By Brett Andersen, PsyD, SSP, ABSNP, NCSP

You have many reasons for feeling overwhelmed: parents, siblings, school, homework, distance learning/in-person learning/hybrid model, extracurricular activities (or lack thereof), friends, enemies, dating, and the list goes on.  You feel that the world is crumbling around you and there is no way out.  However, the good news is there is!  I will walk you through this mess and how to get where you need in three simple steps!

Deep Breathing

I know, I know.  Too easy right? Well it is, but I am not just talking about what you naturally do every moment of your life.  I am talking about deep, calming breaths.  The thing is that when you are stressed the body tends to take shallow, short breathes from your chest.  This means that in order you change how your body is working you need to do something different.  And that is purposefully taking deep breathes.

Why is deep breathing helpful?  For starters, it helps provide oxygen to the brain.  And the brain is what is responsible for stress.  Just think about it for a moment, stress is a product of your thinking.  And where are your thoughts located in your body?  Your brain.  So be nice to your brain and give it oxygen (breathe!).  Also, deep breathing helps take your body from “fight or flight” mode into “rest and digest” mode.

What is the correct way to go about deep breathing?  I prefer doing this from a sitting position, but posture is important.  Sit up straight.  Think yoga.  And like in yoga, they teach you to breathe from your stomach.  As you inhale count to at least three and when you inhale count to at least three.  This will prevent you from breathing too fast.  If you do not practice deep breathing, it may seem uncomfortable at first.  But over time it will become calming.  And you will feel your body relax more.

Positive Thinking

Another obvious tip, right?  Well, then do it.  😉  As a psychologist, when I provide counseling, I usually do cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).  What is CBT?  It is basically the idea that your thoughts influence your behavior.  So if you can change the way you think, then you can change your behavior.  Now I cannot easily and quickly teach you CBT in this article, but there is something important to point out here.  Sometimes when we are overwhelmed, we incorrectly believe there is no way out and that the world is ending (that is “catastrophizing”).  And when we have too much on our plate that can feel very accurate.  But like all difficult things in life, whatever you are dealing with now, will pass.  I would like to challenge you in this moment to grab a piece of paper and write down at least 5 reasons why this (whatever you are dealing with) will get better.  It might be hard, but you can do it.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Plan & Action

Finally, my last tip is not so obvious, but is quite easy to do.  Create a time management matrix.  I know if I have too many things to do I have trouble figuring out where to start.  But here is a tip how.  Take a blank sheet of paper and draw a large box.  Then draw two vertical lines in the box and two horizontal lines in the box.  Then leave the top left corner of the box blank.  In the middle-top box write “Urgent” and then in the top right corner write “Not Urgent.”  The in the middle left box write “Important” and in the lower left box write “Not Important.”  Now take everything you have going on and figure out what is “Urgent” versus “Not Urgent.”  Then figure out what is “Important” versus “Not Important.”

  • Urgent and Important are things like a crisis, pressing problems, and deadline driven projects
  • Not Urgent but Important are things like relationship building, recreation
  • Urgent but Not Important are things like emails, popular activities
  • Not Urgent and Not Important are things like time wasters, some emails, pleasant activities

Click here to find out more about this Time Management Matrix by Steven Covey.

FOLLOW THESE THREE SIMPLE STEPS and you will have prepared your body and mind for success.  And then you have an exact method (the matrix) for developing a plan of attack.  You got this!


Dr. Brett Andersen is a Licensed Psychologist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.  He specializes in child and adolescent evaluations, and is the owner of Andersen Psychological Services.