Archive for the ‘Overwhelm’ Category

MSN, in conjunction with Stress Awareness Month, is offering people free and healthy tips and tools on how to help manage and reduce their stress levels.  In their press release they quote an American Psychological Association report “Stress in America,”  which indicates that ‘ “nearly half of Americans report that their stress level has increased over the past year, with as many as 30 percent rating their average stress level as extreme.* Specifically, eight out of 10 Americans listed money and the economy — 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively — as the main source of their stress.’  http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/apr09/04-06StressAwarenessPR.mspx?rss_fdn=Press%20Releases

If you find it difficult to manage your stress effectively it’s almost 100% certain, that you’re not putting yourself at the top of your to-do list nor grounded in the present.  Whether you’re worried about the state of the world or the worry is closer to home and you’re worried about every day life, here are some simple steps to maintaining your balance and your sanity.

  1. Get your biggest stressors out of the way.  If there are things on your plate that are creating stress, the tendency is to avoid them.  Instead, face them head on, and get them over with.  That will open the flood gates of productivity and get you moving, while at the same time freeing you from what you were tolerating.
  2. Don’t hold it in.  Often when we share what’s bothering us with others, whether it’s to vent, share the lighter side of it, or just to get a different point of view, we can shift our framework around what is causing the stress, and thereby eliminate it or at least minimize it.  I encourage my clients to call me when they need a three minute vent.  You may not have a coach, but it’s likely that you have a willing family member or friend who will be happy to listen to a brief vent.  (Just don’t let the vent go on too long, or you’ll be programming yourself for dissatisfaction rather than releasing it.)
  3. Surround yourself with supportive and interesting people.  It’s important to have people in your life that are positive, interesting, nonjudgmental, and there for you. Why interesting?  Because when you have interesting people in your life, you’re less likely to feel stuck and bored, and less likely to dwell on negative thoughts as well.  

If you don’t have that in your life now, or you don’t have an abundance of supportive and interesting relationships, set about creating a community that supports you. Reach out or deepen those relationships that nourish you and allow you to grow. Raise your standards and let go of those relationships that drain you or harm you. Surround yourself with people that nourish you in mind and spirit.
  4. Create rituals.  Whether it’s a glass of wine before dinner, a cup of chamomile tea while watching your favorite reality TV show, or riding your bike to your favorite park at the same time each day, a consistent ritual has a calming effect.
  5. Learn to say “no”. Learning to say “no” to tasks, requests or social obligations will go a long way towards making life more stress free.  Even go so far as to consider unburdening yourself from things you have already committed to that don’t serve you personally or professionally.  It’s okay to change your mind.  And “no” is a complete sentence…don’t feel the need to explain.  

Don’t create unrealistic demands on yourself. What can you start saying, “no” to in your life?  Saying “no” is a skill that can be developed. You have the power to choose so start taking a proactive approach to your life.
  6. Try Yoga breathing when you feel stress taking its toll.  Deep breathing provides extra oxygen to the blood and causes the body to release endorphins.  Sit comfortably in your chair. Start by taking a few deep breaths, and then stop. Let your hands just rest on your lap. Inhale slowly and deeply for six seconds. Don’t breathe out immediately; instead hold the breath for four seconds. Exhale slowly for six seconds. Repeat several times.
  7. Be present to the now.  When you’re engaged in an activity, don’t be thinking about all the other things you should be doing.  When you’re with people you love, really be there with them – not 80% there and 20% back at work!  Plan something you can look forward to every evening with your partner or friends and be totally present for it – and that means something more than wolfing down your dinner and positioning yourself in front of the TV!

Of course there are many other stress alleviators…listening to music, exercising, being in nature, making love.  The point is that you have to take action, rather than allowing yourself to be stuck in your head.  So what are you waiting for…go do something about it.


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What if you were surrounded only by those things you used and loved? Things that were beautiful and made your heart sing?  Clothes that lifted the spirits and made you feel great.

Most of us have far too much.  I know I do.  My closets are crammed and overflowing, and I’ll bet there’s things in mine (and yours) that haven’t been worn in years.  There are items hiding in the back of my pantry that probably need carbon dating.  Things in the cellar and attic that I don’t need, don’t want, and probably a few that I have no idea what they are.  There are items I received as engagement gifts that I’ve never used, and never will.  Books I’ll never read. Magazines I keep for what reason?

The interesting thing is that when you eliminate the clutter, the unnecessary and unbeautiful, it frees you up in more ways than just space.  For me, it releases stress, increases energy, and even enhances creativity.

