One of the worst things about being stressed-out is feeling overwhelmed and at a loss how to make any difference. Your situation may feel hopeless, as if you’re surrounded by enemy fire. It feels like “they” are deliberately attacking you for no good reason, and you can’t even find any decent weapons to defend yourself. You might as well be naked in front of a firing squad.
So many problems are screaming for attention that you want to run back to bed and pull the covers over your head and wait, cowering, for the cease-fire to finally come.
But, as an adult, you know that no one is going to wave a magic wand and make all the chaos and turmoil in your life disappear. Those same problems and situations will still be waiting for you when you eventually come back up for air.
Taking charge is a quick trick for getting your stress under control, because you will feel less of a victim and more of a master of your own life. By following the three simple steps below, you will be able to smash your stress to a more manageable level within minutes.
1. Make a list – To get started, make a list of your five top challenges or problems. What’s on your mind right now? Write it down fast. If you have to pause and consider it, then it’s not urgent so keep going.
Stop with five items. Why? Because any more than that will shove you right back into a state of being overwhelmed and over-stressed.
Don’t spend a lot of time on this step. If you’re a worrier and are stressed out, you know exactly what issues fill your thoughts night and day. The point isn’t to impress anyone by putting the “biggest” things on the list even if you are actually troubled about something others wouldn’t find as important.
With this first step, you are going to get the most troublesome worries out of your mind and onto paper, so you can start firing back.
2. Take an action – Now that you see your top five stressors in black and white, pick one – only one – to work with first.
Let’s say you haven’t done your tax return yet and you can’t stop thinking about it. Your tax accountant has already filed for an extension and if you don’t get your act together and stop procrastinating, even the extension is going to be late.
The action you will take is actually twofold:
a) make a Quick List of the tasks you need to do in order to file your return, so you can see exactly what you need to take care of. Breaking it down into manageable chunks makes it more do-able, and
b) do the first item on your Quick List.
Using the tax return as our example, your Quick List might be:
• Gather receipts for each tax schedule into separate piles
• Add up the deductions (medical expenses, etc.) then clip or staple the piles together to keep them organized
• Gather data about your income, including interest income and income from other sources
• Clip together all the 1099s and other year-end tax forms that you received from your employer, the bank, the auto finance company and so on.
• Fill out the tax preparer’s questionnaire to summarize your income, deductions and other information they need
• Attach the supporting documents and put it all in a big envelope
• Drop off or mail the envelope to your tax preparer – and be sure to call or e-mail to let them know it’s on the way.
Only put as much detail in your Quick List as you need to be clear what your task is – for clarity, I’ve put more information in each bullet point than you would probably need to write down for yourself.
Once you have your Quick List, you will then be able to check off each item as you complete it. This not only helps you feel more organized, but you can stay motivated to do the next task, and then the next, until you are finished with one issue and can move to the next thing that is important.
When you have a vague huge issue such as “Do Taxes!” it looms large in your mind, like a Godzilla monster that you can never defeat. Since you build it up in your head to seem un-doable, it’s easy to procrastinate again and again each day. So it’s crucial to break down each large project into small segments that you can tackle more easily.
A tip to help you decide which task or project to concentrate on first is to weigh which one is dragging you down the most. Which one has the worst repercussions if you continue to ignore it? That’s the one to start whittling down until it is under control.
3. Deep breathing – Calm your anxiety and empower yourself by taking frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch out the tension in the back of your neck. Then take a few slow, deep breaths – inhale to the count of five, hold it for the count of five, and then slowly exhale.
Many times when we’re stressed to the max, our breathing gets rapid and shallow. This unconscious practice actually makes you feel even more stressed because your brain does not get sufficient oxygen to work properly.
Make a practice of checking your breathing now and then to be sure you are not shortchanging yourself.
Take a few moments now to breathe deeply. As you inhale, think the words: “I am…” Then as you exhale, think the word “relaxed.” Don’t try to speak the words out loud – simply concentrate on breathing calmly and deeply, putting all other thoughts out of your mind, while you silent say the words “I am… relaxed” in your head.
This mini-meditation will rapidly reduce your stress level and make you feel more capable of handling the situations you encounter each day, but you have to actually do it. Just reading about it won’t do the trick. Go ahead and try it now, remembering to breathe in and out deeply and slowly, while you think: “I am…. relaxed.”
To recap, here are the steps you’ll take right now to crush your stress:
1. Make a list of your top 5 problems
2. Pick one, and take an action right now toward resolving it
3. Empower yourself with a deep breathing exercise
My book will help you with more great techniques to be the one in charge of your own life and create the results you really want. Buy it here: