Too Much to Do and Other Things That Keep You Up at Night: 6 Ways to Tackle Stress, Reduce Overwhelm, and Improve Well-Being
Do you feel like you’re juggling too many balls in the air?
Life is fast-paced with many responsibilities, challenges, and struggles. Sometimes stress can have a positive impact motivating us toward peak performance and action. At other times stress and life’s juggling act – meeting deadlines, anticipating a transition, balancing childcare and/or eldercare – can interfere with how we feel, how we live our lives, and how we sleep at night.
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2018 Stress in America survey, money and work lead the list of significant causes of stress with 64% of adults – almost two-thirds of those who responded – reporting money and work as top stressors (APA, 2018).
Yet stress and overwhelm can come from many sources. Other common culprits include relationships, health, losses, life changes, current events, the state of our country (APA, 2017), and discrimination. And on a daily basis, let’s face it, many of us are juggling too many balls in the air with all of our routine responsibilities and challenges. We can feel overwhelmed, fearing that at any moment we may lose our balance and the juggling act could come tumbling down.
6 Ways to Tackle Stress, Reduce Overwhelm, and Improve Well-Being
We can begin reducing our stress and regaining our balance with these six practices.
1 – How satisfied are you with the pillars of your life? Given your goals, responsibilities, and challenges, how can you shift away from overwhelm and toward greater balance, fulfillment, productivity, and well-being?
Ben Dean,PhD, coach, psychologist, and President of MentorCoach, LLC identifies ten pillars of a balanced life (1999). These pillars include: profession, finance, physical environment, spirituality, intimacy, family, social supports, fun/play, growth and learning, home/office, and overall satisfaction in life.
Try this: Take a look at these ten domains of your life and work. What have you been doing and where do you see yourself (Biswas-Diener & Dean, 2007)? Explore each pillar, one at a time, considering your experience and using a scale from 1 to 10 to identify your satisfaction level. Then write a word or sentence summarizing your self-assigned satisfaction rating in each area. Which pillar is calling for your attention? In which pillar could even a small change improve your sense of well-being and reduce your overwhelm and stress level?
If you’d like to work with the Pillars of a Balanced Life in more detail, it’s a tool I offer my coaching clients, and I’d be happy to help you learn to use it to reach your most important goals.
2 – What’s most important to you? Choose your priorities. Sometimes everything seems important and the to-do list can feel endless, containing tasks that we need to do, want to do, or should do.
I recently worked with a coaching client named Cynthia (not her real name). Cynthia’s level of satisfaction with fun/play in her life was quite low – she gave this area a 2 on her Pillars of a Balanced Life. She felt that she was either working or taking care of an elderly parent much more of the time than she liked. Cynthia decided to raise her self-assessment for fun/play to a 2.5 in the next 30 days by taking 2 hours each weekend just for herself – to do what she wanted to do – a massage, a walk at the lake, lunch with a friend. Cynthia’s action plan: On her calendar each week she created an appointment with herself called “Fun for Cynthia” – She typed it in bright green ink.
For example: Fun for Cynthia – Walk at the Lake Saturday 2:00-4:00 pm.
Have you been neglecting an important aspect of your life? What would it take to nudge this area just a bit higher? What small shift can you make in your priorities in the next 30 days to help you get there?
Here are a few questions to help filter your priorities:
- What’s the best use of my time right now?
- Which tasks will bring me closer to the outcomes I desire?
- Which tasks will help me strengthen my relationships and connections?
- If left undone, which tasks will have significant negative consequences, and which will not?
Set some priorities. Then take a few moments daily or weekly to evaluate how you’re doing and go forward from there. One reasonable step at a time.