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on Leading the Next Generation


Six Steps to Help Students Overcome Being Overwhelmed

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?


  1. D. Ward on May 4, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    I work for the ARDX Foundation. Each summer, we have a Healthcare Academy that provide tools so that youth are encouraged to live healthier, happier lives, build stronger self-esteem, avoid or improve childhood depression, and minimize bullying. There is not charge for the academy to the participants. This summer, our focus group consists of 900 youth budding entrepreneurs. I would like to share your tips with them this summer. Would you object to this? Please contact me for further discussion. Thank you.

  2. Kelly on February 16, 2021 at 9:50 am

    I’m all for keeping it simple, we can be so stressed out that we don’t have time for anything, that sometimes this aggression is completely unwarranted. After all, you can always ask for help from specialists instead of agonizing because you can’t get it done, or because there isn’t much time left. I found coupons for writing services, maybe someone will need them.

    • Mo Lilliott on January 11, 2022 at 1:41 pm

      I don’t think encouraging students to pay people to write (often substandard) essays for them is a good thing to do. Not just because it’s cheating (not ‘keeping things simple’ as you call it) but most students can do a much better job on their own than with a little mentoring or extra support. I have seen the results of essay writing services working in higher education and they are frequently an absolute waste of money (a lot of money, too).

  3. […] tempo. LMS automation lets you adapt to every individual’s rhythm effortlessly. Thus, you keep away from overwhelming college students with too-complicated content material. Conversely, college students who advance sooner received’t […]

  4. Sofia on February 17, 2022 at 8:32 am

    Very good advice! This is a period of rapid technological development, so students can also easily get help from and easily buy literature review or other types of work. This gives confidence that the student will have a good grade and he will have time to rest and unload the brain.
    Also, do not neglect trips to the psychologist because he will be able to spread your fatigue and anxiety on the shelves.

  5. Leona A. Kittle on February 21, 2022 at 6:10 am

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Six Steps to Help Students Overcome Being Overwhelmed