8 tips for dealing with stress and overwhelm
From Susan Pearse, Mind Gardener
In today’s modern world, distractions are growing, busy-ness is increasing, stress is climbing and people are feeling more overwhelmed than ever before. Information overload, the rapid rate of change and increased role expectations are all contributors. These trends are unlikely to slow down so having the tools to manage your response to these conditions is critical.
Here are eight tips for helping you to take back control and move you from stress and overwhelm to calm.
Tip 1: Breathe, Pause and Reset
If a typical day is rushing from one task to the next, chances are by the end of the day your head is a jumble. Thinking about the next task whilst still reflecting on the last one, and juggling all the other things on your to-do list is probably becoming an every day habit. Even lunch breaks may be filled with activity — eating lunch at your desk and having no recollection of what it even tasted like.
Sometimes you need to step back to move forward. Your breath is a powerful calming force. It helps empty out all the thoughts in your head, resets your stress response and allows you to move calmly forward. Simply connect with a breath for up to six seconds, and practice it regularly throughout the day! Going outside and breathing in fresh air will give you an even greater boost.
Tip 2: Idle time
Identify idle moments throughout the day and resist the temptation to fill them with activity.Your attention needs time to rest and recover. Superior performers regularly take breaks throughout the day, and this has often been attributed to their success. Even if you can’t have extra breaks in your day, consider what you do in the idle moments that currently exist throughout the day. For example, when you are on public transport, waiting for a meeting to start or even waiting for your morning coffee. Instead of pulling out your mobile device and using the time to be more “efficient,” take the time to let your attention rest. Look up and connect with others. You’ll be surprised how productive you are for the rest of the day.
Tip 3: Focus on one thing at a time
It’s hard to resist the temptation to multitask when you are overwhelmed by your to-do list. But the benefits of multitasking are a myth. In fact, it takes one and a half times longer to do a task when you are juggling a few. Instead of dragging your attention all over the place, pick one task and do it with excellence. Switch safely between tasks, rather than moving to something new while you are still thinking about the previous thing.
Tip 4: Focus on what really matters
Your attention is a precious and limited resource. You physically can’t pay attention to everything. Your attention is designed to be spent on the things that are important, but often it is stolen by whatever screams the loudest. Reflect on the following two things. Firstly think about the five things that really matter to you in your life. Next think about the 5 things that grab your attention most of the time. Are these lists the same? If not, how can you achieve a better balance? Moment to moment ask yourself this powerful question “what is most important to me right now?” and pay attention to that.
Tip 5: Focus on what you can control
A large portion of thoughts are spent on things that you can’t control. This includes being frustrated or trying to change other people’s actions, or worrying about all the things that might (but probably won’t) happen. When you spend your time thinking about things that you cannot control or influence, it is wasted time and attention and it’s taking you away from what matters. Often the only thing you can control is your own actions or reactions, so focus there. Ask yourself “Can I control this?” or “Can I influence this?” and if the answer is yes then do something about it. But if the answer is no, it’s time to let it go.
Tip 6: Focus on what nourishes you, not depletes you
The term “pay attention” implies that you get something back. For example when we “pay” a shopkeeper, we get goods back in return. Every investment of your attention should give a return. When your energy is depleted, carefully consider what you are focusing on. Focus on the things that energise and uplift you like the present moment, connecting with people., positive approaches and purpose or how you are making a difference.
Tip 7: Establish a calming morning routine
The first part of your day sets the pathway for how your day unfolds. If you jump out of bed mentally running through your to do list, then jump in the shower rehearsing conversations you need to have, and then have breakfast whilst answering your emails, it is likely that your day will continue at this frantic, busy pace. Instead why not try easing into your day mindfully. Turn activities like drinking your cup of tea, showering or even making lunches into a mini meditation. And why not ban technology for the first hour of your day? It’s guaranteed to make a difference.
Tip 8: Busy ban
Ask anyone the simple question “How are you?” and chances are somewhere in their response will lie the word “busy.” Busy has become a badge of honour that we talk about, brag about and even compete over. But what you focus on grows. If you think or speak about how busy you are all the time, the problem becomes bigger. You’ll be surprised how things can slow down by simply changing your perspective.
There is no doubt you can have a profound effect on your stress and overwhelm levels by simply looking at your situation in a different way. Try these eight tips over eight weeks and see how your mind and your external environment changes for the better.