No one can escape stress, but we can learn to handle it better. Here are the best ways to reduce stress that work for me when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Best ways to reduce stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed
No matter what part of the world you call home, you can relate to feeling stressed. It’s pretty much par for the course of life. Stress from our jobs, personal lives, social media, the stress of living abroad, and more all wear us down. Here I’m sharing some of the best ways to reduce stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
So tell me, what stresses you out?
My life is less busy than it was back in New York, but I can’t say it’s less stressful living abroad. The stress that comes with living abroad is different. At this point, I think I’d feel confident saying my everyday stress is overall more manageable than my life in NYC. But it depends on the day and my mood.
Most of my stress now is self-imposed stress. What I mean by this is the stress that comes from my own thoughts and commitments and just being overwhelmed by life, not always something specific going on in the world, or my job, or whatever. That’s in contrast to my stress back in fast-paced New York that was due to external factors — rush hour traffic, demanding sales job, etc. I don’t stress the small stuff anymore. Things out of my control don’t bother me as much these days.
Are you easily overwhelmed when you have a bunch of things to do? I am. It’s hard to start simple tasks when I feel like I’ll never finish everything and there’s so much to do. Taking the first step to feel less stressed can be hard when you’re in the middle of a stressful period with seemingly no way out. But there are things we can do to help ourselves out and feel more calm and in control.
I know stress is normal and I remind myself that stress isn’t always a bad emotion. But when we feel the negative impacts of stress daily, it’s time to try to reduce it.
Over the years, I’ve figured out what’s worked for me to de-stress and not feel so overwhelmed. Here are the best ways to reduce stress when you’e feeling overwhelmed by everything on your plate.
Start your day off right… 10 minutes earlier
OK, I know, I know. Not everyone is a morning person but stick with me. If you hit the snooze button three times before quickly rolling out of bed and rushing into the shower, you’ve just set a rushed and stressed tone for your whole day. Instead of starting your day out stressed, wake up a few minutes earlier, enjoy a cup of coffee and take 5 minutes to get yourself organized and in the right head space. That’s 100% within our control. Meditate or do some light stretching. Or use the extra time in the shower to clear your head. I hate feeling rushed — slow and calm is better — and when I feel like I’m in a race to get out the door, it only adds to my panicky feeling. Over the years, I’ve learned that not rushing is what I need to do to feel less stressed and more on top of things. Now, for my other half, that’s a different story… 😉
Make a list
Even if you get nothing done, sometimes just organizing everything on your plate is enough to relieve a little bit of stress. You have a plan and see it all laid out in front of you. If all of your tasks are on the list, then they’re not getting jumbled around and forgotten in your head. If I have a lot going on, I start my list with the easy stuff. Writing down things like “Eat breakfast” and “Take a shower” will absolutely get crossed off my list. The simple act of crossing something off feels good and can make us feel like we’ve accomplished something. Then the real tasks on your list seem easier to manage when you have a little momentum.
Be mindful of the media you consume & turn off the screen
I rarely watch the news on TV. In fact, the TV is rarely on. Although it’s not as negative and sensationalist in France as the news in the U.S. in my opinion, it can still be too much and subconsciously influence your mood if you’re mindlessly consuming it in the background. Some people aren’t affected, but I know the negativity gets to me (even if it’s news, I’d rather put on some music or something else instead of TV background noise).
If I want to see what’s going on in the world, I read the news online for a set period of time and then close out of the window and move on to something else. Try to limit the amount of information you’re taking in throughout the day and focus on the articles/shows/publications that count. The constant noise — podcasts, mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds and just being “on” — leaves little room for your brain to be calm.
In addition, it’s important to know when enough is enough and just put down our phones. As a society, we’ve become incredibly reliant on our smartphones and that’s not a good thing. We’re bombarded by what others are doing, feeling and saying and sometimes it’s all too much and stress-inducing on its own. I know it might sound weird for a blogger to be saying to turn off your computers and phones, but it’s something that’s worked for me. I didn’t realize just how “fine” I’d be without knowing I had access to an internet connection until I didn’t have data in the US on my recent trip. I often left my phone at home when out and about and it’s pretty freeing to not waste mental space on what other people (who probably don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things) are saying and doing.
Set a timer for yourself and stay focused
One of the best ways to reduce stress that’s worked for me is to make whatever task I’m working on more manageable by setting a timer. Figure out how long you want to spend on something and set an alarm on your phone so you don’t lose track of time. That goes for tasks you like too and not just the ones that feel like chores. Sometimes I’ll get started on something only to realize that an hour has passed and I only wanted to spend about 30 minutes on the task at hand. Then this leads to feeling more overwhelmed because I now have less time to finish that other thing that got away from me.
Focus on that one task and only that one task (and don’t reply to an incoming text, check your email, put something in the oven, make a quick phone call, etc. during that time). By focusing on one thing, you’ll be more productive.
If I can get it done in 5 minutes, do it now
Beyond work stress, home stress can make me nuts. Errands, cleaning, and all the other million things you have to remember to do. To help clear out some of my mental load, I think about things that I can get done now in 5 minutes and cross them off my list. If it’s a quick thing like calling to make an appointment, sweeping the floor, de-cluttering, cleaning the toilet, or some other annoying but relatively simple task, I do it right away while I’m thinking about it.
I hate being busy because being busy equals being stressed. It’s OK to decline invitations to parties and events if they aren’t going to be enjoyable or productive for you. Work commitments are different and you may have to take one for the team and go, but if it’s in your personal life, remember that you don’t ever have to do anything just to please someone else if it’s going to be a negative experience for you. Compromise and pick your battles, but never be afraid of saying no. This is a lesson that’s taken me years to learn. So often we do things because we know they’ll make others happy, and as a people-pleaser, it’s hard to let go of that. But I’ve learned to put myself first over the years and it’s never felt better.
Get it out
Keeping stress bottled up inside never ends well. You’ll end up making yourself sick and run down or blowing up at someone. Sweeping stress under the rug isn’t the best way to deal with it because it never just goes away. Address the things you need to address and de-stress by talking to someone. If you don’t want to verbalize your feelings to someone close to you, tell your dog. Write an email to yourself and then read it back out loud. Just getting the words out there into the space around you can serve as a release. You’ve let it out and can breathe a little easier. Working out is also another way I de-stress. A BODYCOMBAT class does a mind and body good.
Alternate “fun” tasks with not so fun ones
If your to-do list is a mile long with a variety of tasks, try to organize them in a way that’s going to motivate you to actually get through the list. If returning emails is boring for, be sure to follow it up with walking the dog if fresh air is what you need. Or if grocery shopping and the thought of the crowds in the store have you stressed, follow that up with a yoga class or your favorite fitness activity. For me, having something to look forward to helps me get through the less enjoyable things on my to-do list.
When the day is over, never underestimate the power of a hot bath and a generous pour of your favorite beverage. 😉
How do you de-stress? What are some of the best ways to reduce stress that you’ve found?