Every day we seem to be bombarded by the media with updates on crises, disasters, and tragedies while we are dealing with our personal lives and all there is to it. This can make us feel as if out of control situations, other people’s struggles with mental health, and uncontrollable circumstances are our daily bread and there is nothing that we can do about it. Subsequently we may feel that we do not have the strength to deal with life as it presents itself. Our body puts us in “survive”, not “thrive” mode.


However, there are proven ways to create a sense of healthy power and focus our lives: research shows that certain strategies can calm our stress response and thereby increase our focus, physical vitality, and well-being.


Are you feeling overwhelmed and not too confident about your ability to lead yourself (and others) during times of uncertainty and change? Take a look at common beliefs that create overwhelm and where to go from there:

Thought # 1 that creates overwhelm:

We think “Things will work themselves out”.

Nugget of Truth:

We are often afraid of new things and hold on to old things even if they are no longer how they used to be. We insist on pursuing what we are used to instead of making ourselves available to grow and change. However, taking small steps (also known as step-by-step) allows us to master the next step, become less afraid, and feel more in control. Incremental change will boost our self-confidence and ability to cope.


Thought # 2 that creates overwhelm:

Things are too complicated and I do not know where to start.

Nugget of  Truth:

Don’t overanalyze or overcomplicate things. Ask yourself: What can I “roll over” from what I previously mastered to tackle the new challenge? What worked? How can what I did before help me now? Consider adjusting your course of action one step at a time and go with the flow of instead of trying to plan for everything. Try this cheat sheet to get from overwhelm to focus:



Thought # 3 that creates overwhelm:

I should not feel overwhelmed but should know what to do.

Nugget of Truth:

We know what to do if we slow ourselves down to create a game plan: that is, envision ourselves -in realistic detail- how to proceed. This can happen by looking at the mistakes we made in the past and how we can use them to plan for the future. Or, we can look at our successes and what got us there. If creating a game plan is difficult, consider running new situations by a trusted friend or peer. The feedback that you will receive from slowing down and creating your game plan and/or talking to your friend will help you get clear what to do.


Thought # 4 that creates overwhelm:

I should have nothing to fear.

Nugget of Truth:

Embarking on something new can trigger our beliefs about inadequacy, not measuring up, our black-and-white thinking or negative self-talk. The art is to not confuse yourself with fearful beliefs but to discern what realistic thoughts to engage in. While healthy fear can keep us out of danger and should be respected, most fears are irrational and may keep us from changing when we need to change.

Consider jotting down your thoughts with regards to a change you are facing. Students who wrote down all of their fears about an exam immediately before taking the exam scored higher than those who did not face their fears. Join those students and their success by writing down your fears. Running things by a trusted friend will help you discern between which thoughts to keep and which to let go of.


Thought # 5 that creates overwhelm:

If I am missing my chance [for change/improvement/growth], my opportunity will be lost.

Nugget of Truth:

There will be always opportunities to grow and develop, to develop an opportunity, to pursue a new challenge. However, we may not recognize this at the time when change is knocking at our door. Know that you will be rewarded when you go past your fear, open your door  and enjoy the new adventure ahead of you. Are you concerned about making mistakes? Educate yourself on common mistakes that we are prone to make when pursuing new opportunities and how to avoid them.


Thought # 6 that creates overwhelm:

Things need to feel right, but right now, I don’t feel like… [fill in the blank].

Nugget of Truth:

Feelings are not good predictors of how well equipped we are. Also, feelings can mess with our plans because they can activate thoughts about ourselves that may keep us from pursuing what we want to pursue. For example, if our brain cannot create a match between what we tackled in the past and what lies ahead, it signals “danger” when facing a new situation. We may interpret this as overwhelm instead of knowing that this feeling is only there because our brain cannot find a match.


Thought # 7 that creates overwhelm:

I have no choice or control so I cannot move.

Nugget of Truth:

Our body’s memory is like a road map that wants to guide us. If we were in situations where we could not do anything, our body can create “body memory” map that tells us that we have not choice or control based on the old body memory- even if we have: as an adult in today’s world, we get to make healthy choices. With every choice we exercise we get to change our body memory map If you are not used to making choices, this may feel as if you are working out a new muscle that you have never worked out. But rest assured, making healthy choices will feel easier the more we practice. Not sure what healthy choices look like in your existing circumstances? Run things by a trustworthy person who can be your biggest fan as you add healthy choices into your life. You are worth it!