What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed

Going to college is a really exciting time in life. There’s a whole lot of joy and fun to be had—you’re taking a lot of steps in independence, meeting new friends, and experiencing all sorts of new things.

While there’s a lot of beauty and wonder in the college experience, there can also be a lot of experiences that cause stress and anxiety: college exams, tricky roommate relationships, grades, and money. When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, it can feel a bit like the world is ending. Taking the next step can feel stressful, and it’s easy to feel confused about what to tackle next. If you’re curious about where to turn when life gets too overwhelming, read on. We’ve compiled a list of things that can help you calm down, accomplish what you need to, and find peace.

1. Take some deep breaths

It sounds silly because we’re breathing all the time, but deep breathing does have some crazy benefits. It can help slow your heart rate, refocus your mind, and send a message to the neurons in your brain to calm down and relax. Even though it might feel silly and like it’s not helping anything, give it a try for a few minutes. Important: don’t give up after just one or two breaths simply because you don’t feel any different. It does take a little bit to kick in.

2. Take it to the Lord

Our God cares about every element of your life—even the silliest or most complicated dilemma. Before proceeding, take some time to pray and journal and share with your Lord about what is on your mind. Ask for His help. Spend some time reading Scripture or listening to worship music, as these practices can help reorient your mind on what is really important in regards to eternal significance and what are things that are simply difficult and must be worked through step by step.

Whenever things get really crazy, don’t give up your devotional times simply because life is busy—spending time with God is lifechanging and can really affect your whole outlook on life

3. Take things one day at a time

In fact, you may need to take things just one hour at a time. When you look at the entire scope of all you need to do in a day, week, or month, the immensity of tasks and problem-solving can feel incredibly overwhelming. Instead, try breaking things up into bite-size pieces. List out everything that is going to happen on Wednesday in your planner. You should even right down low-key things, like “wake up” and “eat breakfast.” No, you don’t have to get crazily detailed, but each hour should be accounted for.

Then, when you are doing a particular task during that specific hour, focus on that one thing, and try to block out everything else. You can rest easy knowing you’re not missing anything because you took the time to write everything down—it’s nearly impossible that you could drop the ball with this method.

4. Exercise

While you might feel like you don’t have any time for exercise, your body really needs it, and your brain will benefit too. Aerobic exercise can do a lot for you physiologically, but it also can affect your mental and emotional health. Even if you can only take a 15-minute break to take a brisk walk along the lake or you pause your studying to do some jumping jacks or a pilates video, you’re going to see the benefits when your stress lowers and your productivity amps up.

5. Talk it out with someone

It’s really healthy to let your community know when you’re stressed or having a hard time. Friends and family can speak important wisdom into our lives, and they may have some helpful tips on how to get through finals, job interviews, a breakup, or whatever else you might be struggling with. Take some time to grab a coffee with a friend and share what you’ve been going through, so you can give someone else the opportunity to encourage you. Asking for help can be hard, but there’s something really beautiful about a Christ-like community that helps shoulder the burden for one another.