Stress and overwhelm. To me, they come hand in hand and I was inspired to write this article by my friend Katie who’s question was:
“How to manage stress when you have too much to do but it’s all absolutely necessary!”
Before I get into it, I want to first start out by defining the word stress and overwhelm:
Overwhelm: By feeling overwhelmed, it means the person is given ‘too much of something’.
Overwhelm triggers stress.
Stress: The body’s natural defence against predators and danger. It causes the body to react with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress floods the body with hormones that prepare its systems to evade or confront danger. People commonly refer to this as the fight-or-flight mechanism. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.
For me, the key phrase in the above explanation is ‘The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.”
Stress is REAL. Because we can’t see it as an object (although if we know someone, we can sure see if someone is stressed just by looking at them), we tend to brush it off and not give ourselves the care and attention we need in order to reduce stress.
If stress had a visual symptom such as ‘whenever you are chronically stressed, your nose grows like Pinocchio’ or something similar, I’m sure more of us would pay attention to reducing it!
When do you feel stressed?
What stresses you out? Everyone is different and what may stress one person out may not even bother another. An example of this is a traffic jam:
Two people can be sat in the same traffic jam, both with the likelihood of missing an upcoming appointment. One of them could react by feeling annoyed, constantly checking the time, getting super close to the car in front, beeping their horn, sweating, heart racing, worrying, panicking. The other could react by seeing the situation as out of their hands, may as well pop that podcast on that they’ve been wanting to listen to. They may think “It’s a bummer I’ll miss my appointment but there’s not a lot I can do about it so may as well make the most of the time.”
The difference between the 2 above ways of reacting to the same situation has everything to do with the thought model process. Remember how I always bang on about how your thoughts create your reality…? Well, they do! But that’s a conversation for another time as now I want to talk specifically about stress and overwhelm.
Write down the situations where you feel most overwhelmed and stressed and throughout this article see if you can apply the tips I’m going to share with you to reduce your stress.
Tips to reduce stress and overwhelm
Accept that you feel overwhelmed and stressed.
We can’t change what we can’t accept. Ever. You’ll be living in denial which gets you nowhere. And if you think fighting the feeling of stress and overwhelm is going to work, stop now because you’ll never win! What we resist persists. Accept how you feel and then move on to the next steps…
Choose a thought that serves you.
THOUGHTS ARE EVERYTHING!!! Here I go again with my message of ‘your thoughts create your reality’! They really do!
Before you start to change your thoughts I’d like you to do one VERY important thing first…
Give yourself compassion! Give yourself love and understanding. Tell yourself it’s ok. ❤️ Then move onto the thought process.
Let’s say you have a mile-long to-do list, and all you keep thinking is “I’ll never get this done.” That’s a damaging thought that can lead to distress and anxiety. And it paralyzes you from problem-solving and taking action. But remember that you’re not a slave to your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t automatically the ‘truth.’
Ask yourself “In what ways might this thought be inaccurate, unreasonable or unhelpful?” Next, consider how you can think more realistically. Here, your goal is to generate alternative thoughts that will lead to positive emotions and behaviour.
For instance, to improve the above overwhelming thought you could think something like:
“I may not get it all finished today, but if I work on it or if I seek assistance, I will likely get it done;”
“I know I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, but if I take a break, I may feel differently about this when I return;”
“It seems overwhelming to me right now, but if I break it down into smaller parts, it may be more doable.”
Adapt this awesome affirmation:
“I can do anything but I can’t do everything and that’s ok!”
Yep, even if you’re a woman 😉! Actually none of us can multitask efficiently because multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
Plus, trying to do more than one thing at once exaggerates your stress response. So not only will you feel even more stressed and overwhelmed, but you won’t even be successfully getting more things done.
Practice being in the present moment.
Concentrating on one thing at a time and being fully present with that task is essential to reduce stress. AND it helps you to relax, feel more joy and be peaceful. When you’ve got a million things to do, only focus on one task at a time without thinking of the others yet. You will not only perform each task better, but you will feel a lot more calmer whilst doing so.
I really recommend you read The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s a great book and changed my life.
Take a few deep breaths.
I’m being serious. Taking only slow 3-5 deep breaths helps to calm your stress response down immediately. And then you will be more clear headed to get shit done. Try it…
Eliminate some of the tasks.
You may want to argue with me but not everything you think you need to do is actually necessary.
The 80/20 rule plays a huge role here. Understand that only 20% of what you usually do gives you the main result. The other part just doesn’t help you improve your life in any way. So, ditch it.
Figure out which tasks you absolutely must do and focus on them.
Be absolutely objective when you choose the ones that will stay on your list.
Choose the top 3 most important tasks and do them first.
Once you’ve eliminated the tasks that are not 100% necessary, write down the top 3 most important tasks that must get done. Write them in order of importance and then start straight away with number 1. Sounds obvious but if it’s a task we don’t particularly like we are experts at procrastinating…! Then focus on being mindful and in the present moment whilst you’re working on each one.
Plan and block out time blocks.
Although obvious, planning is essential! My mantra is, “If it’s not in my schedule, it ain’t happening!” So plan your days either the night before or in the early morning.
Block out time blocks in your calendar and ensure that you complete similar tasks in the same time block. For example, If you’re writing an article in your first-time block, put any other writing tasks straight after that. The same if you’re producing videos… make all of your videos in the same time block don’t jump from one to the other as it takes longer for your brain to switch from task to task.
Take small breaks
You may think that taking breaks will waste your time away but I can promise you, taking small breaks will make a huge difference in how you feel and how efficient you are.
Attempting to work on a task when you’re brain dead won’t help you. Block tasks in 55 minutes increments. Then take a 5-minute break every 55 minutes. Go walk up the stairs to the toilet, grab some water, jump around with your dog, whatever feels good for you then get back to it.
Ask for help!
If you’re sat ogling at me, arguing the fact that you simply MUST do EVERYTHING on your list FOR LIFE OR DEATH then you seriously need to ask for help!
Because from where I’m standing you have 3 choices:
- Continue doing what you’re doing and eventually burn out and/or feel chronically stressed for eternity.
- Get help (ask family, friends, hire someone, anything) to assist you with your tasks so that you can actually enjoy life and start living again.
- If getting help isn’t an option, reassess your whole plan. Is being chronically stressed with whatever it is that you’re working on really worth it? Are you missing out on life? What’s more important you? Your quality of life or how much you get done?
You alway shave a choice my friend… Which leads me nicely onto…
MAKE time for self-care
I’m also not joking with this one either! Ever heard me say:
“You can’t fill from an empty cup?”
Well you can’t can you?! YOU are the cup. If you never make time for yourself to do what you enjoy to fill yourself up then you will only ever be half the person that you could be.
If you make time for self-care, you will be able to show up to your day, for other people, loved ones etc with all of you, not just an empty shell of you! You’ll feel happier, have more energy and be a lot more clear-minded.
Life really is too short to be constantly stressed ,no matter what your reasons for being so. What’s most important to you… getting everything done or enjoying your life…? You decide my love, the power is all yours.
If you enjoyed this article you may enjoy ‘How to stop worrying’. And please share with a friend so I can help others too.
PS – The pre launch list for the exciting surprise I’m working on that will be launched in September is here! It’s an affordable way to get coached my me all around self-love, body image, body confidence, self-worth and that good stuff.