5 Ways to Prioritize Your Needs During Overwhelm

It can be such a frightening experience to navigate intensity and uncertainty. Sometimes it feels like the world is moving so fast, we barely have time to close our eyes and breathe.

The anxiety of, “What will I miss if I look away? What will happen if I don’t stay alert?” can be utterly paralyzing.

But when our focus is so intensely projected outward, we leave ourselves with little regard for our own presence. When it comes time for us to care for ourselves and our needs…we’re at a loss.

We’ve learned the world around us, but we haven’t learned the world of WHO WE ARE.

Do you struggle to identify what you want and need in the moment? So many people do.

The key is to create space between the overwhelm you’re experiencing and the moment you enter into next.

With time, as you remember to create this space for stillness and self-awareness, you’ll find yourself becoming more in tune with your needs and more able to identify what your mind, body, heart, and spirit is asking of you. As with any skill, this takes practice. Especially if you’ve spent a significant amount of time focusing outward rather than inward.

So how do you actually create the space you need in order to process and understand what you’re searching for in the moment?


You may not know precisely what you need in the moment, but I’m betting you have a grasp on the human stuff…

  • Food
  • Water
  • Hygiene
  • Fresh Air
  • Sunshine
When experiencing overwhelm, one of the first and possibly most beneficial things you can do is take care of your beautiful, amazing, awesome human vessel.

If you’re dehydrated or hungry, the intensity and stress you’re experiencing is going to be so much more challenging to move past! If life has been hectic and you just haven’t had time to shower? Wash your hands, brush your teeth, or put on some fresh, clean clothes. If you’ve been cooped up for days, go step outside! Even standing on your front porch for five minutes will make a BIG difference.

But what about when you find yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by people, in an unfamiliar place, or simply don’t have easy access to a snack or a sink?


Deeper, fuller breathing means more oxygen to oxidize your thoughts, enliven the blood, and fuel your cells.

Gently place one hand on your heart and one on your belly and, as you breathe, repeat to yourself — either internally or out loud — a soothing mantra or affirmation. Sometimes it can help to gently but firmly tap three fingers over your sternum while you say the words out loud.

You might try:
I love and accept myself, right now, as I am.

It may not feel true in the moment. You might not want to love and accept yourself as you are right now…but it’s a healing practice to redirect where the mind is going back to a place of loving kindness and self-acceptance.

You don’t need to know what your needs are or articulate every sensation you’re feeling in the moment. Allow for the space to be empty or without an immediate or concrete answer. If no specific need is clear, then let your only ‘needs’ be stillness and deep breathing.


If you’re around trusted friends, let them know you’re feeling overwhelmed. Oftentimes the people around us, especially when they know us well, may recognize what we need even before we do.

In times of stress, we may miss details about the way we’re feeling or suppress the information that is there to help guide us. In the moment, you may panic about tomorrow’s meeting even though you’ve thoroughly prepared for it. Opening up the discussion with a friend offers not just an emotional release and the comfort of a support system, but potential discoveries about what’s ACTUALLY bothering you and what you ACTUALLY need in the moment.


Stop trying to “fix” the feeling and take a break! You are allowed to remove yourself from non-beneficial situations in order to gain some clarity.

Give yourself permission to move your focus elsewhere. Go for a walk, exercise your DIY skills, or hang out with friends and family! Your thoughts may wander back to the stress you were experiencing and your body may linger in those sensations as well — but that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

Accept the feeling, acknowledge that it’s there, then redirect your focus once again.


Try not to let your decision be affected by the wants and needs of the people around you. Throughout our lives, we pick up on the beliefs, habits, and even personalities of the people around us. As children, we’re especially susceptible to taking on these traits as our own…

But what sort of impact does this have? To move through our lives looking through a borrowed lens?

Start asking yourself if the overwhelm you’re experiencing is being heavily impacted by fears and anxieties that simply don’t belong to you.

As Highly Sensitive People and Empaths, we’re highly aware of how our actions, behaviors, wants and needs affect the people around us. We tend to factor other people in when — in fact — this can be detrimental to our growth.

It is not selfish to focus on yourself! And isn’t that one of our big worries? That we’ll appear cruel, unkind, or selfish?

Believe me, you are none of those things.

So put your oxygen mask on first.

It’s a brilliant place to start…

What do you need in the moment?

You need to take care of yourself.

Through her courses and programs, Lola Pickett empowers empaths and sensitive folk to rewire their brains, bodies, and behavior for internal & external resilience; shifting from self-repression to soul-expression.

She is the published author of the Wild Messengers Alchemical Tarot, host of the Moon + Manifest podcast and founder of Empathology™—an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual resiliency training program.

Lola’s a Communication Empath. What kind of Empath are you?
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5 Ways to Prioritize Your Needs During Overwhelm

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