How to Cope When Feeling Overwhelmed

By Gaan Akers, LPC, NCC | February 19, 2021

School, practice, work, family obligations, and time for friends. This is the typical schedule of a lot of youth, young adults, and even adults. In the midst of COVID-19 it would appear that some of these responsibilities would have lessened and yet for many they have not. ZOOM, Microsoft, and Google have all made it possible to connect for various task that may not be face to face. The mere thought of juggling all these responsibilities can be overwhelming and in true DBT fashion there is hope. Coping is defined as being able to effectively deal with something difficult. So how does one cope when overwhelmed.

Deep breathing is one of the first things that can do to cope with feeling of being overwhelmed. It is done by pausing and taking a deep breath. Deep breathing is a skill that allows you to simply still yourself. When overwhelmed one can feel hurried and in the midst of that can make mistakes/ errors. That deep breath allows you to calm yourself and make decisions with better clarity. When feeling overwhelmed deep breathing may seem small but it is a powerful step in managing your emotions.

Prioritizing is a wonderful second step, that helps you in assisting with feelings of being overwhelmed. Mapping out those things that you must do will aide in seeing what if anything can be removed from the list of things you have. In addition, prioritizing and scheduling prevent the stressors of having things pile up. Having and working a plan aide in making sure that your energy is focused. This is important as it preserves your energy allowing you to focus on the things that truly require it.

Checking the facts is a third great step to cope. Is what you are doing something you have to do? Will people suffer if you do not do it? Can the task be placed to another day? All of these are things that can be decided before placing the chart on your list of tasks for the day as well as before being overwhelmed in completing it. Checking the facts can be done to regulate your emotions which in turn regulate your response. In fact, when checking the facts sometimes the difficulty of a situation is actually decreased.

Self-Care, a fourth and final step in coping with feelings of being overwhelmed. Often times persons will take on multiple task for everyone and not schedule time for themselves. It is critical to schedule self-care time to refuel. Not only does this time allow you a chance to refuel but it also allows you a chance to rest. In order to build that self-care it may be necessary to rid your calendar of things that are not growth inducing. Be intentional about building time for self to process information and experiences that are occurring. You would be surprised at the insight that you will gain.

Feeling overwhelmed? No need to worry it is a place that everyone has been in at least once. The great news is that you do not have to stay there. Taking the tools that are listed above will aide you in shifting from that place. In fact, you can go from being overwhelmed to becoming balanced.


  • Gaan Akers, LPC, NCC

    Director of Clinical Education & Outreach - Gaan has been working with children, adolescents, and families for over 10 years in various settings. In her current role, she provides education and training for mental health professionals, parents, and the community. She lives in Atlanta with her husband. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, climbing, and cooking. She is a donut aficionado and a national park enthusiast!

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