It’s 4am – you sit up in bed and your mind won’t shut off. Thoughts of worry over how you will meet your project deadline take over, all while other worries creep up of getting in trouble with the boss and then getting fired and then being homeless (and on, and on….). You can’t go back to sleep, no matter how hard you try; more stress takes over as you wonder how you’ll make it through the day on little sleep.
Sound familiar (you can substitute your situation here)? Stress of any kind feels terrible but when it seems to overwhelm you, it can be catastrophic if left to go on too long. Physical symptoms can begin to occur; not too long ago I was dealing with a very family-related stressful situation and started to have chest pain, which can be common. We all experience our emotions somewhere, i.e. chest, back, eyes, head, etc.
The emotional, toll, however, can spin out of control so getting your thoughts in alignment will lead to feelings, and the body, following. The more positive your thoughts, the less stressed and happier you will feel. But how do you think positively when you feel your world is crumbling around you? How do you tame the ‘beast’ (your brain), so you can sleep better and perform well in the work you do?
There are several ways to get your thoughts under control and be calmer, no matter what the circumstances:
- Breathe – getting to a somewhat calm level will allow you to think, which is needed here
- Write down the problem on a piece of paper – when you keep the thought in your head, you will only focus on it and see it that way; but, writing down your situation, and thoughts around it, will now allow other views of it to come in
- Come up with solutions – make a list of 10 things you can do that could possibly solve your situation; 10 might be a stretch but the more ideas you come up with, the more the answer is there. Being solution-focused helps the brain to calm and refocus to those solutions
- Take one action – starting with something small on the list is empowering; for that work project’s completion, which you are worrying about, it could include: rewriting the goal so it seems more compelling; making a list of short, quick activities you could do in the next 5 -15 minutes , as this will jump-start action
- Use the 5-Second Rule – if you haven’t heard of it, motivational speaker Mel Robbins came up with this rule, where you stop the pause – the moment between when you say you want to do something and action, which averts the pause that can lead to the fight-or-flight from activating. You then count 5-4-3-2-1 ACTION. It’s a powerful way to train the brain to move past fear and, starting small, develops good habits
- Focus on positive thoughts and self-care – read motivational quotes, pray, meditate, exercise, take a Calgon bath; it doesn’t matter what you do, just so long as you keep taking care of your mind and body. Another caveat that falls under this category is focusing on your strengths – you didn’t get to where you are now by merit alone. Remember other times that were stressful, and you didn’t think you could make it, but you did.
Remember that stress is your perception of what you feel you can handle; if you believe you can’t, you won’t. However, you are stronger than you believe and will make it through. Learn the lessons from this situation – start earlier on the project, ask for help and use the steps above – will have you seeing them for what they are and not put you into overwhelm. You will be able to focus and contribute to your workplace and be much happier doing so.
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2 Replies to “When Stress Seems to Overwhelm You”
Carol Anderson, MEd, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, CCP
Tel: 1 (407) 670-9279
Aligning human behavior with strategic business aspirations
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Hi, Carol – I’m assuming you don’t have an issue like this? Glad to hear – any tips you’d add?