I Can’t Do this Anymore: Five Coping Strategies for Overwhelming Situations


The holidays, with their whirlwind of gatherings and celebrations, can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Try these five, in-the-moment coping strategies before you reach the end of your rope.

  1. Walk around the block. Exercise puts your stress-induced adrenaline to good use and increases the level of endorphins in your body. Regular exercise will help you manage stress levels over the long-term, but a bit of physical activity can also work wonders in the heat of the moment. Take a quick walk in the fresh air, jog around the block or do a few jumping jacks near your desk. The physical activities will clear your head and help you focus better when you return to your holiday to-do lists.

  2. Practice controlled breathing. Paying careful attention to your breathing can help calm you. Try this method to regulate your breathing. Position your tongue, so it rests against the gums just above your top front teeth. Breath in through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breath while you count to seven, then blow out around your tongue and through your mouth to a count of eight. Complete four sets of this cycle.

  3. Speak encouragingly to yourself. The way you talk to yourself matters. Negative self-talk, such as, “There’s no way I can get all this done,” will only feed your stress levels. Instead, learn how to phrase your circumstances in a positive light and talk up your abilities. For example, replace, “I can’t do this,” with, “I’ve been successful with similar situations in the past, and I can handle it again.” Even telling yourself, “I am going to calm down,” can help you achieve the mental focus that you need before dealing with a tricky situation.

  4. Write it out. If your head is filled with thoughts of what you need to accomplish, the mental disorganization will stress you out. Instead of letting the brain jumble continue, get your thoughts out on paper. To-do lists organize your mental processes and help you come up with a method for tackling your tasks. You can even take it a step further by creating different lists for different areas of your life: Work Tasks, Holiday Prep Jobs, Household Chores and so on.

  5. Listen to uplifting music. If you want to feel positive, listen to music that puts you in such a mood. Researchers at the University of Missouri found that, for people who were trying to get in a good mood, listening to happy music helped lift their spirits. Pick a few favorite get-happy tunes and have them on standby for times when your mood needs a quick boost.

As always, taking good care of yourself on a regular basis will also help you handle holiday stress. Eat well, exercise and get adequate rest. Stay away from drugs and use alcohol only in moderation, if at all. Find support in friends, family and, for further help, a mental health professional.