Helping overwhelmed kids
This is Everyday Feels, a podcast about emotions for kids and their grownups. In each episode, Nakita Simpson and Dr. Lockhart explore a new emotion, breaking down why we may be feeling that way.
Nakita: Thinking about this episode, I have a question. What do you do when you have a big challenge ahead but don’t know how to handle it?
Ann-Louise: We should definitely talk more about that.
Nakita: I think it's time we heard from Krystyna, from New York, who [shared] a memory when she felt overwhelmed.
Krystyna: Hi, my name is Krystyna. I am 12 years old, and I live in Amityville, New York. And I live with my mom, my two doggos, and my uncle.
A time I felt overwhelmed was when I was stressed with my schoolwork. And I felt overwhelmed. Um, and what I did is I took some time to just cry letting my feelings out. And I don’t really wish I did anything different, because I felt a lot calmer after.
And I like how things turned out, because now I was less stressed and was able to finish my homework.
Ann-Louise: Thank you Krystyna for sharing your experience about feeling overwhelmed and stressed with your schoolwork. A lot of kids are going through that right now. It’s actually a really common experience.
Nakita: I think so many kids and grownups can relate to these emotions.
Ann-Louise: I think so too Nakita. Thanks for sharing, Krystyna. One of the most important things I have learned is that feelings are really important. Feelings give you messages about what you need or don’t need. They are signals we should pay attention to so we know how to ask for what we need. Just like our belly rumbling when we’re hungry, our emotions and feelings tell us when we have an unmet need. It’s so important to pay attention to our feelings. Don’t ignore them.
Nakita: Such great points, Dr. Lockhart. Feeling overwhelmed reminds me of a lot of feelings bumping into each other at the same time! Are there some helpful words we can use to describe all the things Krystyna felt while doing her homework?
Ann-Louise: Yes, that's a great question, Nakita. The words we can use to describe feeling overwhelmed or stressed are called synonyms. These include words such as swamped, inundated, defeated, flooded, overloaded, or buried. As you can hear, these are big and heavy words, which is why we feel so out of control when we feel overwhelmed.
Nakita: When I hear these words, it reminds me of how my heart races and my stomach hurts and how heavy I feel inside when I get overwhelmed. Does feeling overwhelmed always make people feel terrible?
Ann-Louise: Not always. We can feel overwhelmed by emotion when something really sad or stressful happens. We can also feel overwhelmed by gratitude and excitement when something really cool happens, like a surprise trip to DisneyWorld, which is something we did for my kids a couple years ago. Feeling overwhelmed can feel terrible or great.
Nakita: Oh, that’s a great perspective Dr. Lockhart. I remember when I took my first class final in college, it was the same feeling I had before big tests in elementary school. I was so stressed and overwhelmed when I studied up until test day, and some of the stress kept me studying while some of it made me feel a bit sick. It was a bit tough to learn how to deal with it.
Ann-Louise: Exactly! You know, when my husband and I surprised our kids with the Disney family trip, I felt overwhelmed with all the excitement in planning the trip and keeping it a secret until the very last minute. But, then I was also overwhelmed with all the planning and travel plans involved. It was both good stress and bad stress.
Nakita: Oh yes! I know those words. Distress is stress that feels negative to your mind and your body. Eustress (yoo-stres) motivates and energizes us!
Ann-Louise: Yes! Eustress is a weird word, isn’t it? But, it’s an important distinction so that people know that not all stress is bad stress. We become distressed when we’re stressed out for too long.
Nakita: Dr. Lockhart, before we wrap up, are there any tools for feeling overwhelmed and any tools you can think of that would help our listeners and even the grownups?
Ann-Louise: Absolutely Nakita. I have one reminder and two really helpful tips.
Always remember your feelings are not your enemy, your feelings give you messages about other people and the world around you. So just notice those feelings and give yourself lots of love and compassion. Challenge yourself to face the emotions you tend to avoid. I know it’s hard, but this is an important part of the process, and it helps you grow.
All right! First, remember that life, whether we like it or not in the present moment, is not good or bad. Life is what happens to us. We can choose to feel overwhelmed by it or choose to ask for help and get support. So, ask for help. Get the support you need. Tell someone that you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Keep asking until you get what you need. Don’t do this life alone.
Second, when your thoughts are racing and you feel like crying, tell yourself, “Stop!” Focus on what you can control right now. You might have a ton of things to do, focus on that one thing and then the next and then the next. Take it one step at a time. You don’t need to get it all done right now. While you’re doing each step, take a breath and calm your body. Keep going.