Student Life

What to do When You’re Overwhelmed

Sometimes there’s just too many things going on. Do you feel like your mind is racing too fast, or your brain is about to burst with all the things you have to think about? We feel your pain. To help make things a bit more manageable, we put together a list of strategies we use for conquering even the most overwhelming to-do lists.



If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try these steps:

  1. Make a list of all the things you have to do. By writing them down, you don’t have to hold them all in your mind at the same time. That gives you some mental space for thinking of nicer things.
  2. Put your list in order of the things that are most important. What is most urgent? That’s a #1 priority. And is there anything on that list that doesn’t really need to be done at all? Sometimes we think there is so much to do, but some of those things can wait a very long time.
  3. Look at your list again. Does it seem pretty long? Are there any things on there that you can do very quickly to cross them off the list? Some fast “Done!” tasks make you feel really good.
  4. Do things on your list one at a time. You only have to think about one thing until it’s done. Then go on to the next one. One by one, one step at a time.
  5. Take a break. You can set a timer on your smartphone for 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes, think of nothing, or look at cute puppies on the internet. Do anything but think about how much you have to do. When the alarm rings, you can go back to work.
  6. Drink lots of water. LOTS! There are two benefits to this. 1) Water helps your brain function better, so when you have a lot to think about, and work to do, a well hydrated brain and body gives you more energy. The second benefit is that it flushes toxins out of your system, and you’ll be forced to take a short break to go to the bathroom!
  7. Take a physical time out. Again set your timer to help with this. 20 minutes spent on a power nap, a walk around the block, or some stretching will help a lot. While you’re taking a break, your subconscious mind will continue to work on your tasks, so when you go back to work, you’ll feel better and have better ideas.
  8. Track your progress so you can see how much you’ve accomplished. This gives you an emotional boost and a sense of satisfaction. You can keep track by crossing things off your list, putting an X on the calendar for each thing you did that day, or putting a sticky note on your bulletin board saying Done!
  9. Be good to yourself, and let other people be good to you as well. Can someone in your family help by doing your laundry or packing your lunch? By taking good care of yourself you will function at your peak, instead of feeling like you are working in slow motion.
  10. Reward yourself when you hand something in or get an assignment done. That could be a special coffee, reading a fun novel, watching your favorite show on TV, or anything that makes you happy.

Pretty soon you’ll have nearly everything crossed off your list, and you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve done!