Have you had times when you felt so stressed and overwhelmed that the simplest tasks seemed too much too handle? While no one wants to feel this way, the truth is that all of us will experience it at some point due to the busy, fast paced world we live in.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been experiencing this myself and feeling incredibly overwhelmed. I’ve been feeling so stressed while juggling and managing the responsibilities of a full workload and looking after my partner who recently took a fall and was badly injured. In fact, my stress level has been so high this past while that I felt compelled to write this post to help me regain my perspective. While I’m sure it’s information you’re already familiar with, I’m hoping you will still find it helpful.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS & OVERWHELM
Some of the most common causes of stress include work, health challenges, major life changes, navigating relationships, and financial problems. What I’ve come to learn is that much of the stress we encounter is self-imposed and, even though you can’t and won’t eliminate all stress from your life, you can certainly learn how to manage and prevent much of the stress you experience by learning how to improve your overall ability to handle it by becoming aware of how we create these stressors.
SIGNS OF TOO MUCH STRESS
Stress and overwhelm can feel like a 20-foot wave is coming at you and you can’t seem to get out of its’ way before it crashes into you. It shows up in different ways and here are some of the signals that you may be on overload and overwhelm:
- Memory problems
- Feeling out of control
- Zero capacity to deal with one more thing
- The list goes on…
RECOGNIZE YOUR STRESS TRIGGERS
Stress triggers come in two forms:
Acute stressors are situational and happen over a relatively short period of time.
For example, you’re at the office working to a tight deadline and you’ve got a meeting offsite that you can’t reschedule and you know you’ll be late for it. You feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.
In this case, it will cause you stress in the short term but you do know that soon enough, you’ll regain your sense of calm and balance.
Chronic stressors on the other hand, impact us over an extended period of time.
For example, you now have the added emotional and financial responsibility of caring for your aging parents and that’s on top of your already busy life. You’re already on overload and you feel overwhelmed around how you’ll possibly be able to manage this new version of your life over the long term.
With chronic stressors, unlike acute stressors, it may be difficult to see an end in sight and it can wear us down and compromise our health and wellbeing.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but the good news is that you can learn to manage it by improving the way you respond to it and avoid or even change some of the situations that cause it in the first place.
By not being aware of what triggers it and how to manage it, stress will have a serious impact on your mood, your health, your ability to think clearly and focus as well as your productivity level.
5 SIMPLE & POWERFUL STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING STRESS
Regardless of the reason(s) behind your stress and overwhelm, here are 5 effective strategies to help you manage your stress and overwhelm.
Put Things In Perspective
Keeping things in perspective is essential to managing stress and overwhelm.
You didn’t get the promotion you thought was coming your way; your child is having a hard time at school; your aging parents are requiring more of your time and attention, you’re worried about your finances.
Feeling frozen in a state of stress and overwhelm is a natural reaction.
When you’re feeling this way, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself:
What is in my control and what can I do right now to work through this situation in order to move forward?
Accept what’s beyond your control
Some circumstances are simply beyond our control, and we have to learn to accept as well as manage them.
The good news is that you do have control over how you respond to stressful situations.
Focus On The Here & Now
When you’re focused on what may or may not happen in several days, weeks or months from now, it’s next to impossible to appreciate and stay in the here and now.
That’s why it’s important to shut off all distractions which are pulling you in different directions when what you’re really needing is to focus and concentrate on the one thing that requires your undivided attention in that moment. Unless already scheduled, phone and e-mail can wait and same for texting and social media.
Change Stress Triggering Thoughts
It’s the unrealistic and unreasonable thoughts which triggers us to react versus respond to our stress. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what we think and tell ourselves about certain situations because that is what will determine our actions and ultimately, our results.
For that reason, we must learn to create helpful thoughts that will allow us to think in more realistic terms.
Ask yourself: “In what ways are my thoughts inaccurate, unhelpful or unreasonable?” How can I reframe this to better serve me and help reduce the overwhelm I’m feeling?”
The goal is to generate alternative thoughts that will lead to emotions and behaviors which will support you in reducing your stress level.
Create A Solution Focused Plan
If there’s a specific problem you need to fix, make a list of all possible solutions and pick the best one for your situation. Recognizing that you have options and coming up with a simple, doable action plan will have a direct effect on helping you get out of feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
A friend of mine shared that she keeps a running to-do list and once she’s completed an item, she moves it to her to-done list which she uses as a visual reminder of how much she’s accomplishing by staying focused. She said it puts her in a calm and positive state of mind which helps to reduce her stress and boost her confidence level.
Do what you can
Know that doing something is better than nothing.
Thinking, “I’ll never get this done” creates overwhelm.
Acknowledging that you’re feeling stressed and consciously taking a step back to take a break will not only help you feel differently about the situation, it will help you to come back with a fresh perspective on how to go about completing the task at hand.
Here are a few extra tips…
Know when you need to turn to others for support
Avoid multi-tasking. At the best, it’s a way to do several things poorly
Prioritize your tasks, do one at a time and do it well
Remember that productivity is not about working a lot; it’s about being efficient with your time.
REST, RELAX, RECHARGE
Get plenty of sleep
Stress has a huge impact on our quality of sleep.
The catch 22 is that when we don’t get the appropriate amount of sleep (and the right type), we’re unable to operate effectively throughout the day which ends up increasing the amount of stress and overwhelm we experience.
Commit to at least one relaxing activity every day
Taking time for yourself is important for both preventing and managing stress.
For example, movement, exercise and meditation all help to relieve both the physical and emotional impact of stress and overwhelm. Most important is to choose activities that bring you joy – listening to music, reading a book, cooking, connecting with friends, taking a walk in nature, the list goes on.
For me, it’s playing my guitar. What might it be for you?
One thing for sure
A sure fire way to stay stressed is to tend to everyone else’s needs and demands and not your own.
For that reason, it’s important to not overcommit yourself and to learn how to say ‘no’.
The degree to which you manage your stress is dependent on how you respond rather than how you react to situations that can overwhelm you.
Keep it simple, keep it real, focus and be clear on what matters most to you.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. Following the 5 stress management strategies outlined above will be of great benefit in helping you effectively manage your stress so that you can enjoy a happy, healthy, harmonious life.
What are your top stressors?
How will you manage them differently?