6 Tips for Dealing with Stress & Overwhelm

By: Bria Wannamaker

Apart from selling your home, changing your name, and moving to a secluded beach south of the equator – what can you do to minimize that relentless sense of stress, chaos, and overwhelm in your life?

  • 1) Simplify your physical space: Did anyone on their death bed say, “Gosh, I sure wish that I had more stuff.”??

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a cupboard or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?”

Marie Kondo
  • 2) Breathe Someone asked me, “what are some little things that I can do to be more present throughout the day”, it took me over a week to reflect on what advice I could give, here’s what I came up with – IT’S NOT ABOUT ADDING MOREyou actually don’t need to do more, you don’t need more skills, strategies, or coping tools – you need to pause for a moment and breathe. Feel your feelings, feel into your body, your emotions, your surroundings. – Breathe especially and take a pause before repetitive tasks that you find annoying or triggering emotionally and remind yourself of what you need to know in that moment (is it a mantra, a goal, a value of yours?) Example, taking my dog’s harness off was annoying, it goes over her head and she’s excited to get it off so she pulls before I’m ready to pull and then her neck gets stuck. I found this emotionally triggering because I’m like “JUST WAIT FOR ME TO PULL!! – and no one wants to see their pet struggle. Albeit a minor example, it would then trickle into my life afterward, I would feel frustrated with myself for feeling stressed (cortisol dump into my blood stream every time I took her harness off), then would have negative thoughts “you should just be more patient, why can’t you be more patient with her she’s a dog?”, leading to negative feelings, leading to a negative mood and other behaviours that align with this sense of being. Fast forward a couple of months – every time I go to take her harness off now, I pause for literally 2 seconds, inhale, exhale (while reminding myself of the calm state that I want to be in) and then pull the harness off – piece of cake, works every time. Maybe you have similar frustrations, a 1 year old who is an angel at home but screams in the car seat or in the grocery store, or you’ve just dropped a plate that shattered, or your hair isn’t cooperating with you today – take a moment to reconnect with yourself.

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”

Oprah Winfrey
  • 3) Know your priorities – what are your top 5 things that you want to accomplish in this lifetime? If what you’re going to do doesn’t align with these or in some way contribute to you being able to create your dream life – then you can say NO. Set a boundary, honour it. Remember, when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else – sometimes, it’s saying no to your inner peace, or being able to be available for something else. The choice is yours.

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • 4) Put an end to the endless to-do-list and little tasks that add up – always thinking about what to do, what’s next, what’s next, what’s next!? – this is the most painful one. Our sympathetic nervous systems are ACTIVATED fight-flight-freeze, survival mode – ENGAGED!! This is when we feel like “I should be enjoying this, I should be grateful for this, but I don’t feel like I can enjoy this.” Ground yourself by switching up your environment, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, get outside, do something fun or something that you enjoy – get back into the parasympathetic nervous system (in charge of rest and digest) so that you can make better use of the prefrontal regions of the brain that are in charge of executive functioning such as focus and concentration, decision making, planning, and organization.

“The art of being wise is that art of knowing what to overlook.”

William James
  • 5) We often overcomplicate things and make our lives harder than they need to be. For me, this often leads to rushing – I hate rushing. I rush every single day and I’m still always late – for everything. I will literally be late for my own funeral. The key to this again, is simplicity. Choose the easiest option – when we get into that sympathetic nervous system survival response, limbic system activated – we get tunnel vision and can’t see any other way of doing things – you don’t HAVE to get groceries and then go to your friends house for coffee and then get your nails done and then go in for your shift. There are other options, other ways of organizing your day – it doesn’t all have to be done today – you CAN put things off until other days or not do them at all if they really aren’t that important. This is seriously a skill. Being able to set perfectionism aside and focus on what really matters. What’s the easiest option? Do you really have to do things all on your own? Is there someone that you can ask for help from?

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Lao Tzu
  • 6) Put the phone down – How much quicker could you be in the bathroom if you just went pee instead of also answer 17 emails, scrolling on Instagram, and texting your grandma back? (Speaking from personal experience here). Go pee. Walk the dog while calling your grandma, put your yoga mat out and STRETCH while you answer your emails – because you always say that you’re gonna stretch and never do – try new ways of organizing your life – the phone seems to make everything more convenient, but does it really?

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”

Steven Spielberg

When you’re feeling that sense of overwhelm, exhaustion, stress, and anxiety, remember – 1) Clear your physical space, 2) Breathe, 3) Prioritize, 4) Get grounded, 5) Choose the easiest option, 6) Disconnect to reconnect.

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