5 Tips for Overcoming Stress & Overwhelm
How often do you feel stressed or overwhelmed? If the answer is most days or every day, you’re likely not living the life or experiencing the joy and peace that you want. It’s OK. You’re not alone. With juggling work, kids, spouses, and our personal lives, there are tons of things we have to try to balance. Add to that all the decisions we have to make and the distractions that we have, it’s easy to become stressed and overwhelmed if we don’t actively manage it. Let’s take a look at what stress is, when it’s a problem and 5 tips for overcoming stress & overwhelm.
What Stress Really Is
Technically, stress is a response system in our body that’s triggered when we experience perceived pressures and threats in our life. When we’re under perceived stress, our brain releases chemicals which trigger our body’s flight-or-fight response (just like when we experience fear). This causes physical sensations in our body like fast heart rate, faster breathing, heaviness in chest, tension in neck/shoulders, etc.
Just like fear, the emotion of stress was created as a protective mechanism. But when stress is prolonged or intense, it can cause a wide range of issues both physically and mentally. When our level of stress starts to impact various areas of our life, it becomes a problem.
Are you generally happy with your life? Or do you experience enormous amounts of worry, fear, anxiety, panic or overwhelm?
Are you able to experience the kind of joy you want in your life? Or do you feel like you’re drowning and barely keeping your head above water?
Are you feeling fulfilled and excited about life? Or do you feel generally dissatisfied?
All of these feelings can overwhelm us when we don’t manage our stress.
Most people will recommend healthy eating and some type of exercise to manage stress which are great recommendations. But the #1 way to get your stress levels down is to manage your brain.
Here are 5 tips to help you do just that so you can get back to experiencing joy in your life:
Put It In Perspective
Slow down, take a deep breath and step back to put things into perspective. In one year from now, is this really going to matter? Decide if it’s even important enough to allow yourself to stress over.
Do a brain dump. Grab your favorite pen and notebook and just start writing whatever comes to mind. Just get it all out on paper. This might seem like just another task you have to add to your plate, but trust me on this…it works. It doesn’t have to be a 2-hour ordeal…just 5-10 minutes will do. This will help you to really gain some awareness around what is really going on in your brain. You’ll be surprised by what comes up for you.
Separate the Math From the Drama
Once you have it all down on paper, it’s important to separate the math from the drama. The “math” of what’s going on for you are just the facts or circumstances. The drama is everything else that our brain tells us about the facts. Often times, our thoughts feel like facts so it’s important to really separate them out. The facts are just neutral circumstances. They are things that every single person in the world would agree on.
Look at every single sentence you wrote in your brain dump and label it with a “C” for circumstance or a “T” for thought. You’ll likely be shocked at how many things that are stressing us out are just thoughts. And thoughts are completely optional!
Here are some examples of circumstances:
- The package was supposed to be delivered yesterday but hasn’t been delivered yet
- The client was supposed to arrive at 9am, but didn’t arrive until 9:45am
- He/she said “_____” (their exact words, not your interpretation of it)
- She looked at me while whispering to someone else
- It’s 70 degrees outside
- The clothes are on the floor
Look at your circumstances and ask yourself, “what am I making this mean?” What you make these facts mean are your thoughts!
Decide How You Want to Feel
Once you’ve gained some awareness around what the facts are and what is just your brain creating drama for you, decide how you want to feel.
Did you know that you can feel any emotion you want? It’s totally in your control. And the way to change the way we feel is to change our thoughts about the circumstances…our thoughts about the “math.”
Write It All Down
Once you’ve taken a step back to gain some awareness and slow your brain down, make a list.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a list of exactly what you absolutely need to accomplish that day. Schedule out your week. Don’t try to keep it all in your head…write it all down…either on a list or a calendar. This gets it out of your head and onto paper so you can free up some brain juice. Once you have everything written down, evaluate what is a priority and what is not and remind yourself that no one will die if something doesn’t get done…including you.
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