July 29, 2010

Are You Feeling Overwhelmed? How to Manage Stress

Written by Rachel Eddins

middle aged woman feeling stressed Do you feel that your life is out of control? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you find it impossible to make time for yourself? Do you need to learn how to manage stress?

When people come to therapy, they are often feeling overwhelmed by the stressors in their life.

Change is stressful even when it is beneficial.

Sources of Unnecessary Stress

  1. Attempting to do too much at one time.
  2. Setting unrealistic time estimates, or poor time management.
  3. Procrastinating on the unpleasant.
  4. Disorganization.
  5. Poor listening skills.
  6. Doing it all yourself.
  7. Unable to say “no”.
  8. Trouble letting others do their job.
  9. Impulsive, snap decisions.
  10. Not taking responsibility for the quality of your own life. Blaming others.

Feeling Overwhelmed & Stressed?

Try these principles for managing an overwhelmed life summarized from the book,  CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life.

Challenge yourself to implement one of these suggestions this week to stop feeling overwhelmed.

1. Accepting limits.

Do you know where your time goes? Many people budget their money to the last penny.

Most don’t budget their time down the last minute. We act as if time is unlimited.

Being busy is one way to avoid taking stock in how you’re living your life. Am I doing what I really want to do? What matters most to me? Don’t let being busy take you away from that.

How you decide to use your time is a reflection of who you are and what you feel matters most (you may think one way, but feel another). You may think that spending time with your family for dinner is important, but feel afraid that if you don’t work the extra hours, you will lose your job and if you do, all is lost.

 2. Don’t spread yourself too thin:

If you don’t deliberately protect time to do what matters most it is likely that you will not do it or give it the time it deserves. Focus on what you like best and on what you do best.

There is not enough time to do everything in life, and certainly no time to try to get good at what you’re bad at.

Technology has allowed us to do so much more than we used to be able to do that it is tempting to try to everything we’ve always wanted to do. This will run you ragged. You must choose. You must prioritize.

In order to well and be happy, you must say “no thank you” to many people and activities.

Give yourself permission to get rid of what hinders you, whether it be projects, people or ideas (i.e., it is bad to ever say no to a friend, or it is bad to be different, or angry). This takes courage, but once you do you will have freed up a huge amount of time and positive mental energy.

Once you allow yourself to spend time with projects and people that nourish you and help you grow, you will look forward to each day, more than you do now. This does not mean that you will become selfish.

In fact, for many people one of the best nourishing things for many people is the act of helping people.

3. Create a positive emotional environment wherever you are.

This is not a frill! Emotion is the on/off switch for effective mental functioning and a primary key . The best way to create a positive emotional environment is to work on keeping up positive relationships with people wherever you are. When you feel safe in your environment, welcomed and appreciated, you think better, you behave better, you work better, and you are better able to help others.

When the emotional atmosphere is less than positive, people lose flexibility, enthusiasm, ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity, patience, humor and creativity. They become less able to cooperate, delegate, plan, organize, perform all the other functions essential to thriving in a busy environment. They begin feeling overwhelmed.

4. Find your rhythm.

You are in the zone when you are in the rhythm. This state of mind elevates all that you do to its highest level.

5. Invest your time wisely so you get maximum return.

Try not to let time be stolen from you. It gets wasted if you’re not attentive to how you spend it.

6. Don’t waste time screen-sucking.

Spending too much time on a computer or in front of the TV can seriously limit a person’s productivity and mental growth.

7. Identify and control the sources of distractions in your environment.

You have a computer glitch you could spend the next 3 hours fixing vs. doing the important work you’d like to postpone.

8. Do the important work first. Do it NOW!

Try to adopt a motto, do it now and aggressively make yourself obey that motto whenever possible. The more you put something off, the more it looms.

Beware of magazines. They are off bounds until your work is done.

Set a fixed time when you open your mail and stick to it.

Turn off your cell phone. Limit the time you will take calls. Decide if you truly want to be available constantly.

TV is great as long as you use it properly. Set a one hour per day limit.

9. When you do not want to be interrupted, close your door.

10. Take a break.

When other items on your to-do list beckon and the item you are working on now becomes difficult or boring, recognize this as a moment to take a break.

Stand up do a quick bit of exercise, have a glass of water, meditate for 3 minutes then go back to what you were working on before.

Try not to let yourself abandon what you were doing. Guilt can drag you down.

Remind yourself that you are doing what you can and it is the best you can do.

11. OHIO “only handle it once”.

Clutter is one of the forces that have to be managed so it does not distract or overwhelm you. Whatever it is, file it, hand it off, use it, respond to it, or throw it away.

12. Toxic worry:

When you’re feeling overwhelmed

  • Talk to someone – never worry alone, connect.
  • Get the facts – toxic worry usually arises from lack of information or wrong information.
  • Make a plan. Even if your plan doesn’t work, you will feel more in control because you have a plan. Feeling in control reduces worry and if the plan doesn’t work, you can revise it. Don’t let office politics and domestic squabbles run your day. Set a time and place to discuss what needs to be discussed. Once you know there is a time and place to voice your concerns, it will become less distracting to you day in and day out.

13. Delegate

What you don’t like to do or are not good at if you can. Your goal is not to be independent, but effectively interdependent. You do for me and I’ll do for you. No one does it all for themselves.

14. Slow down:

The many opportunities and obligations most of us juggle have induced an almost reflexive internal impatience. Our resting state doesn’t rest rendering us impatient even when we don’t need to be.

We tap the steering wheel when waiting at a red light even when we’re early. The time for anything grows shorter every day as we try to get more done.

The average American is working 160 hours more now than in 1960 – that is one more month of 40hour work weeks.

We are working harder and longer to maintain our standard of living, even though we are at the highest in the world.

However, happiness ratings puts us at in the middle. If we want to be as happy as can be we will do so by thinking harder and feeling more deeply. Slow down, what’s the hurry? Why hurry?

15. Don’t multi-task ineffectively.

Give one task your full attention, you’ll do it better. You may eventually get so good at that it becomes more automatic, freeing up neurons for other matters.

16. Play

Imaginatively engage in what you are doing. This will naturally bring to bear the best part of your mind.

You will not waste time. You will improve whatever it is you are doing. And you will discover new ways of doing it and improve on old ones. You will not be as distracted as easily.

Here are some C principles to remember when feeling overwhelmed and out of control:

1. Connect:

By connecting with the people and projects that matter most to you, you create a positive emotional atmosphere at home, and at work. Connecting with others also helps reducing worry. It is fine to worry, just try to never worry alone.

2. Control:

Control your technology, don’t let it control you. Develop a system that works for you: when you take calls, prioritize emails, etc.

3. Cancel:

People and organizations add activities, but they rarely subtract. Cancel what doesn’t really matter, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much more energy you really have. Try to think of at least one activity, meeting or event you can cancel right now. Pare down your life to its best.

4. Create

Create structures and systems in your life to help you get organized. This might be a new filing system, or a personal assistant you hire for 5 hours a week, or a part of the evening you set aside to talk with your spouse, or time you schedule for exercise.

5. Care

Decide what you care most about. You do not have a time for everything you care about. You must prioritize.

Get Help for Stress Management

Try to implement one idea from this list and see if it helps you feel more in control of your life. Good luck!

Read more about our stress management counseling services.

To get started contact us in Houston and give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

Recommended Reading:


The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook

Each chapter features a different method for relaxation and stress reduction, explains why the method works, and provides on-the-spot exercises you can do to apply that method when you feel stressed.



the anxiety and phobia workbookThe Anxiety and Phobia Workbook


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