It is normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time. But when stress levels go into overdrive, judgement, prioritising and other critical-thinking skills can become compromised. This further escalates your stress, affecting your performance and wellbeing.
Take a time-out when feeling stressed.
What you can do
To deal with the stress effectively, we need strategies to calm this reaction and get the problem solving part of our brains back into gear.
In the middle of a stressful episode, take a moment to pause. While it might feel like the wrong thing to do when we are rushing to get things done, a short pause can create a buffer and weaken the impulse to fall into a stress response. Try counting to 10 or 20, breathing deeply or taking a short break. If you need a longer break, do something relaxing and enjoyable – take a hot bath, watch a film or do some exercise. This produces chemicals in your body called endorphins, which make you feel good.
Notice it and name it
Simply name your emotional reaction. You might say to yourself, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed at the moment.” It is important to notice and label the experience without feeding into the emotion. This simple act helps to activate the thinking part of your brain.
Write a to-do-list, organise your diary, draw up an action plan and clean up the clutter on your desk. Organising is a powerful antidote to feeling overwhelmed and provides a calming effect. Consider making a list of all the things in your life that are making you feel stressed by writing them down on a piece of paper. Take each one in turn and list all the things you could do to tackle the problem. This can help you sort things out in your head. Problems look easier to deal with one at a time than in a big jumble in your head!
Take a moment to step back and visualise the bigger picture. Imagine yourself handling the challenge successfully and create an image in your mind that inspires calm.
Our brains crave focus but we often work against this by multitasking much of the time. Break your tasks into chunks and try to focus on one part at a time.
- Use Reach Out resources to find out what it looks like when your stress is getting out of control and how to manage it when it becomes a problem.
- Stress is a common issue for all students, particularly around assessment or exam times. To find out more about how to take care of yourself and manage stress, check out Better Health Channel.
- The Desk has a good time management module to help you plan your study.
Apps that help
Find out what Chaplaincy offers at RMIT in meditation and yoga this semester.