There are times when school moves along quite comfortably. Lessons and assignments come and go with relative ease. Pacing seems appropriate. Sailing is smooth.
On the other hand, there are times when the pace quickens, assignments become more time consuming, deadlines approach, etc. In other words, students can get overwhelmed with the demands of school and trying to balance those demands with all the other aspects of life.
During these moments, it helps to have some tools at your disposal to help students fell less overwhelmed.
1. Listen for the item that "tipped" the student from being busy to feeling overwhelmed.
Have the student try to identify which item on their agenda was the one that made the change. Two things may happen. One, the student, by reflecting on this, may come to realize that his situation isn't nearly as complex as he thought. Two, by actively listening, you allow the student to vent about the situation, which in many cases, could be all the student needs to feel better.
2. Work from each item's deadline then back to the present and map out a manageable plan.
I am a big advocate of working backwards in planning practically everything. Unfortunately, students typically do not use this valuable skill, especially with assignments that are NOT due the next day.
3. Is the overwhelmed feeling due to a task that the student finds particularly difficult?
Sometimes, having to perform a difficult task is enough to bring on the overwhelmed feeling. If a student is facing a task that is particularly difficult or new, it may help to help the student break that item down into very small steps. Basically, put together a "what to do" list of specific easy to understand steps. In addition to knowing what to do, help students figure out when and where they will do it. Another important piece here is to remind the student that, ultimately, what matters is that she needs to focus on getting better at the task not necessarily proving how good she is at doing it. Work for improvement, not perfection.
4. Get a toe hold on one item and work from there.
This tip requires the student to identify one item that can be easily and quickly done and do that task. Get started, build momentum, begin crossing things off the list. Getting traction can also build confidence and, thus, clear the student's mind to focus on the next task at hand.
Go through a discussion on priorities. Have the student reflect on deadlines, assignments that may take longer or are more difficult, and decide which assignments can wait and which one need immediate attention. You may also ask the student to reflect on any goals she set and match up her priority list with her goals. Also, when prioritizing, remind the student that they may need to give something else up in order to complete their responsibilities. Therefore, recognizing that some of the items identified may be a "want" rather than a "need" and may have to wait until the "needs" are completed.
6. Try counting down.
With this exercise, you ask students to rank their anxiety on a scale of 0-10 (10 being the worst). If they say 10, then ask them how they think they can get it down to a 9. If they say any number other than 10, ask them why it is not higher and follow up their answer by asking them how to get it down one notch.