I’m feeling overwhelmed — what can I do to feel better?

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Feeling overwhelmed can make it hard to think clearly, be present and enjoy your daily life. The experience often comes with other intense stuff, like feeling anxious, out of control, hopeless and confused. But there are tips you can try, changes you can make and other things you can do to work through your emotions and start to feel better.

“It’s just too much.” “I don’t know where to start.” “I can’t deal with all of this.” We’ve likely all said things like these to ourselves at one time or another. It usually happens when we’re experiencing moments of high stress (video from AboutKidsHealth), a long to-do list, uncertainty and more. But it’s how we react to situations, thoughts and feelings that can make a difference in our mental and emotional well-being.

Here, Kids Help Phone shares a list of tips and self-guided tools you can use to help you calm down, feel more grounded and take on any challenges that come your way. For each tip, you can read the description and choose from the links and images to explore the suggestions and resources that are most relevant to / possible for you. In the end, you’ll have a go-to set of ideas to use whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.

10 ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed

Tip #1: Identify your community of support (and reach out!)

When we experience intense emotions like feeling overwhelmed, talking to someone can help us express ourselves and think things through more clearly. You can think of this as getting the overwhelming thoughts (video from YMCA) out of your head and into the open, where they may seem more manageable. You can use Kids Help Phone’s templates to map out your community of support at any time. (Hint: Filling in these sheets can also help distract you and take a step toward regaining some control when things feel chaotic.)

Illustration of young people putting their hands together

Tip #2: Try a grounding exercise to connect to the here and now

Grounding techniques can help you anchor your mind and body to the present moment, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s about feeling more attached and in tune with your current environment (as opposed to the flurry of thoughts and feelings you may be experiencing). To ground yourself, try to focus on relaxing your muscles using Kids Help Phone’s tension release exercise. You can use it anywhere, any time.

Illustration of a young person’s hand squeezing a stress ball

Do you feel like you want to have a confidential conversation with a real person right now? Check out our e-mental health services to get support with feeling overwhelmed and more.

Tip #3: Try colouring to relax and take your mind off things

Taking a break from what’s causing us to feel overwhelmed can be helpful in gaining more perspective. Mindfulness exercises (tips from Anxiety Canada) like drawing or colouring are self-care activities known to reduce stress and help you focus on the present moment in a creative, positive way. Take a break and relax with Kids Help Phone’s mindfulness colouring book — you get to fill in an inspiring phrase and fun background!

Illustration of a young person colouring on a tablet

Tip #4: Start journaling when you’re feeling overwhelmed

When we mention journaling, we’re talking about tracking what’s going on in your life (and in your head!), and making time to reflect in a purposeful way. Check out Kids Help Phone’s interactive journaling tool to find out what we mean! It can give you space and a structure to record how you’re feeling, set goals and / or a way to think about things differently.

Illustration of a young person using an online journaling tool

Searching for more ways to cope when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Keep reading for other helpful tips, tools and resources.

Tip #5: Reflect on your feelings with a short questionnaire

Feeling overwhelmed can sometimes make things feel like they’re spiraling out of control. As we’re spiraling, we may also experience feelings of anxiety, worry, fear and more. Understanding how big an issue these feelings are for you and finding ways to get the best supports for them is important. You can take Kids Help Phone’s anxiety questionnaire to help you reflect on your feelings in the moment, figure out your boundaries and discover the right help / next steps for you.

Illustration of a young person filling out a virtual questionnaire

Tip #6: Feeling overwhelmed right now? Try an instant stress buster.

When it seems like a lot of things are colliding, it can make us feel stressed, weighed down and totally exhausted. If this is what’s going on for you, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Whatever your situation is, it’s comforting to know that there are things you can do to help yourself calm down. You can use Kids Help Phone’s stress busters to help release the pressure and tension you may be experiencing whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Illustration of a young person listening to music and petting a cat

Tip #7: Build your own self-care checklist

Prioritizing your own mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health (also known as self-care) is a key to your overall well-being. Practising a self-care routine (video from CBC Kids News) can help you work through life’s challenges (like feeling overwhelmed) on your own / with a supportive community. If you’re looking for ways to balance your mind and body, Kids Help Phone’s self-care checklist includes some strategies you can use to take better care of yourself when things get tough.

Illustration of a young person fishing

Tip #8: Take a minute to let it all out

Do you feel like you need a moment to just let it all out? When we’re feeling overwhelmed, it can make us feel angry and irritable (among other things). Instead of taking it out on yourself or someone else (if that’s what happens for you), you can try self-soothing using the outlets that make the most sense for you. Yell into a pillow. Go for a run. Play with a fidget device. Doodle. Kids Help Phone’s Vent it: Music game gives you a chance to bang out your frustrations on a guitar or a set of drums. Give it a try whenever you’d like!

Illustration of a young person playing the drums

Tip #9: Breathe in, breathe out

Breathing in specific ways can make a surprisingly big impact on how you feel. Taking some deep, slow breaths when we need to can help us calm down when we’re feeling swamped. A breathing exercise can allow your mind to focus on just one thing — breathing — while letting other thoughts and feelings slow for a few minutes (and not boil over). You may be surprised at how well this works when your mind is running away with you! Practise your breathing now with Kids Help Phone’s Breathing Balloon activity.

Illustration of a young person practising deep breathing

Tip #10: Write your worries down, and then put them away

Experiencing worry is common when people are feeling overwhelmed. Worry about the unknown, what to do, who to turn to, etc…. Creating space away from what’s bugging you can help you release distress and manage being overwhelmed now (and if / when it happens again). Kids Help Phone’s Worry Rockets game is a way to get concerns off your mind so you can focus on feeling better after being overwhelmed. If you write your worries down somewhere, you can always return to them later when you’re feeling more grounded!

Illustration of a young person in a wheelchair with a tablet

Feeling overwhelmed is never easy, but there are things you can try to feel more centred. If you need help with feeling overwhelmed (or anything else on your mind), you can keep this web page close and / or reach out to someone you trust for more tips and support.