What to do when you feel stressed, overwhelmed or stuck

Oh we all get this feeling and I’m with you on this one for sure. Feeling stressed by all the things we have to do and so little time; or overwhelmed by all the expectations we, or others, put on ourselves; or stuck with not knowing where to focus on next as how on earth can we decide as we want it all? Yes been there, and although I’ve got my tools to work through this, which is what I’ll tell you about in this post, it still comes up. There’s no way around it, with all the internal stuff going on; drive, motivation, expectations, wanting to do well, and external aspects; information we get bombarded with, other people’s opinions, and all the activities we can do – these feelings cannot be avoided. But there is a way out, for sure. I’ve outlined below a few basis principles, and practical suggestions so you can get started on it straight away.

Focus on the next thing

When you feel overwhelmed, nine times out of ten this arises because your mind is going in overdrive. And that’s blocking you from moving forward altogether. So this first step is so essential, just focus on the next thing. You can only do one thing at a time, decide what this is going to be and tell your mind that this is what you’re going to focus on. No need to worry about all the other stuff, that comes later. And by focussing on the task at hand, you’ll also be more productive, waste less energy and you’ll feel better doing it.

Use a sounding board

It always helps to get things off your chest. Don’t use it as a time to whinge. Complaining doesn’t help you moving forward. But have an honest conversation with someone you trust (and it could be yourself as well) and tell this person how you feel. It can be really liberating to talk about all the things occupying your mind and it can give you more clarity too.

Plan but limit your current to-do-list

Take some time to plan everything you want or need to do. Write it all out if you’re a list writer like me, seeing it on paper always helps. And then select a maximum of 3 items of that list you’re going to be doing in the foreseeable future (aka today). Don’t look at the full list of stuff, that’s only going to fuel your feeling of overwhelm. That list is there so you know and trust yourself that you won’t forget anything. You only go back to that list when the day is over and you have to come up with three new things again.

Say no

Now it’s clear to you what you want to do, it’s easier for you to say no to the things that pop up that don’t matter. Things will always pop up and you can’t say no to everything, you just have to prioritise again when new things arise. With having clarity on what you need to do, you’ll feel much better making decisions that suit you. Automatically most of us has a tendency to say yes without really consciously considering it, now it’s up to you to say no to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed. It’s your choice.

Connect to the purpose of your actions

Even the simple things like folding laundry or doing errands are worth it. When you feel overwhelmed, stressed or stuck, give yourself a moment to think about the reason behind the tasks you need to do. Rather than just telling yourself ‘oh suck it up and just do it’, consider and connect to the purpose of your actions. Is it helping your family or household (paying bills, cleaning the kitchen after dinner), is it supporting your future self (exercise, finishing an assignment for your study) or are you making a difference (helping out with a committee by typing out the minutes, or recycling)? All your actions have an impact in this world.

Make it easier

Ask yourself how to make it easier. What do you need to do so it feels more inspiring, fun or simpler? Do you need to put on some music or go outside? Sit somewhere else rather than the same desk? You know what helps you to not feel stressed about the task at hand, and you can make it more fun and easier for yourself.

See it as a challenge

The reason you might feel stuck is that what you want or need to do is beyond your comfort zone and it’s making you want to pull away from it altogether. Well rather than seeing it as such an obstacle, see this as a wonderful challenge. One of my first mentors always said to me: ’there are no problems, only challenges’. Look at it from a positive perspective where you can move forward from, step by step so you don’t get overwhelmed, but absolutely doable. Everything is possible, you totally can do this.

Breathe and smile

Finally, just breathe and smile, take in this wonderful moment and absolutely cherish it. Life is amazing and what you’re doing, even the small things, are worth it. Be in the moment, put a smile on your face and you’ll feel lighter, you’d be more productive and you’ll enjoy it more!

Stress is inevitable, but by making the effort you can totally change the way you manage your stress and feelings of overwhelm.

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