Managing Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings


In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, adapting to a ‘new normal’ has been challenging for many of us. Feeling overwhelmed by the situation is a completely normal reaction in these unprecedented times. However, when these feelings and emotions occur consistently, it can leave us feeling emotionally depleted and detached from our lives.


This article will look at some fun and effective ways in which you can manage your emotions when you’re feeling overwhelmed. These ideas can also be adapted to be used with your children when they’re feeling stressed.


Life is full of ups and downs. If it’s not a pandemic, it can be other difficult life events, exam anxiety for students, and much more.  Having a few techniques in our toolbox from which to improve our emotional wellbeing is an extremely helpful life skill to have, for children and adults alike.


1) Box breathing


Working with your breath is a simple way to manage overwhelming thoughts and emotions. It regulates the autonomic nervous system and helps you feel calmer.


In this technique, find a place to sit where you won’t be disturbed. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts and then slowly release for 4 counts. You then repeat this for 2-3 minutes or longer. Ideally try to repeat this sequence 4 times in one sitting. You could adapt this with your children by getting them to imagine themselves as a dragon trying to control the fire coming out from their breath. You could also use a creative way of counting together with them. If your child doesn’t feel their breath, ask them to gently place one hand on their tummy to feel it rise and fall.


2) Progressive Muscle Relaxation


In this technique, one tightens different muscles in their body and then releases them slowly.


  • As you breathe in, tighten the muscles in your feet and legs until you feel the tension. As you breathe out, slowly release the tension from these muscles.
  • Repeat for different parts of the body, moving up as you go along.
  • Gently notice the areas of your body, which already hold tension, such as the hips and in between the eyebrows.


One way to adapt this with your children is to get them to imagine their muscles as a squishy ball. They need to squeeze the ball to hold tension and then let it go to release the tension. If they can’t feel the tension in their muscles, you could get them to sit and gently touch the body area, moving upwards as you guide the muscle relaxation.


3) Affirmations


Affirmations are a technique used to build resilience and improve self-talk. These phrases or sentences are said out loud and repeated. These could be any positive words or sentences such as “I am smart, I am kind and I am loved”.

Adapting this with your child, you could talk about the things they feel confident about or positive qualities that you observe in them. Then write them out and place them somewhere accessible for your child to see. Whenever your child doubts themself, talk about the affirmations and reinforce them. Alternatively you can also make the affirmations as part of your morning routine where your child repeats the affirmation to themself, in front of a mirror.


Hopefully the ways listed above help in managing overwhelming thoughts and emotions during challenging times. Trying out some of these techniques will help you determine which ones resonate most with you and your children.



Pragati Pritmani

Pragati identifies as a global citizen having grown up and lived in Hong-Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Abu Dhabi. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Counselling and is particularly interested in exploring mental health issues within minority populations. She is also interested in the use of mindfulness as a tool in managing mental health. Beyond working and studying, she loves exploring her creative side through film photography and printing photos in the darkroom.
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