Managing overwhelm/anxiety

Many students and their parents today speak of 'overwhelm'. Firstly, what is overwhelm and what causes it? It usually occurs when we are overburdened with lots of different tasks and individual jobs which we feel must all be done at the same time. You will often hear the phrase in such situations, “I cannot think straight” — the subconscious gets confused because of the pressure and cannot sort out these patterns or thoughts.

In the normal course of events for most of us, as we carry out our activities of daily living, spend a lot of time being conscious only in our head space. We are constantly planning the next task, checking that we complete the last one, or for many of us we are multitasking in our heads.

When considering your outcomes/goals it is important to realise that it is possible to set yourself up for success or failure. For anything that you want to achieve or bring into your life, the guidelines are:

• Make a list of everything you need to do.

• State the outcome, for example, what it is you want, talk to yourself as if you already have it, and by doing this your subconscious is setting you up for success.

• What will you hear, feel, see, and say to yourself when you have it?

• How do you know that you have it; what will life look like?

• To achieve anything in life, we need resources. Do you know what resources you need and how to access them, who can help you achieve them?

• This helps determine what you will gain from achieving your goal and also helps you realise whether it is suitable to have this outcome in the situations you desire.

• Look at who can help you and, if possible, delegate. When you write something down you are allowing yourself to disassociate from all of the tasks which then allows you to see everything more clearly on paper.

• Look at what tasks are the easiest first and those that will take the least amount of time.

• There is nothing more motivating than being able to start crossing off the tasks which are completed from the list.

• Then concentrate on the tasks that you need to prioritise. Pick one and give it the time required.

• Sometimes it is necessary to learn how to say “no”, telling whoever who may be making unfair demands on you that you will come back to them at a later time.

• If you are undecided about something, sleep on it, then get a page and divide it in to. Put the headings 'advantages' on the left and 'disadvantages' on the right.

These actions will allow you to get back in control and start to relieve stress and overwhelm.

Another very important exercise for everyone to practice which reduces stress and overwhelm enormously is the importance of acknowledging all the good things we have in our lives and starting the practice of a gratitude journal. With this practice you record things you are grateful for in a journal and by the conscious concentration of this on a regular basis you start to feel grateful. When we are grateful it is very difficult to feel in a low mood. You become aware what you are capable of when you write down all of the things/people who are in your life and who help you feel good about yourself.

It is very important to celebrate the success of others even if you do not know them very well, as feeling jealous or envious of others can drag you down. This is particularly important for students as they have a habit of comparing themselves to others. Everyone is unique and has their own special talents. Comparing yourself to others takes the joy out of all of your achievements in life because instead of focusing on yourself you are focusing on someone else. Very often this behaviour can become a habit and if we do not become aware of it we will subconsciously continue to do it. Some habits can be very positive while others can be very negative.

Start to become aware of your habits and keep checking in with yourself as to how many times did you display a negative habit, awareness is the key.

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