How to Cope When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

If you ever start to feel hopeless and blue, how can you fight it? Give these strategies a try—they’ll help ease the emotional strife and give you a healthy perspective when it feels like your world is a sad place.

Take a few minutes to relax.

If you’re feeling panicked and overwhelmed, that prompts a physiological reaction, like a racing heart or shallow breathing. The opposite is true too. “Calming your body will calm your mind,” says Gail Saltz, M.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill-Cornell Medical College. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing can be very effective, and 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise will also do the trick.

Let your friends distract you.

You can always turn to a trusted pal and express your fears and concerns to her. But your closest friends can also be a valuable source of distraction. Take advantage of this by talking to them about things that make you smile. More importantly, minimize time with people who bring you down.

Continue to participate in life.

If you’re feeling down and in your own world, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get out there. But avoidance is the worst tactic, says Saltz. “Your mind is a feedback loop. When you avoid things because of anxiety, you’ll initially feel better. That positive reinforcement prompts a vicious cycle, which, over time, makes you shrink your world,” she explains. Live life as you did before, and your anxiety will dissipate.

Take action.

Try doing one thing positive—however small—each day. Maybe that’s making an extra effort to be warm and kind as you go through your day, or spending time with people who matter to you.

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