Six Steps to Help Students Overcome Being Overwhelmed

September 24, 2013 — 9 Comments

One of the clear signals of being overwhelmed or stressed is forgetfulness. We tend to forget basic items when our minds are preoccupied with data, angst or expectations.


Historically, research has equated forgetfulness with old age. In fact, when someone forgets or misplaces something, they admit to having a “senior moment.” But a new survey tells a different story.

A Trending Machine National Poll found that Millennials, ages 18-34 are, in fact, much more likely than those 55 or older to forget everyday things:

  • What day it is (Youth are twice as likely)
  • Where they put their keys (Youth are 40% more likely)
  • Forget to bring their lunch  (Youth are three times more likely)
  • Believe it or not…take a shower (Youth are three times more likely)

What’s behind all this? Therapist, Patricia Gutentag, says, “Stress often leads to forgetfulness, depression and poor judgment. We find higher rates of ADHD diagnosis in young adults. This is a population that has grown up multi-tasking using technology, often compounded by lack of sleep, all of which results in high levels of forgetfulness.” (Huffington Post)

Believe it or not, our young adults today are overwhelmed.

It’s interesting to note that the number one word college students use to describe their life is the word: “overwhelmed.” Approximately 94% of students say they are overwhelmed with life. 44% say they are so overwhelmed it’s difficult to function. And nearly one in ten admitted that they’ve thought about suicide in the past year.

Six Leadership Steps You Can Take

This is basic—but to lead a population of overwhelmed students, we can practice six action steps with them:

1. Simplify

Help them sort out their priorities and separate their “have to do’s” from their “want to do’s.” Often, they get these confused. Next, help them to simplify their complex agenda into a manageable amount of items. Help them say “no.”

2. Clarify

Help them to sort out what their vision is; ask questions to enable them to recognize what’s really important, so they can be about that business. I often tell students: you can do anything but you can’t do everything. Help them prioritize.

3. De-mystify

Sometimes, kids assume it is impossible to meet all the expectations others have of them. I suppose this could be true for some—but most students simply need a mentor to help them remove their fears and assumptions of what’s feasible.

4. Intensify

Perhaps you’ll need to introduce them to an old-fashioned method for preventing stress: a to-do list. Show them how to list all the actions they must perform, then position them on the list in the proper order, pursuing the top 20% first.

5. Gamify

This one works well with students, especially males. Turn the priorities that must be achieved into a game. They can be timed or scored with points and transformed into a competition. This enables the “work” to feel like play.

6. Rectify

Students need to know they cannot be disillusioned unless they are first “illusioned.” This means, we must reject unrealistic expectations (illusions) of life always being easy, quick or fun. We must help students rectify their faulty expectations of life.

As you teach and invest in young people—you’ll likely need to help them navigate this emotional challenge.

What else can we do to equip them?

  • Annie Riley

    I never thought that Teens were more forgetful than the elderly, but I guess that it makes sence. Teenagers try to take on more than they can handle because they think that they are invincible. this results in stress which causes depression and forgetfulness. I really like the six applications, they are reasonable, practical, and easy to use. If I ever get to a point where I begin to feel overwhelmed then I will think about these application points and pray, give it over to God and hopefully the stress will go away.

    • Annie, I am glad you found the 6 applications to be practical and easy to use. Thanks for your comment!

    • Hector Delacruz

      i know this is really old but I feel like the stereotype where “teens think they are invincible” is really just not true anymore. If anything this is the do or die area for teens. We feel as if that right now, high school, if we mess up or don’t take the hardest classes we WILL NOT make it into the college of our choice. We take on what we feel like we NEED to to make it in this world. And also parents are always stressing to do our best and want us to take courses that we feel like we aren’t ready yet and we take anyway to not let them down. Parents don’t understand the rigors of this centuries academic standards. If you look at a sophomore and wonder why he is taking four AP classes already then you better believe that he is not the only sophomore taking that many and he feels like if he doesn’t he won’t make it. We get overwhelmed for so many reasons out of our control and feeling “invincible” isn’t one of those reasons. While i think that these six applications are very helpful and could be applied I want the world to stop using that “they think they’re invincible” stereotype on teens and young adults if you weren’t born in that era to be put in that much pressure to make it or not in this new world.

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  • I think the stat that about 94% of students describe their life as “overwhelmed” is crucial to understanding this generation. Do you have the source for that survey/study? I’d love to cite it.