How to Avoid Overwhelm

The blank page of a fresh start, whether in the form of a new roommate or living in off-campus housing for the first time, starting courses in your major, working at your first internship position, or even setting the intention to make the Dean’s List, can all morph into unexpected stressors. We may feel bombarded by internal and external pressure, and when that happens, our enthusiasm fades, and a feeling of overwhelm kicks in.

By Sharon Callender — October 11, 2022


How to Avoid Overwhelm

When a new semester begins, there's a palpable energy of anticipation that can be felt on every corner of campus. The new academic term also brings with it a heightened sense of expectation and anxiety for students.

The blank page of a fresh start, whether in the form of a new roommate or living in off-campus housing for the first time, starting courses in your major, working at your first internship position, or even setting the intention to make the Dean's List, can all morph into unexpected stressors. We may feel bombarded by internal and external pressure, and when that happens, our enthusiasm fades, and a feeling of overwhelm kicks in.

But how do you stop overwhelm from ruining your focus and impeding your success?

It all begins with a commitment to prioritizing your well-being.

Here are seven things you can do to combat overwhelm that you can start today!

Take Care of You

Taking excellent care of yourself is the best way to keep overwhelm in the rear-view mirror. It's easy to forget self-care when studying at two in the morning or writing three different research papers with the same due date.

Ask yourself these questions to assess if you are heading toward overwhelm: Are you eating at least two healthy meals daily? Are you getting enough rest? Are you exercising? Are you stepping away from your devices and reducing screen time when you feel drained? You may be neglecting yourself if you’ve answered no to two or more of those questions. What can you do today to shift in the direction of self-care?

Listen to your body. When you are tired, find time for a break to rest your eyes or take a nap. Making simple changes to your diet and sleep habits are two quick ways to eliminate stress and keep you in a healthy emotional space.

Creating Self-Compassionate Affirmations

We all know affirmations can help us achieve success. Having a go-to list of self-compassionate affirmations can be a useful tool to support your emotional wellness. Saying this type of affirmation daily can positively influence how you handle stressors that pop up during your day:

I love who I am and who I am becoming today.

I am committed to loving who I am no matter what happens today.

I deserve to be happy and will make choices that reflect that truth.

Finding Balance and Saying No

Setting boundaries and time management are two of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Sometimes saying no is exercising self-care. When you realize your schedule is becoming too much, whether it is due to extracurricular activities, your social life, or a part-time job, take some time to evaluate what could be adjusted or removed from your calendar. You may want to consider saying no to something for a few weeks, or maybe a semester-long hiatus is what you need to get back on track. Seeing the word NO, as Nurturing Ourselves, shifts you into a way of thinking that honors your well-being. Never be afraid to use this powerful word!

Also, allow yourself to be curious about why you may be saying yes to certain activities or responsibilities even though you feel overwhelmed. Are you doing this because you want to? Or is it because you feel like you must? Is there outside pressure, or is it an internal decision?

Getting to the root of these answers can assist in decreasing the sense of overwhelm in your life.

Peace In the Present

Often what causes overwhelm is worrying about what will happen next— pondering exam results, group presentations, the big game, or a major recital—can all make us anxious. It’s that feeling of sitting in the classroom, half listening to a lecture because you are distracted by thoughts of looming deadlines and how you will survive the busy week.

When you feel your mind slipping into the abyss of stressful thinking, bring yourself back into the present by focusing on an object in your environment that you can physically touch. It may be your laptop, a pen, a textbook, or a cell phone. Let your sense of touch ground you in the now. Does it feel heavy? Is it cold or warm? Why is this object in your environment? This simple exercise of mentally rooting yourself with your tactile senses can help you ease back into the present.

Ask For What You Need

Advocating for yourself is a life skill that will help you beyond the classroom. It is the cornerstone of adulting. Stretching those important muscles empowers you to practice self-leadership and self-respect by consciously choosing what is beneficial for you, and best meets your needs. If you are struggling in class, speak to your professor. Don’t stay silent. If you discover the major you have chosen isn’t the right fit and want to change direction, make an appointment with your advisor to discuss what's on your mind. Speaking up and reaching out will stop overwhelm from interrupting your life.

Be Kind to Yourself

Instead of zeroing in on what hasn't been done, take a moment to clearly assess what has. With a non-judgment, look at the goals you have accomplished or took a step to start. This is progress. Maybe you read one chapter of the assigned reading of three chapters, started your thesis, or worked out for fifteen minutes instead of an hour. Remember, tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to do more.

Use All of Your Resources

We can't always do life alone. We all need extra help when life feels too much to handle. The counseling center and spiritual support through campus ministry are there for a reason-to help you have a positive, emotionally healthy, and fulfilling college experience. They are dedicated professionals who want your journey to be successful and enjoyable. Use the resources available to you and any other off-campus mental and emotional wellness programs your school can get you in touch with that best meet your needs.

Sharon Callender

Sharon Callender

Rev. Sharon Callender is an interfaith minister, assistant registrar, and coach with certifications in life purpose, mindfulness & spiritual coaching. She specializes in helping individuals discover clarity, healing, and self-love through creative expression. Sharon is also a published fiction author and poet who is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree at The New Seminary.
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