Leibee: How to get through an emotional breakdown

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

If you have ever had an emotional or nervous breakdown, you know how overwhelming and uncontrollable they feel. You feel like your mind is racing and you cannot calm your emotions and thoughts. It’s a pretty scary feeling, and as college students, there is a high likelihood that we will all experience at least one mental breakdown.


Mental breakdowns are usually attributed to an anxiety attack or associated with a high amount of anxiety.

The other week, I was on the phone with a friend because I was feeling emotionally and mentally overwhelmed and needed someone to talk to. He asked me what I usually do when I am feeling high amounts of anxiety. I told him I usually like to be alone or try and distract myself by watching something or doing homework. He said I should add at least two more things to the list of things I do when I am feeling these emotions.

To be clear, this is in no way professional advice and is based solely on my personal experiences dealing with overwhelming emotions.

While it’s helpful to do things to prevent a mental breakdown, such as taking breaks from schoolwork and making time for ourselves, it’s also crucial that everyone has a process they follow when they feel emotionally overwhelmed and out of control. 

Writing down steps and knowing what to do when this happens to you, whether you are in public or at home, could be extremely helpful in the process of calming down. Everyone’s steps may look different depending on their own personal needs, but no matter what, you should have one — especially in an environment as stressful as college.

For me personally, the first thing I do when I feel like I am on the brink of a mental or emotional breakdown is to write down everything I am feeling. Instead of letting my thoughts run circles in my brain, I release them all onto paper in order to get those thoughts out. 

Another important step for me is to not isolate myself. This might be different depending on if you are introverted or extroverted, but as an introvert that likes to be alone a lot, it’s important for me to call someone or talk to a friend so I’m not alone in my head with my thoughts.  

No matter what your self-care regimen is, it’s important to not isolate yourself and to do something, whether it be a hobby or just going outside for a walk.”

Another idea to add to your list might be to do something creative such as play music, draw something or even do makeup. This allows you to get your emotions and stress out and see or hear it. If being creative isn’t your thing, practicing another hobby might be helpful as well.

No matter what your self-care regimen is, it’s important to not isolate yourself and to do something, whether it be a hobby or just going outside for a walk. 

If you feel like you have overwhelming emotions frequently, it might be beneficial for you to see a counselor or therapist or to consider other resources for reducing anxiety; if you cannot access these resources, you might find it helpful to have your own self-care regimen. However, whether you are or are not getting help with your mental health, it’s important that you have your system for when you feel emotionally overwhelmed.


Further, if you have time, try and schedule 20-30 minutes of your day for mental health time. For me, this means writing down my thought processes and not looking at a phone or computer screen during this time. This might look different for everyone, but if you schedule it into your day like you schedule time with friends, you might notice a shift in your thoughts.

I have found having steps to take when I am feeling this way extremely helpful in organizing and calming my thoughts and emotions. Remember that you don’t have to go through an emotional breakdown or spiral alone, no matter how isolated they make you feel.

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.