How to Overcome Emotional Overwhelm in a Pandemic

close up of hands clenched together with forrest in the background
By Guest Author
Posted by: Roo Kailey

This past year has been tumultuous, whether we’re talking about the global pandemic, or ongoing onslaught of violence against Black and Indigenous bodies, it can feel completely overwhelming. It’s not just that the news itself seems so abundant and devastating lately, but we have more access to it than we ever have, from mainstream news channels to social media outlets. And because news is so easily accessible now, there’s more pressure to be in the know and keep up with a seemingly endless news cycle, and this too could cause anyone to feel emotionally overwhelmed. 

What is Emotional Overwhelm?

You enter a state of emotional overwhelm when the intensity of emotions you feel outweigh your ability to handle them. In a state of emotional overwhelm, your ability to think and be rational is obstructed because of the mess of thoughts in your mind.

It’s important to note that major life changes or events, just as we’re all experiencing right now, can bring on emotional overwhelm for anybody. When your mind is cluttered with too many thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you might have difficulty focusing on tasks you’re supposed to be doing. You might even find yourself struggling to sleep, despite feeling exhausted. 

Emotional overwhelm, much like any mental health issue, can cause physical symptoms. The tension in your body caused by being under inescapable stress can lead to headaches and muscle pains and even nausea and dizziness.

If you’re experiencing emotional overwhelm, here’s some advice that might help right now.

Control Your Social Media Intake

While keeping informed about the issues that affect us is important, staying well informed doesn’t necessarily rid us of our anxiety. Still, it’s important to be informed about what’s going on in the world, and there are many mindful ways we can do this.

Get your updates from a limited number of trustworthy sources and try to drown out the rest of the noise.

Put little boundaries in place that help you stay on top of news in a mindful way. Rules like: I won’t scroll through Twitter in bed; I’ll only check the news on my lunch break and at dinner; I’m going to turn off push notifications; I can only read the news for an hour every day. What’s actually realistic and helpful for you will vary, but it’s important to manage your news consumption, especially during times of public stress.

The flip side to avoiding news that makes you anxious is to shape your energy around justice and change. Getting involved with activism and volunteering can help you feel more in control of things and connect you with people who share the same drive.

Stay Connected

Anxiety breeds in isolation, so it’s important to do what we can to stay socially connected right now. Connect with your friends and family. Check if they are OK and don’t be afraid to share how you truly feel with those you trust.

Take A Deep Breath 

When you consciously breathe in deep, it triggers your body’s relaxation response and can come in handy during particularly stressful moments. Additionally, practicing yoga and meditation can help calm your body’s response to anxiety, as both help you to focus your breath.

Allow Yourself to Feel

The last few days have been extremely difficult. It’s a global crisis. If you watch the news and it makes you sad, anxious, upset, angry, frustrated, or depressed, that’s the most normal thing you could feel right now. So, allow yourself to feel those feelings first and foremost.


Unison is here for you. The Unison Benevolent Fund provides free and confidential counselling services for registered Canadian music-makers and their immediate family in need of help. Call 1-855-9UNISON to access our resources and support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.