How to Reduce Stress and Overwhelm

I know this one all too well. I spent a huge part of my life being the “Yes” girl.

When a request was made of me, I would automatically blurt out YES. I didn’t take time to consider the request or the consequences it would have on me or my family. In hindsight I feel the catalyst for this behaviour was low self esteem. I was so desperate to “fit in” and be accepted that my only focus was not letting the other person down.

I demonstrated this behaviour in my personal and professional life.

I was like a mouse on a wheel; working full time, juggling a family and pandering to every whim. I lived in a constant state of anxiety; sometimes so bad I found it difficult to breath or swallow food due to my throat and chest being so constricted. I felt trapped, burnt out and exhausted.

Actually, I remember going to see a healer when I first began my journey to mental and physical well being and I recall him asking me what I did when I felt my body responding this way. He was referring to constriction in the throat and chest.

Talk about lack of awareness back then.

This was my answer “I just keep pushing through it; hoping it will go away”

Although this fellow was a bit out there and not someone I would recommend my clients to today;  he did  give me my first lesson in Awareness.

I became aware that day that I was not listening to my body at all.

The constriction in my throat and chest (anxiety) was my body screaming out  “give me break”.  I left his house feeling so much lighter; I now had permission to listen to my body and give myself a break.

Old habits die hard and it took me a long time to break the YES habit, however I can happily say that I now have it down pat. It is very liberating  to set boundaries with people and commitments that do not serve you.

I read a book many years ago called “First Things First” by Stephen Covey and he explained how to use the “gap” which I found to be a very useful tool in reducing stress and overwhelm in my life.

Using the gap allows us to identify the difference between what is urgent in our lives and what is important.

Urgency refers to how quickly action is required. Urgent tasks may include a ringing phone, a drop-in visitor or a text message. Important things in life are those that do not have a deadline but are crucial to balance, happiness and well being. Important focuses include family, finances, relationships, exercise, diet, personal development and relaxation.

We often confuse urgency with importance because of the high energy that is attached to urgency. We become extremely busy doing the things that jump out to grab our attention and seem important at the time. It is this confusion between what is urgent and what is important that can leave us feeling trapped, stressed and overwhelmed.

How do we break this cycle?

We start by implementing the use of the “gap” into our lives. The gap is simply that; a gap in between action and reaction, ensuring that you never compromise on what is important to you with someone else’s urgency. Using the gap eliminates the possibility of saying “yes” when you should have said “no”.

When an urgent request is made of you that clashes with what you consider important in your life, consider using one of these responses

  • I am not sure what I have on. I will check my diary and give you a call tomorrow
  • Yes I can help you, but not at that particular time. I will get back to you with a time that suits

There is no need to feel as though you are doing an injustice to a loved one, shirking a responsibility or being selfish. It is necessary to take care of yourself to prevent becoming mentally and physically exhausted. You may even find that as you  learn to set boundaries with people and commitments that do not serve you, your circle of friends and social engagements may change and this should not be met with feelings of guilt.

Here are some Happy Mind Tips that may help you set boundaries and experience more time for you

  • Use the “Gap” between action and reaction before making any decisions
  • Make a commitment to stop being the “Yes” person
  • Turn off your mobile phone during quality family time and “me” time
  • Return phone calls and emails in block times rather than sporadically throughout the day
  • Make a commitment to only check your emails, face book and twitter once or twice daily
  • Ask your friends to stop sending you junk email or block sender if you do not know them
  • Unsubscribe to newsletters via emails that are no longer relevant
  • Leave work at the time you are meant to
  • Delegate tasks at work where necessary 
  • Do not take work home
  • Delegate tasks to others in the house – particularly if they are teenagers or adult children
  • If you are struggling; ask for help

I love this quote from Richard Carlson and it is one that I have used for many years to remind myself to back off; I hope it helps you too.

“When you die; your in tray still won’t be empty”

Are You suffering from Urgency Addiction? – Click here to find out

If you have a story you would like to share; I would love to hear from. You can comment below.

Health and Happiness Tracey Carmichael

Author of Happy Mind Formula – Your Action Plan to Mental and Physical Wellbeing








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3 Responses to How to Reduce Stress and Overwhelm

  1. Donna Flockhart says:

    Thank you Tracey, great reminders as always and fantastic tips. I so look forward to getting physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally fit and fulfilling the passions in my life. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers … Donna

    • tracey says:

      Hi Donna, Thank you. I love to share because I know how much it helps others to know that they are not alone. What we see on the outside is not always a true reflection of what is happening on the inside. sometimes it is comforting just to know that we are all or have been at some point in the same boat.

      Health and Happiness Tracey

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