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What to Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

Keep It Real

If you go into a really frightened place where you start catastrophizing, ask yourself “Are my fears real? Or am I just frightening the pants off myself?”


When we feel too afraid or overwhelmed, the brain becomes ‘flooded’. When that happens the body goes into overdrive. It can occur with great intensity because the 'primitive brain' (which we've had since we first evolved) has been activated.

When we become afraid, our thoughts can become unreal. What starts with “I’m so broke this month” becomes “I’ll never earn any money again” and ends with “The bank is going to repossess my house and I’ll be evicted in front of all the neighbours”


If you are feeling overwhelmed, leave the room or change the space you are in.

If you can change your visual perspective it can reduce overwhelm. Get some air. Go outside or open a window. And breathe. Remember all the supports you have in your life. Call a friend who won’t judge you.  Ask yourself what really is the likelihood of that outcome occurring? Put a figure on it. Is it 2 out of 10?

Distract Your Senses: Find a Smell!

When we become ‘flooded’ or overwhelmed, a part of the brain stem is activated. But when we sniff a scent, we can fool our senses and deactivate the frightened part of our brains. Keep a small perfume/aftershave in your bag, or even go into a toilet and inhale the soap dispenser. Any scent will work to rewire the alarmed part of the brain.


Research everywhere shows that breathing is the fastest, most effective way to restore a body/mind balance. This is because breathing and meditating heal the parts of the brain that store trauma and anxiety.


So, find a quiet place. This may be at your desk at work if you can close the door. Or sit on the bathroom toilet at work. Feel your feet on the ground. Even better, take your shoes off and feel the soles of your feet touch the ground. Just breathe. In and out. Now you are grounding your body in the earth. Which is the opposite of letting your head control your world.


Fake it Till You Make It

Try to remember one or two simple mantras - “I am enough” or “I am a loveable human being”.  Whenever you feel ungrounded, or a bit unsteady, repeat them over and over again. Even if you don’t believe them, just repeat them several times to yourself.


See Fear as a 'Message to your Soul'

Sometimes when we are fearful or terrified, it’s a warning that we need to change our way of being in the world. Could you see your fear as a loving signal - that something needs to change? What is it trying to say to you? Ask, and then listen to what your heart might be telling you is wrong.