February 15, 2016
Our ability to manage stress and overwhelm are commonplace in today’s busy society. But feeling as though you can cope with everything that life throws your way is possible with my top 5 top tips for managing stress and overwhelm.
For so many of us, the feeling of stress and overwhelm are a constant. Gone are the days that serious life events like an accident or health scare were the only real causes of stress and overwhelm. Today it seems like we only need to glance at our emails, miss a connecting train or rush to prepare a meal to trigger that same sinking feeling of ‘it’s all too much’.
Now whilst my last few examples may sound trivial, no doubt a few of you are nodding your head thinking ‘yes I’ve felt stressed or overwhelmed by one (or two..) of these things the past week’. The scary thing to consider is that when we feel stressed or overwhelmed our bodies have the exact same response to these stressors as it did back in the cave man days when we were running away from a sabre tooth tiger.
Yes, you heard right. Your body produces the same chemical reaction to looking at an overflowing inbox with a sense of panic, as it would running away from a tiger and thinking your life was in real danger. Now any educated person can tell you that one of these things will actually put your life in danger. The other, not so much.
In a society that doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon, the opportunity we have is to try and manage our body (and minds) response to stress and overwhelm as best we can.
My top 5 tips for managing stress and overwhelm
Your breath has the ability to calm down your body and significantly reduce feelings of anxiety. Next time you’re in the moment and you find yourself becoming stressed, overwhelmed or anxious focus on your breath and consciously slow things down. Take 5-10 long slow breaths, and fit this in whenever you can throughout the day. It may be when you’re walking around the block, or going to your next meeting, the bathroom, whatever works for you.
2. Quiet your mind
There have been countless studies on the benefits of meditation. Not only does meditation help to calm the mind and body, it also allows us the space to gain clarity, creativity and a sense of calm. Often when we become so overwhelmed with what is on our to-do list we can’t make a clear decision. We are clouded by feelings of stress and pressure that we end up making more mistakes! Meditation doesn’t need to be a huge commitment. Start with becoming conscious and focusing on your breath for 1-5 minutes each day. You could do this sitting still, first thing as you wake up (before you check emails), on your commute into work, while you’re walking. My point is, it doesn’t need to ‘look’ perfect, it just needs to happen.
3. Manage your perception of pressure
I’ve often found that when I feel stressed and overwhelmed it’s because I have worked up a situation in my mind so much that I’ve gone into a tizz. My husband will often say to me, ‘why are you so stressed about this’* (washing, cleaning, cooking, general life organisation) and the reality is, he is often right. We stress so much because often we care so much. We don’t want to let people down, look like a failure, not deliver on a deadline etc.. But if the situation is causing you to feel stressed or overwhelmed, I encourage you to check in and ask yourself lovingly is the stress that I’m causing myself an accurate reflection of my reality? Or do I need to reassess things? Possibly ask for extra help, an extension or break the task down into more manageable pieces.
4. Prioritise self-care
In times of stress and overwhelm, it is essential that we prioritise self-care. If you speak to anyone who’s ever had a serious break-down (or minor meltdown) it is often straight after periods of intense stress. As often as you can (aim for weekly) make it a priority to do something for yourself. Now this doesn’t need to be a huge grand gesture, it could be as simple as running yourself a bath, or reading a few chapters of your book, or having a glass of wine with a friend. Anything that takes your mind off things, and allows you to check back in to that happy space. If you need some tips, I’ve shared some ways that I prioritise self care here.
5. Set manageable tasks to achieve
The final tip for managing stress and overwhelm is to set manageable tasks to achieve. So many of us are rewards driven by nature. We feel a sense of accomplishment when we tick something off our to-do list or complete a task. So set yourself a goal. What are the top three things you can set out to achieve today, this week, this month that will have the biggest impact on your life? (and stress levels). Consider what you’ll need to do, plan for any obstacles that may come up and most importantly think about how you’ll feel (and maybe reward yourself) once you’ve achieved this.
So over to you. What will you do TODAY to help manage your stress levels? How could you implement some of these simple strategies into your life to bring you greater balance and joy?
Managing stress is just one of the ways I help my 1:1 clients. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just need strategies in place to start feeling happy and healthy again, send me an email so we can chat further.