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5 Tips for Dealing With Stress and Overwhelm

Anne has a BSc in Applied Psychology and qualifications in counselling, CBT & mindfulness. She teaches mindfulness workshops and courses.

Stress and Overwhelm

Some Stress can be Good

We can all feel stressed from time to time and it’s not always a bad thing; A little stress can keep us alert and on top of our game. But whenever we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed for an extended duration, it’s time to take action with some self-care.

At a Glance: 5 Tips for Dealing With Stress

1. Take it Slow

Rushing about, frantically trying to do several things at the same time only contributes to our stress levels and does little for our efficiency levels.

2. Reframe

A lot of our stress stems from our perception of situations and events.

3. Know What You Can and Cannot Control

Not all problems have a solution and learning how to accept that can reduce our overall stress levels quite considerably.

4. Mindfulness

A simple definition of mindfulness is staying in the moment and keeping it real.

5. Switch off

Whenever you can during the day, and particularly at weekends, commit to switching off all technology for a while.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is exactly as it sounds; it’s taking care of your "self". Never to be confused with selfish, self-care means taking our own health and well being seriously. At its simplest, that means eating a healthy diet, resting when we’re tired, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.

Self-care also means getting the right help when we need it. If our physical health is in danger, we go to the doctor. If our mental health is in danger, such as in times of trauma or bereavement, we go to a therapist.

And when life is causing chronic stress, there are also some things we can do to help ourselves. These 5 tips can help us overcome that racing heart and thoughts and/or those feelings of overwhelm and doubt.

1. Take It Slow

It may sound counter-intuitive to move slowly when we’re feeling overwhelmed and out of time. But rushing about, frantically trying to do several things at the same time only contributes to our stress levels and does little for our efficiency levels.

Manage your time by making a to-do list in order of priority, and then sticking to it. If possible, complete each task before going to the next. If that’s not possible, then take the task as far as you can, put a line through it and then add whatever’s left of that task back to the list.

Now, it’s time to tackle the next task on the list.

2. Reframing

Have you ever noticed how some people see every setback in their life as a major disaster while others seem to ride over the bumps with relative ease?

Most of us come somewhere in the middle, but by changing how we see the problem we can get a better understanding of it. We could try to see it from the perspective of the person who we believe caused the problem, or from the perspective of a third party. We may also be able to ask someone who has dealt with the same or similar problem for their viewpoint. These perspectives might give we hint of how to work out a solution.

3. Know What You Can and Cannot Control

Control, or lack of it, can be a huge issue with many of us. We see a problem and we want to fix it. But not all problems have a solution and learning how to accept that can reduce our overall stress levels quite considerably. The problem of an unexpected delay due to a traffic jam is one example, another is unpredictable weather and another more serious example is a grave illness or even death of a loved one. In these situations we do what we can to mitigate the problem and then learn to accept the outcome. Sometimes we may need help and support in learning to accept the harder outcomes and that’s when we need to consider getting professional help.

We also need to understand that not all problems are ours to fix. For example, if an adult we care about is making what we regard as a risky decision, despite all advice to the contrary, then all we can do is accept the decision as theirs to make and hope for the best. And if things do turn out as we feared, then we bite our tongue and try to support them as best we can with any fallout.

Caught in a traffic jam is a good example of something we can do nothing about.

Caught in a traffic jam is a good example of something we can do nothing about.

4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness sometimes gets a bad press, mostly because it's misunderstood. A simple definition of mindfulness is staying in the moment and keeping it real.

Whenever we’re stressed, our mind is usually racing about, searching for solutions and strategies, regretting past actions or just making us mad by thinking about all the reasons that we’re stressed in the first place. And even though we know that none of this is helpful, still we do it.

By staying in the moment and keeping it real, we accept that it is a stressful situation and we don’t like it. We can’t change it by wishing it were different or by getting mad about it, but we can make a difference by taking 30 seconds to draw a few deep breaths, tuning into our body, dropping our shoulders and feeling the bottom of our feet.Then from this calmer place, we can begin to think about possible solutions.

We can also stretch that 30 second exercise to one, ten or even twenty minutes every day as a meditation. There is a little book that I always recommend to my Clients written by the brilliant psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, Dr Patrizia Collard. It's title is Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace and it is a short, no nonsense guide to some simple practices that you can incorporate into your day.

There are also some good mindfulness meditation apps out there that you can use but the one I recommend the most is the Headspace App. This app has really helped several of my Clients and I also use it myself whenever things get very stressful.

Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace.

Mindful or Mind Full?

Mindful or Mind Full?

5. Switch Off

When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? Many people answer that they reach for their phone. And that’s understandable. We want to know what’s been happening in our world while we were sleeping.

But try to wait for even five minutes instead. Stretch, really tune into and feel your body , think about your dreams if you can remember any, feel some appreciation for you bed, the roof over your head and your loved ones. Ideally, I would suggest you wait until you’re showered, dressed and had breakfast before checking your phone but some of us would need some time to build up to doing this.

Whenever you can during the day, and particularly at weekends, commit to switching off all technology for a while. We are being constantly bombarded with information via our devices, most of it irrelevant and unnecessary. We don’t need to be plugged in 24/7. And our stress levels will be reduced by doing this one, small thing.

You Can Help Yourself to Reduce Stress and Overwhelm

So, taking it slow, reframing, knowing what you can and cannot control and practicing mindfulness: These are just some things that you can do for yourself whenever you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Remember, you deserve to be taken care of just the same as anybody else, and who better to do that for you, than the person who knows you best? Self-care keeps you healthy and happy, and by extension, helps to keep the people around you happier too.

And if you’re struggling with stress, sadness, grief or depression, it’s always a good idea to get help from a professional therapist.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 annerivendell

Comments

annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on November 14, 2019:

Thank you, Patricia

Patricia T Lowe from Lehigh Valley on November 13, 2019:

Well-written and informative...I enjoyed reading this article.

annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on November 13, 2019:

Thank you for your kind words, Audrey. Yes, I agree, I've found reframing to be a particularly helpful tool.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on November 12, 2019:

Reframing is an important step in dealing with stress. Thanks for this informative article.

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