When we’re faced with stressful, confusing, frustrating or unknown situations, it can be very hard to comprehend everything that is going on. The feeling of being “overwhelmed” is definitely not a new one – and if we keep feeling overwhelmed, our anxiety and stress levels only rise.

Source: Unsplash, Jose Martin

This can happen quite easily when travelling or when faced with other cross-cultural situations. I particularly remember a time when I was in Frankfurt airport, trying to check out of my flight from Australia and check-in to a flight to Albania. Even though I asked the Information point numerous times, I could not for the life of me find the check in counter. I ended up going in circles for a long time before finding the right counter. Frankfurt airport is big, there were loads of people around me not speaking English, and I was already tired and confused. After eventually checking in, I just wanted to sit – I made a beeline for a cafe, bought a juice – probably the most expensive one I’ve ever paid for! 14 Euros if I remember correctly – But I didn’t care – I just needed a moment to sit, drink something, and calm down.

So from that experience and others, here are some quick tips and ideas of what might help when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

  • Breathe. Take 5 deep breaths – count slowly to 5 as you breathe in, and count slowly to 5 as you breathe out, then repeat 5 times: 5-5-5. If you can close your eyes, even better.
  • Find a space for yourself. This can be hard in crowded situations, but it might be a chair, a corner where you can sit, or if you really can’t, make do and put some earphones in.
  • Have something to eat or drink – not only can hunger or thirst amplify any stress we’re feeling, but forcing yourself to chew on something or drink something gives your mind something to focus on – you can block out the multitude of thoughts and focus in on what you are consuming.
  • Tell yourself it’s ok – everyone has different stress levels and it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed.
  • Make a plan. Unfortunately, you can’t sit somewhere forever. So start to formulate a step by step plan of what you need to do next. E.g. in my situation above, I finished my drink, then I knew I was going to go the bathroom, then I would walk around and browse some shops, then I would go back through to the departure lounge. It sounds simple, but when you are in that overwhelmed moment, it can be very hard to have logical trains of thought like this. Once you have your plan, you will feel a lot calmer – not to mention you will no longer be hungry or thirsty! 😊
Hopefully this helps you the next time you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed in an unknown place. 
Do you have more tips? Feel free to share them below.


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