Give it a try.  Eliminate 5 non-essential things each day, starting now. Look around you, what will go first?

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Over on Transformational Girlfriends, Susan wrote a post about surviving the holiday season with great suggestions on how to decrease the stress.

I find that for so many folks I work with, the pressure of the holidays (ho ho, oh no) is often about trying to create a fantasy holiday that no lesser human than Martha Stewart could pull off.  I gave that all up years ago.

I think there are just a few things you need to survive the holiday season (which nowadays starts two weeks before Halloween.)

First,  I think is vitally important is to get in touch with what you really want.   Is sending out 100 holiday cards soul-nurturing, or would you really be happier sending a hand written note to a dozen people who really mean something to you? Do you truly enjoy making handmade napkin rings, intricate holiday party invitations, and a five-course sit down dinner for twelve, or would you get more pleasure out of a casual “bring a dish” to brunch gathering? [And there’s no harm in making food that’s “almost homemade” or even pre-cooked. Seriously!]

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to attend every party you are invited to.  You will not be judged by the number of latkes you fry or cookies you bake (Susan, did you really cover an entire extended table with cookies?), nor by the hand-stamped, personalized gift-wrap you use.  If it’s fun….do it.  If it’s not…don’t.

The holidays should be about enjoyment.  Enjoying the music, the friends, the memories you’re creating with your children.  Every time you begin to feel that tightness in your chest, or the throbbing in your head — STOP!!  Look at what you’re doing, and ask yourself why??  And what you could do instead.  Come up with new traditions when the old ones no longer serve you.  Simpler ones.  Communal ones.

Don’t give up on things you value and priorities because “it’s the holidays.”  Too often I see people throw the budget out the window (and deeply regret it in January) because they have to buy expensive gifts (who said?); or they stop doing things that are important to them because of holiday obligations. Doesn’t make much sense.

Above all, keep your sense of humor.  In a season that’s supposed to be about the “ho ho ho”, I’m already seeing a lot of “bah humbug”.  When you come right down to it, what the holidays are all about are family, friends and good feelings.  If you can stay focused on those as your priorities, you’ll arrive at the New Year with your sanity intact.

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It’s all too much

Martha Beck recently wrote an article in “O” magazine on the anthropological reasons for overwhelm.  She says that ‘”Overwhelm” is increasingly common as demands on human attention increase exponentially. The human brain just wasn’t designed to handle the environment we inhabit. ”

I felt like she was talking directly to me.

She goes on to say that throughout the ages, human life has been shaped by scarcity in every area of our lives.  For most of the Western World, at least, that is no longer the case.  “Yet our brains, instincts, and socialized behavior are still geared to an environment of lack. The result? Overwhelm—on an unprecedented scale.”

We are surrounded by “stuff”.  Bombarded by information in unprecedented amounts.  Even overwhelmed by the amount of opportunities and choices that are open to us.  In “The Paradox of Choice” Barry Schwartz writes about how the abundance of choices “floods our exhausted brains.”   We are faced with an aisle’s worth of cereals, a department store of cosmetics.  Ten pages of choices on restaurant menus.  400 channels on cable television.  It really is all too much.

What to do?

I’ve worked with people who felt that they needed to research every possible option, every possible solution, every possible opportunity, before making a decision.  Good enough is never good enough for them.  And guess what?  As a result they are paralyzed.  Nothing gets done.  Or they worry that if they make one choice, they may miss out on a better one.  They are afraid to buy a computer because next week there might be a new one that has more features, or costs less money.  Afraid to say yes to one beau, because a better one might come along. 

What works is a few things that are simple, but not necessarily easy:

  • Accept that good enough REALLY IS good enough most of the time.  Perfection is paralyzing.  My definition of a perfectionist is someone who is always looking for what is wrong so that they can correct it.  Not a good way to live.
  • Decide how important a choice really is.  Choosing the right cereal is not that important.  Choosing the right spouse is. 
  • Don’t (ever) second-guess yourself.
  • Know what criteria are important to you.  That will make it easier to eliminate choices.
  • Make choices based on what YOU want, not what others think.
  • Rely on knowledgeable friends and reputable resources (e.g. Consumer Reports or Cnet.com) to narrow down the choices for you.
  • Don’t go to a department store or Super-Supermarket when a boutique or neighborhood grocer will do.
  • Ask yourself with the consequences of a wrong choice will be.  If they are negligible, don’t give the choice much thought.
  • Give yourself a time limit for the choice, and decide that when the time’s up, you’ll make the decision based on the information you already have.

Better yet, trust your intuition and be spontaneous…live dangerously some of the time!  😉

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