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Help for When You are Feeling Stressed and Overwhelmed

When is the last time you paused to take in a really big breath through your nose, and exhaled out your mouth? If reading this just makes you want to stop and do just that then we suggest you go for it.

Many people spend way too many days of their life rushing around from responsibility to responsibility, task to task and then later discover that they really have been way too stressed out. One of the hazards of doing too much is the overwhelm that often accompanies those choices. Many people casually dismiss stress by thinking that everyone is overwhelmed and stressed and there is nothing that can be done about it.

When we are feeling stressed, specifically chronically distressed and overwhelmed, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones. The effects of chronic stress linger much longer and for many people has become their norm. Our bodies and brains were built to handle the occasional life stressors that come and go (acute stress). When we are cut off in traffic, our boss has a critical word, or our teenager picks a fight with us, our bodies are built to adapt and often within 60-90 minutes of an adverse event, we can easily return to balance or homeostasis.

But what happens when we are carrying a chronic stress load? We are not built for that.

When we have taken too much on, said yes to too many things or people, we can quickly cross over the line into the super stressed zone. While this is harmful for us physically the other tragedy is we end up not enjoying who and what we have said yes to.

So how can you know if you have given too many yesses or taken on more than you realistically have time for?

Tune inwardly and listen for the clues that your body gives you. Not sure if you know how to listen? Here are some things to notice.

Notice your Breath- Is it shallow? Do you hold your breath? Are there times you recognize you are not breathing periodically throughout the day?

What are your muscles saying? Do your arms, neck, shoulders or back muscles feel tight and full of tension? Does your jaw feel like its clamping down?

What sensations do you feel in your gut? Does your stomach feel unsettled, tight, upset, or queasy? Since there is an intimate gut brain connection, your gut can reveal much about how you are actually feeling.

Once you have determined that you are carrying too much of a stress load, and when you are ready to change and shift out of doing too much and constantly feeling distressed, here’s some ideas that can be a game changer for you.

-Practice giving a good no, or a “not now.” Giving a good no means that you have realized that someone is asking something of you that you cannot either in good conscience deliver on, or saying yes would tip you over into no mans (stress) land. Giving a good no is straightforward and does not require any verbal tap dancing. If you are able to do the task but not in the requested time, you may offer up the next idea…

-Make a counter offer you are ok with. Counter offers are great for those who have difficulty with a firm no; it is a way of preserving your health, time and sanity without perhaps feeling like the “bad guy”. A counter offer sounds something like, “no son, I cannot drive you to the mall today, but I am available to drive you tomorrow at noon.” If the person does not like the timing of your offer, he or she is welcome to ask someone else who may be able to accommodate their need sooner.

-Learn and use the “60 Second Rule” This “rule” allows you to buy some time and space before replying to someone else’s request of your time. It sounds like “I am happy to help and I don’t want to over commit, I’ll need a minute (or ten minutes, an hour or a day) to think about it and I will get back with you.”

These suggestions are small ways that pack a big punch when it comes to not over committing, and feeling more in control of your days and schedule. By being more aware of what and who to say yes to and who and what to say no to, you are likely to both reduce your stress as well as feel more in control of your life.

Our bodies and brains need some stress, however too much pumps way too many stress hormones into our body which take a toll on our health and wellbeing over time. Learn to manage yourself better and manage your stress by being aware of your body as well as when to take care of it and not sacrifice it in the name of “have to’s”.

You may find yourself smiling more, breathing better, and your gut may just start giving you a thumbs up.

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