How often do you feel like you have too much to do and not enough time?
Do you tend to get overwhelmed from feeling like you’re always behind? Do you sometimes wonder why life feels stressful? If you do, you’re not alone. In a 2014 study on stress impact in the US, The American Institute of Stress states: “Annual costs to employers in stress related health care and missed work amounted to $300 Billion.”
While there is no denying that many people struggle with unhealthy stress, there are ways we can ease the load. I’m a believer that life is what we make of it. If we find ourselves stuck in overwhelm and burnout, it’s a pretty clear sign we need to shift our habits and views. When we show up day after day with the same attitude, beliefs and approach to life, we will inevitably re-create the same reality over and over – for good and not so good.
Here’s the thing, nobody is coming to save you from yourself and nobody needs to. We all have everything we need right now to empower our lives and choose how we show up.
Overwhelm is a habitual pattern and mindset we create over time – it’s also one we can break over time. The first and most important step is to recognize that you shape your experience of life by how you choose to show up each day. How we react to life, defines our life. You can ease overwhelm and still lead a full life.
Here are my favorite practices to ease overwhelm. These reminders help me see I have more than enough time to enjoy my definition of a full life. Perhaps they will be a right fit for you too.
1.Get Crystal Clear
When we are crystal clear on what our priorities are, we are more likely to follow our own success path and thrive.
It’s important to know what your definition of success includes. What does your big picture of happiness look like? Who are the important people in your life? What relationships do you want to invest in? Who and what drains your energy? What does ideal balance look like to you? When looking at your overall ideal picture of life balance, consider all of the areas of your life like: career, family, health, spiritual practice, fun, adventure, etc. Then get clear on how you’d like the overall picture of your life to fit together.
Knowledge is power and when we are really clear on what happiness feels like to us, we can approach our days in pursuit of our own personal credo.
When we aren’t clear on our definition of success, we can easily mismanage our priorities, time and tasks. This mismanagement is often what causes us to spiral into overwhelm. Lack of clarity is often the culprit for confusion and stress. If you want to get a clear snapshot of your current level of stress, as well as additional resources to combat stress, check out this stress and anxiety test from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
2. Stick to Your Script
Stick to your own script and don’t get distracted by other people’s agendas and highlight reels. As famously quoted by Mark Twain: “Comparison is the death of joy.” He was right. Everyone is doing the best they can in life. We overcomplicate our lives by comparing ourselves to others. We lose our sense of direction when we follow other people’s credo closer than we honour our own inner guide.
There will always be shiny things, people and paths that can distract us. These distractions tempt us to lose our focus on what we know feels right and good for us. One way to avoid falling into the comparison and distraction trap, is to get more comfortable saying no.
We say yes to what feels right, when we say no thanks to everything that doesn’t. Trust in your feelings to guide you towards what feels right and away from what doesn’t. Then follow through and honour yourself by sticking to your script.
3. Clear Clutter and Simplify
When we get rid of clutter in our physical space, it helps create a feeling of spaciousness in our lives. We can use the changing seasons as our cue to declutter our cupboards and organize the space around us. When our physical space is organized, we are less likely to buy an excess of things we don’t need. When our space is cluttered and unorganized, we don’t really know what we need.
Buying an excess of stuff we don’t need, leads to feeling overcrowded in our physical space. It can also cause us to feel out of control with our finances. In order to simplify our lives and our space, it’s a great habit to keep clutter at bay and only buy what we need. At our house, every time we buy a new household item or piece of clothing, we get rid of one item. We either donate it to a cause or give it to someone we know who would appreciate receiving it.
We can apply the same principle we use to clear clutter, when we are organizing our time and schedule. It’s hard to get to where you are going, if you don’t have some resemblance of a map. I’ve found it really helpful to sketch out a broad yearly plan, a monthly plan, a weekly plan and a daily plan for my time.
Getting the information out of my head and onto paper, immediately helps me feel at ease. Being organized and having a clear picture of my responsibilities, commitments, appointments, travel, etc. helps me see where I can create spaciousness. It actually helps me go with the flow more. Having a clear picture helps me know when it’s important to say no to added commitments. Being over-committed is a sure way to invite stress and overwhelm into our lives.
If you don’t already organize your time and schedule, have some fun creating a personalized map of all of your priorities and activities related to your definition of success. Being organized isn’t something solely reserved for people with Type A tendencies. Having organization actually gives you more room for freedom and joy. Give it a try.
4. Quiet the Noise
We need daily quiet space to balance all of the external noise we are inundated with. External noise is plentiful these days. Think of the steady stream of breaking news that’s hard to wrap our minds around. Then we have the daily demands and sales pitches coming at us through emails and advertisements. We also have to factor in other people’s opinions and agendas being thrown our way. This is all even before we consider our own thoughts swirling around in our minds.
All of this noise isn’t bad, we simply need to be able to take a break so we can reset and filter as needed. The added noise of life becomes overwhelming when we don’t have healthy boundaries. It becomes stressful when we don’t train ourselves to fully experience quiet space and down time. How we create quiet space is as unique as we are. There isn’t a right or wrong way.
We can help ease a busy mind by focusing on one thing at a time. We can put parameters in place to create a quieter environment around us. Some ideas include: choosing regular times to turn off your phone or leave it behind (you’ll survive). Only check email at certain times during the day. Don’t keep your phone in your bedroom at night. I’m sure you can add to the list. The idea is to be proactive. Instead of applying constant pressure and force, set yourself up to move with the ebb and flow of life. This life adventure can be bumpy. Give yourself lots of space to breathe.
Here’s what Harvard Health Publishing has to say about relieving stress: “Though stress is inevitable, you can help control your body’s response to it. Exercise, meditation, invoking the relaxation response, and mindfulness are great stress busters.”
5. Recharge Regularly
Along with reducing noise, we also need to implement regular ways to recharge. These recharges can be straightforward like getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. It could also be fueling our bodies with nutrient dense food and drinking lots of fresh water. Recharging doesn’t mean we have to go on vacation or escape our lives. We give ourselves room to recharge when we stop pushing ourselves so hard to get things done. There is no ease or flow in force. When we push too hard in life, we often get less done because we are bogged down by stress. Too much seriousness and strain isn’t fun and the added stress leads to getting less done.
Do what you can to stay in balance – moderation is key. Forward regular motion helps us stay in a good flow. When we are moving with the natural flow of life, we accomplish more with greater ease and enjoyment. Big highs and lows are harder to recover from. When we know we will have added stress, we can plan to take extra good care of ourselves. When we have busy stretches in our schedule, it’s important to be mindful to stop adding new things on the pile.
Recharging is really about using common sense. It’s about caring for our basic needs and nurturing ourselves the same way we would nurture a small child. When we take care of ourselves, we don’t just get to lead full lives – we get to enjoy the amazing ride of having a full life.
It’s up to you – how will you lead your full life?
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Originally published at emilymadill.com