We all know what stress feels like, and it isn’t fun. The stress levels in our house have been at a record high, and it’s been interesting to see how what affects one person trickles down to affect us all. There is no doubt, stress is bad for your emotional, mental, and physical health, but learning how to slow down, take care of yourself, and create peace in your life is not always easy to do. We’ve discovered it’s good to learn how to get control of your stress so you can avoid the debilitating feelings of being overwhelmed.
I’ve written about stress and overwhelm in the past, but today I want to look at a few new ways we’ve discovered to help with our ability to get control and avoid our natural inclinations.
Is stress really a problem?
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to dive into a checklist of changes without understanding why stress is even a problem. We all feel it, and it doesn’t make any of us unique — so why is it such a big deal? The American Institute of Stress and The American Psychological Association both agree:
“Stress is killing you.”
I know it sounds a bit extreme, but the studies show mental and physical stressors cause inflammation in the body and the brain. Since inflammation is at the basis of most chronic diseases, if you don’t handle stress properly, it increases your risk of having a stroke or heart attack, becoming overweight and obese, developing mental orders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and diabetes.
I was alarmed at the results of one study showing 60% or more of all human illness and disease to be caused by stress. And every year the numbers keep rising. We are experiencing higher levels of stress while failing to execute practices to help us cope. People are stressing out more than ever before, and because we aren’t handling it as well as we used to, we’re creating a recipe for physical and mental health disasters.
Here are some ideas to help get control of your stress while limiting the overwhelm and how it impacts your life. Learning how to deal with stress when you encounter it is vital.
- 5 Steps to a Stress Detox
- How to Manage Feelings of Stress and Overwhelm
- Why I Stopped Trying to “Fix” My Life
- Breathing Techniques: A Guide to the Science and Methods
In a lot of ways, we beat ourselves up unnecessarily. It’s good to have a little grit to keep ourselves driven. We should always strive to be the best we can be. But it has an unhealthy price tag when the result is a constant pressure to push hard all the time. There are already enough external demands and stresses negatively impacting our lives, so it makes no sense to add additional tension because of unrealistic expectations. Here are a few simple and proven ways to give yourself some breathing room, so you don’t feel like you are always walking around carrying a piano on your back.
Pump the Brakes, Slow Down
We got new hydraulic brakes on our tandem. On our first ride down a mountain pass, we reached 45 mph. For a bike, that is really cruising! As we rounded one tight hairpin turn, I yelled out to my husband.
“Slow down and pump the brakes!”
My body was tense. I had a death grip on the handlebars. And my heart rate was acting like we were climbing up instead of going down. When we are feeling a lot of stress, our bodies react in a similar way.
For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”– Lily Tomlin
Running around like a chicken with your head cut off is a great way to stress out needlessly. When everything appears to be going a mile a minute, and your responsibilities seem endless because you’re focusing on several things at once, all with no end in sight — slow down.
Stop what you’re doing.
Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, holding each breath in for a second before exhaling. Stop to think of a fun, calm, peaceful, and happy place. Doing this for even just a few seconds can help you put everything back into perspective. It gives you a clearer vision of what you should and should not be doing, and since haste makes waste, you will find yourself getting better results in the things you are doing.
Get Enough Sleep, Take a Rest
I’ve felt a little obsessed with sleep as of late. With super early mornings and late nights, it’s hard to get a full 8 hours of sleep. Still, studies show, adults need 7 to 9 hours of rest each night to function at full capacity. Obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are all more prevalent in those people who don’t regularly get a good night’s rest.
So why aren’t you sleeping enough?
If you’re one of those people who thinks you can just “catch-up” on sleep later, you are wrong. Science has proven time and again that the damaging health effects of not getting enough regular sleep cannot be undone by sleeping more later. If you have trouble sleeping, look at your diet. Exercise regularly. Drink lots of water during the day. These simple tips are proven to help you sleep better, get to sleep faster, and stay asleep longer.
If you are stressed out during the day, take a short nap.
Multiple studies watched students who took a 20 to 30-minute nap immediately after studying for an exam. The majority did better on their test than those who did not nap because a short rest clears your mind. It frees you of distractions. It gives you the quiet peace you need while recharging your batteries and leading you to better results.
Managing Your Mindset
Despite what your brain might be telling you, you don’t need to be stressed out all the time.
When it comes to our mindset, we are in the driver’s seat. Isn’t it so empowering? We are in control when it comes to our thoughts, our desires, our focus, and yes, even our stress. We invite the idea of “feeling stress” to our brain because of a thought or idea we have. What we choose to focus on can either motivate or overwhelm us.
I know it doesn’t seem to add up. We think the equation should look like this:
Long List of Things TO-DO + Short Amount of TIME = Justified STRESS
And this is what you can actually do:
List of things TO-DO + Managing your MINDSET = RESULTS
Here is a little trick I learned from my life coach. When I feel frustrated about my lack of progress toward a goal, or overwhelmed with the long list of things to do, this one question can change my perspective in no time.
“What would make this more fun?“
I’m usually a fairly serious person, so it’s easy for my brain to tell me EVERYTHING is heavy and important. But when I plant this question in my mind, my brain goes to work on it.
I figure it out, and suddenly I’m ten times more effective.
What would make your life more fun?
Just sit with it.
You won’t be sorry.
Look at your situation objectively, as if someone was watching your day like it was a movie. Use this perspective to help you lead a more balanced and enjoyable life.
- Feeling Overwhelmed? Here is why your focus is so important.
- How do You Respond to Your Circumstances?
Are you caught up in Busyness?
Being busy seems to have a badge of honor associated with it. It makes us feel important, and like we are accomplishing great things. If you think you have too much to do and not enough time to achieve your responsibilities and tasks, there may be a better way to manage your life more simply.
You may be guilty of the busyness trap. The trap leads us to believe we need to keep busy doing what really doesn’t need to be done, even if you have a few spare minutes of time, you should be doing something.
A good work ethic is invaluable, and a lot of people don’t have one. However, if you’re the kind of person who continually busies yourself just for the sake of doing something, you need to slow down. Take a break and think about your situation. Ask yourself:
“Is what I am doing right now, useful and necessary?”
We compare our lives on social media, over-schedule our kids in every possible activity, criticize our bodies and spend hours consumed in work. Our time is filled doing good things, with good people, for good causes. But are we choosing the best way to focus our attention?
You have to be honest with yourself. If you are the type of person who seems to enjoy having a lot of stress in your life, which is often self-created, you may think everything you do is useful. However, when you love yourself enough to be honest in answering this question, you will find times throughout your day when you’re engaging in activities which you don’t need to be doing.
Stress is real. It is something we all have to deal with, and learning the best way to get control of your stress helps you to avoid the overwhelm. When you’re overwhelmed for weeks, months, or years, you could crash and burn. Remember to set realistic expectations, slow down, sleep, manage your mindset, and avoid the busyness trap.