Are you a teenager suffering from overwhelming feelings?

Overwhelmed teenager at school

Are you a teenager suffering from overwhelming feelings?

Anyone can suffer overwhelming feelings, but as a teenager living dealing with so many changes and new developments, life is complex. With decisions to make such as choosing a career, further education, and experiencing different beliefs and values in life it’s a time to find your identity and your purpose.


Have you been paralysed by a feeling of being overwhelmed?

Feeling overwhelmed can be a regular occurrence, but it’s not just about having too much homework, a long to-do list for future planning or running out of pocket money! Feeling overwhelmed can make you feel as if you don’t know which way to turn or what to do first. It might be that you have a huge project with a tight deadline to finish for school or a sports competition to prepare for, but you’re running out of time due to other commitments. Whatever event or activity is taking place, the situation can feel so big and so out of your control that you fall into a state of despair and hopelessness. Can you think of a time when you felt this way?


The dictionary definition of overwhelm: bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something, especially water.  Alternative words include swamped, submerged, buried, buried, inundated.


Overwhelming situations are a bit like flows of uncontrollable floodwater. Nothing can stop the flow of water and for sure, it’s out of your control.


The second dictionary definition: have a strong emotional effect on – “I was overwhelmed with guilt.”
Alternative words include overcome, dumbfounded, dazed, flawed, staggered.



Think about these words … they are all used to describe how you feel when you’re knocked sideways. Maybe you don’t understand a mathematical equation or you’ve been given the responsibility to organise a presentation at school and it’s way out of your comfort zone because you have to manage other students. Take out a notebook or your tablet or phone and write down some of the situations that you have experienced over the past year, at school, at home or within a social setting, where you have felt truly out of your depth. What do you think caused this feeling of being overpowered? Was it something you did or didn’t do? Or was it something that someone else did or didn’t do? Try to nail the root cause so that you can notice it in the future.


“Just do your best and forget the test”


Negative words to describe feelings of being overwhelmed

To feel overwhelmed is a negative state to be in, but that said, you need to be conscious of the words you use to describe how you feel in an uncertain situation. The words you choose define your reality so it’s important to think of a better word to describe the situation, a word that will help to pull you out of feeling submerged. Remember in a previous blog when I introduced you to the concept of how you filter events in your mind? How you distort, delete and generalise situations so that they appear different in some way?

I think you’ll agree that a negative state is not a nice to place to be in. It feels as though you’re not in tune with your identity. Go back to your notes and add some of the words you have used to describe situations in the past. Once you have done this, spend some time thinking about alternative, less negative words that actually make you feel better. Start to build ideas and thought processes that feel empowering and help you to take positive action.


“Our greatest battles are with our minds.”


You don’t need superpowers to be remarkable

Part of the problem of feeling overwhelmed can be how you perceive yourself. If you think this is the case remember these simple rules.

  1. You don’t have to be superman or superwomen to feel remarkable and achieve amazing things
  2. You don’t have to be a perfectionist – perfection is a myth!
  3. You don’t always have to say yes and be a people pleaser
  4. You can ask for help and work with others to ease a task
  5. You must never overanalyse a situation

Back on Track Teens Question Icon in BlueDo you recognise yourself in any of the above statements? The first step to overcoming hindering behaviours is to acknowledge them, so well done – now you can do something about them.

If you want to explore this concept in more detail, please read my book “PerfectShun – Permission to be Human.” It’s packed full of insightful information and useful exercises to get stuck into and strengthen your resilience.


“Nobody is perfect, so stop trying to be perfect.”


Four ways to pull yourself out of an overwhelming situation when it happens

Keep these strategies with you at all times.

  1. Make a task or situation smaller than it is. Pull out the detail and stress of the task by breaking it up into no more than three to five chunks. A good technique is to draw clouds or buckets and in each image write down the big things to do such as research XYZ, speak to XYZ, purchase XYZ – this way you’ll only see five things instead of a zillion!
  2. Pick one task and work on it for one hour. It’s up to you which task you choose first, it can be the most important, the most fun or the easiest – just don’t try to multitask!
  3. Brainstorm, mindmap or make lists. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes and brainstorm everything needed for that single task. You don’t need to action anything at this stage, just write
  4. Set your alarm for another three minutes and go through your list quickly to sort out an order that feels right to you. Allocate a timeframe to complete the task then add an extra few minutes because you will always underestimate the time

Ask yourself, ‘in order for this to be done, does it have to be me?’ Think about who else could help you with the task. Friends, family, teachers, mentors or trainers? Working with others can make a daunting task appear much easier and will be quicker to do.

When you tackle each task be in the moment and turn off all distractions – be present in the present. Choose an environment where you feel comfortable, in the garden, your bedroom, a café with a view and take some deep breaths before you begin. If you are able to check in with nature I guarantee you’ll feel more grounded. Take these steps and you will stay in control. Being overwhelmed is a feeling of a loss of control.

Celebrate each task completion with your favourite snack, a session on the X-Box, a social event with friends, or whatever you feel is a reward for working hard.


“Inch by inch it’s a cinch, yard by yard it’s hard.”


Choose the life you want to lead

I’d love to know what you think about overwhelming feelings. What do you feel? How do the floodgates of these situations open? Do you have any suggestions for techniques that have worked for you in the past that you are willing to share?

Have an amazing and underwhelming week! Go and be amazing, feel empowered in your activity, productivity and positivity. See you next time.

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