7 Ways to Reduce Stress When You Are Overwhelmed and Need to Prioritize
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Each day, more and more people struggle with all that life has thrown at them. Between work, family, health, house tasks, the latest political developments and everything else, there is a lot on everyone's plate. It's not easy to handle challenges that feel endless, with each demand as important as the last.
To add more pressure, your full effort and attention are often required in all you do. That can feel nearly impossible when you have already spent the bulk of your energy on other activities.
The bright side is that much of the stress and anxiety are conjured in your head. It's not as simple as snapping your fingers to make the anxieties go away, but there are tangible steps you can take to reduce your stress. They will help you prioritize and, ultimately, feel better tackling all that you have ahead. Here are seven ways that you can reduce your stress levels and prioritize when you're feeling overwhelmed:
1. Accept how you feel instead of judging yourself.
One of the most detrimental effects of stress is that people tend to get down on themselves about how they feel. You already have a handful of anxiety-provoking things on your mind. What you need least is the addition of a judgmental voice arguing you shouldn't be stressed.
Instead, accept how you feel. Don't hate yourself for it; this is your reality. When you do that, you're taking away any negative energy spent judging. It will allow you to instead observe how you feel. You will be able to objectively see what's stressing you out and why.
Over time, you can develop this habit and begin to see patterns that lead to stress. That will be extremely helpful in overcoming those feelings and learning how to prevent them in the first place.
2. Write down everything you need to get out.
Take the less than five minutes required to do a mind dump. Get everything bothering you out on paper. Write down what's stressing you out, all that you have to do and the other thoughts or ideas occupying your mind. This will eliminate the urge to keep everything inside your head. Doing so will immediately lessen your stress levels; there will be less to hold onto, and your mind will be free to occupy other tasks and ideas.
3. Take a break.
Despite the mountain of items you might need to accomplish, you should first take a break when you're feeling overly stressed. It can even be for just a few minutes. On top of helping you feel better, it will end up making you more productive. After an effective break, you will be able to better focus on the tasks at hand and home in on what you need to accomplish.
This break looks different for everyone. You could listen to music, do breathing exercises, read a book, play with your kids or pet or go for a walk around your block. If you don't know what's most effective at cooling you down, try different activities. See when you feel most relaxed so you can do those things more frequently.
Having these relaxing activities, even if it's just for a few minutes, can be a great way to eliminate stress and get back on task.
4. Spend 10 minutes prioritizing.
In addition to writing down all that's on your mind, spend 10 minutes prioritizing your tasks. What's the most urgent? What can wait for a week? Is there anything you can eliminate altogether? Doing this will allow you to spend your time working on what's most important.
When we have so much on our to-do lists, it's often easiest to pick the simplest tasks or the ones we want to do the most. While that knocks something off, it's not always the right thing. You can end up spending hours working on items you don't even need until next week and neglecting things needed today. By prioritizing, you'll help yourself focus on those of utmost importance.
5. Laugh with somebody about something.
Laughter is a powerful medicine. This is especially true when you're stressed. Whether it's a TV show, a YouTube channel or one of your loved ones, try to find ways to laugh. It will put your stress in a larger context and lighten your load.
Related: The Surprising Benefits of Laughter
Even if you're only committing to some jumping jacks or running in place, getting your body moving will reduce stress. You'd be surprised at the many ways your body can hold stress. If there are areas where you feel tight, stretch them out; it's likely you're holding stress in those places.
If you have more time, longer workouts will also release endorphins that are beneficial for stress levels and will leave you feeling much more energized.
7. Put it in a larger context.
Try to take a step back from all you have going on. Despite how heavy, scary and important the tasks on your plate might feel, it's likely not the end of the world. If you fall a bit short in one place or are not able to give a different task your all, things tend to work out just fine. For some, it helps to play out the worst scenario -- the worst possible outcome is often not as bad as you're imagining.
Letting the back-and-forth rhythm of life deeply affect you and ruin your daily experience isn't worth it. Instead, realize how you are feeling; try to accept it. The act of realization and putting your stress into the bigger picture of life, as well as remembering how much good you have going on, can help you feel immediately better.