We all know the feeling: you continue to say to YES to all the things, your plate gets filled higher and wider, your chest starts to tighten feeling like you are carrying around bricks, breaths are hard to find, and you’re waiting for the smallest thing to send everything (including you!) over the edge! 

If you have a Happy Balance Planner and have read the intro then you know that I am no stranger to stress and it’s best friend, anxiety. A few years back, panic attacks made a weekly appearance and I would go to sleep each day just thankful that I made it through in relatively one piece.

At the time, I was completely overwhelmed. I was doing too much, needing to be in multiple places at once and feeling like I needed at least another 5 hours in each day to make it through my todo list. There was one night in particular that I remember Jor having to hold my hands and tell me to watch him and match his breathing. I had to watch his chest move up and down so that I could literally copy him breath for breath for about 5 minutes. That’s when I knew something had to change.

It’s taken me about five years to reach a point where stress doesn’t dominate my weeks and anxiety isn’t my middle name. But that’s not to say that I now no longer struggle with stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Because I do.

Stress, anxiety, being overwhelmed…they are not feelings that you can turn on and off with a light switch.

You can’t outrun stress, you can’t outsmart anxiety and you can’t wish away feeling overwhelmed. 

BUT, I have learned that you can be attune to these feelings. Once you learn what these feelings do to your mind and body, you tuck that information away in your back pocket and the minute you feel them creeping back in, you sound the alarms and take action.

With the right tools and plan of action, you can learn to first recognize stress and then, most importantly, turn it into STRENGTH. 

I am no professional, I do not have a degree in anything related to stress management, but I have found a few things that have helped me tremendously and wanted to share with you in case you find them helpful, too.

These are just a few simple things that I have added to my box of tools when fighting off stress. The minute I start to feel myself allowing stress to take over my mind, body and actions (and reactions!), these are some things I turn to:

  • Breathe. This might be the simplest of them all, but also the most effective. When you’re in the moment of feeling overwhelmed and you’re reaching that point of feeling frantic and chaotic, step away, take a seat and then simply breathe. When you’re in the thick of it, you hold your breath, your body tenses up and you can literally and figuratively become frozen. Air literally fuels your body, your muscles, down to each individual cell. So take a few minutes to simply breathe so that you can refuel and reset.
  • Write.  Before you can let go of the stress, you have to unscramble it. What happens when you unscramble? You see all the pieces that created the stress and you can start to identify triggers and common instigators. With that knowledge, you then have the ability to put the pieces back together the way you want to! Decide what form of writing works best for you. Perhaps journaling is what helps you best or maybe it’s a simple list of all the things taking up space in your head. Regardless, simply pick up a pen and allow yourself the ability to start writing freely.
  • Move. This is your opportunity to let go of the weight that is pulling you down, keeping you from moving forward and allowing doubt and anxiety to dominate. You decide what “move” means to you and then create time for it a couple of times a week. Maybe you need a run or spin class to find your inner strength and grit again or maybe you find your balance and core with yoga or pilates. Maybe it’s as simple as a 2 minute dance party in your kitchen (those are a thing in our house!). The point is that you move your body and you shed the stressors that are weighing you down.
  • Meditate. I jumped on the mindful meditation train about a year ago and it has done wonders for me, especially in situations that are really testing my patience and causing the stress needle to point to maximum. Some might argue that the first tip to breathe is meditation, as one intentional breath can be a form of meditation. But I’m suggesting you do more than just one intentional breath and you make meditation a daily practice. It might feel funny at first and it might require discipline before it starts to feel natural but give it a try for a couple of weeks and it might surprise you and help uncover an inner peace that stress was covering up. (Not sponsored recommendation: My favorite meditation app right now is Headspace.)
  • Say Yes to YOU. You might have an aversion to saying No to people and things. But remind yourself that saying No is actually saying YES to yourself! When you say Yes to YOU you make room for the true Yes’s and you allow them to be more prominent in your life. Decide this week that you are going to say YES to the people and the things that light you up. Decide to say YES to the goals and dreams that scare you just enough to know that they are worth your time and energy. Decide to say YES to opportunity, possibility and to the vision of you at your fullest. Decide to say YES to you!

Know that if you’re struggling with feeling overwhelmed and stressed and anxiety is known to get the best of you…you’re not alone!

Just like with everything else, there is a fine balance to strike when it comes to stress. But the good news is that it is your balance to create! It’s constantly evolving, it’s constantly challenging us but it’s also constantly inviting us to grow and become stronger so that next time, we’re a little more prepared than the last.