Being a student at LSE can be extremely difficult at times. The intensity of essays and readings on top of trying to apply for jobs to justify the expense of studying can take its toll on any student’s mental health. Often, we’re not taught how to juggle these competing demands or how to develop the skills to self-regulate when things just get too much. This is especially relevant for people like me who are neurodivergent (I have dyslexia and ADHD). These are my tips on how to self-regulate when feeling overwhelmed…
1. Change your environment
This is about physically removing yourself from the environment that is causing you to be overwhelmed. This could just be taking a step away from your desk and walking to the kitchen to grab yourself a cup of tea – the act of physically moving will help lower overwhelm in the moment.
2. Write it down
Writing things down is a good way to get all the competing thoughts that are in your head out on paper. Often, overwhelm happens when there are simply too many decisions that need to be made and we try to make them in our heads. I write every decision that needs to be made down on paper which helps me clear my head to make a rational decision on what needs to be done next.
3. Give yourself time to do something creative
For me, being creative helps me get into a meditative place. I often sketch, draw or read for 30 minutes to help me self-regulate. To be able to give yourself that short period of time to do something you enjoy reminds you that life isn’t just a long list of to-dos.
I can’t stress this tip enough. Exercise helps increase your endorphins and helps with overall wellbeing. Prioritise this by scheduling it in your diary and even better, if you have a stressful essay to write, then schedule exercise before doing that task to help you get into the mindset.
5. Talk to a friend
Sometimes, we just need to rant. I am quite guilty of forgetting this, but often when you feel overwhelmed, you just need to get it out of your head. Talking to a friend about what is on your mind or causing you anxiety can help generate new ideas for you in terms of how to approach whatever is causing you stress or anxiety. Often talking it out with someone else helps makes you feel less alone too.
6. Have a plan
Sometimes when you feel overwhelmed, writing a plan of action will help get you away from the mindset of helplessness and confusion to action. Sometimes, taking simple action can override feelings of overwhelm. Having a plan looks like planning out in your diary when you will do things – set yourself deadlines for writing this essay, or when you will do this reading, or when to tackle this job application etc. When you see it all planned out, it gives you a sense of control.
7. Listen to calming music
When I have loads to do, I put on lofi music as it really helps my brain to tune into the music and away from any background noise. It doesn’t have to be lofi music, but the important thing is you can use music to help regulate the stress that you are feeling. Music has that power!
8. Self affirmation
When you are overwhelmed, you can often find that you are being super hard on yourself saying things like “I’m not good enough, I can’t do this, I don’t know where to start, I’m so stupid”. This is quite dangerous because it will just feed into negative self-talk and paralysis of taking action. To help counter this, challenge yourself to write down self affirmations and be very specific eg “I can write 500 words in the next hour”, or “I can apply to this job and get an interview”. Write it down, say it out loud, affirm yourself.
I cannot stress enough the importance of journaling. I recommend regular journaling to reflect on your wins and successes. It is important that we make space to recognise what has gone well. When you do feel overwhelmed, you can then open your journal and reflect on your progress to date.
10. Look for green
There is a reason why people say take a walk when you are stressed. Research has shown that when we see green, it actually helps the nervous system. That’s why taking a walk is so beneficial and even doing a little bit of gardening or pruning your indoor plants can help when you need something immediately to calm the nervous system.
I hope this blog has helped you. I’ve drawn on the knowledge I have gained from training as an ADHD coach and supporting clients with overwhelm. If you want to read more about me and my work, please see my website: www.ownyourflair.com.