I feel overwhelmed. What can I do?

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Many people have searched it online, shared it with someone they trust or just said it to themselves — “I feel overwhelmed!” With everything going on in your world, these types of thoughts and feelings are valid. It can be helpful to practise strategies to manage these moments in ways that work best for you. On this page, you can watch a video (featuring a character trying to finish their chores) for ways to navigate overwhelming experiences now and in the future.

School is very stressful and overwhelming. I have had suicidal thoughts and self harm issues that have been linked with school. I hope next year will be better but I don’t expect much

— person contacting Kids Help Phone

Feel overwhelmed? Watch this video for ways to cope and more!

In this video from AboutKidsHealth and Kids Help Phone, you can learn about:

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Does it feel like you’re feeling too many feelings all at the same time? Or like there are too many tasks to do all at once? Or like you can’t focus on anything because there are too many racing thoughts?

It can be really difficult to calm yourself down or to get a grip on what you need to do when you feel like this. Let’s hit the pause button together.

First, as best you can, let’s just take a breath in and out. Notice the ground beneath you. Gravity holds you gently. This is a difficult moment. You are not alone in this struggle. We all get overwhelmed sometimes. Let’s figure out how to care for ourselves and find out what we need right now.

I’d like you to look around and name five things that you can see. Go ahead. Next, I invite you to list four things that you can hear. Maybe even noticing whether they are close to you or far away. How about three things you can touch. If you can, come up with two things you can smell. And lastly, one thing that you can taste.

As best you can, bring yourself back to here and now. You may need to do this many times in a row. And that’s okay, there are no strict rules. You might prefer to pick five things you can hear. That’s okay too. You may find it easier to focus on trying to find all the green things around you. Again. All okay. This is about allowing yourself a moment to settle and simply notice what is going on around you. Hitting that pause button can be done more than once, as many times as you need.

Now, let’s take a moment to breathe. Just breathe and get fascinated with breathing. As you breathe in and out what do you notice? Is it cool? Is it damp? Simply breathe in and out. There’s no need to count or to do anything special with your breath right now. Instead, try just noticing that you have a body and that you are breathing. For some, it may be helpful to say the word ‘in’ silently as you breathe in and say the word ‘out’ silently as you breathe out. In. Out. In. Out. As we breathe in and out together you may start to notice your breath slowing down. If you’re able, allow yourself to settle into breathing.

As we continue, you may notice a slight settling in your body or your mind. Maybe your shoulders feel a little more relaxed. The stable ground. This is not about right or wrong. Taking a moment to connect with what is around you, your breath or the ground beneath you, can all provide stability. You can stay here and continue to breathe for as long as you need. It’s totally okay to pause here.

If you feel you’re ready and have a sense of what’s happening inside and around you in this moment, consider thinking about what small step you can make towards what needs to be done right now. Take a breath and think ‘what do you have in your control’. If nothing else, you can control your response. Or maybe, what you need is a break and to come back to what you were doing in five minutes. I invite you to explore how you might be able to break down your to-do list or task into small chunks. You don’t need to see the destination or the final project in order to make the first move towards it. What may seem like small actions can actually lead to big changes.

Working with feelings of being overwhelmed might not be easy. Try to give yourself credit for the effort you’re putting into supporting yourself, no matter how big or how small the action may seem. It may take some time and practice to feel better and come out from under those overwhelming moments. But you can always use this exercise when you need a reminder on how to tackle the tough stuff.

Ready to continue your wellness journey? Kids Help Phone offers free, private, 24/7 support across Canada. For anything on your mind, big or small. Visit KidsHelpPhone.ca or call 1-800-668-6868. Text 686868. And if you or someone you know is in immediate danger/needs help with a safety plan, you can contact 911, the emergency services in your area or mobile crisis support (if it’s available near you) right away.

Kids Help Phone would like to thank AboutKidsHealth for collaborating with us, sharing this video on what you can do if you feel overwhelmed and supporting youth mental health and well-being across Canada.