identify and align their goals to their purpose, providing them with the clarity they require to formulate an action plan that they can adhere to, without reverting into a state of overwhelm. The coach should be mindful of the level of accountability as this should support the client in their success and enabling them to move forward, not lead them back into a state of overwhelm, therefore a real emphasis should be placed on exploring the time required, level of difficulty or maintenance and any possible distractions before the client commitments to any action they have identified. This is where the true empowerment will come from when the client can successfully create an action plan they are truly able to achieve.


  • What is about this situation that makes you feel so overwhelmed?
  • What is really going on there? What is it that is holding you back?
  • What makes you think that? How does that make you feel?
  • What actions are you able to take that are achievable right now?
  • What do you need to be aware of when taking that action?


Robert Adams, Empowerment, participation, and social work.New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008

Rappaport. (1984) Studies in empowerment: Introduction to the issue. “Prevention in Human Services.”

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Free Press, 1989


Marilee Adams, Change your questions change your life, Berrett-Koehler 3rd Edition, 2016




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