Many things can cause you to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
The current news.
Let’s talk about strategies for overcoming stress and overwhelm.
Stress and overwhelm are not created by the circumstances
Stress and overwhelm are actually not caused by the current news, your job, or your relationships.
Stress and overwhelm are actually caused by your thoughts about the circumstance.
Awareness of this fact is life changing.
It was for me.
You see – it’s not your job or boss that causes stress.
Your job or your boss are circumstances, and circumstances are always neutral.
You are having a thought about your job or boss that makes you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Perhaps your thoughts are something like
- There’s so much work to do
- My boss is so demanding
Don’t you feel a bit stressed or overwhelmed by just reading those sentences above?
I sure do.
Let’s break this down further.
Brooke Castillo, at The Life Coach School, teaches an amazing tool called The Model.
Here it is:
- Circumstances are neutral, but you have thoughts about the circumstance
- Thoughts cause your feelings
- Feelings lead to actions
- Actions create results
Stress and overwhelm are feelings caused by your thoughts.
And circumstances are always neutral.
Circumstances are facts about a situation.
Therefore, the statement “there is so much work to do” is a thought and not a fact (although before ever learning this thought work, most people really believe that it is a fact).
In this case, the fact (or circumstance) is “work.”
You can make the fact (circumstance) more specific and say “Two proposals and one project have deadlines this week.”
The above statement is the circumstance.
And you know it’s a circumstance because if you read that statement, you don’t know how to feel. Is that a lot of work? A little amount of work? Have these projects been going on for months (so maybe they are almost done)?
The fact of the situation is the circumstance, and your thoughts about the circumstance are causing your feelings of overwhelm and stress.
And this is great news.
Because once you become aware of this, you can change it.
To uncover the thoughts that are making you feel stressed and overwhelmed, I recommend journaling for 10 minutes about what is happening in your life.
Then, take a moment to re-read your journal exercise and underline anything you write that is a thought.
As you’ll see there are very few circumstances (aka facts) when we journal.
Most of what’s on the page is our thoughts about the facts.
To reduce stress and overwhelm, choose new thoughts
After identifying thoughts that are causing you stress and overwhelm, you can take the opportunity to choose new thoughts for yourself.
For example, if your current thought is “there’s so much work to do,” you can instead try a thought like “there is enough time to get all the work done.”
Doesn’t that second thought feel so much better?
It moves you from stress and overwhelm (and time scarcity) to a feeling of calm (and time abundance).
Take a few minutes to write down a few new thoughts that don’t create the feelings of stress and overwhelm.
From here, you may need to practice these thoughts to truly adopt them.
I always have a list of new thoughts on a post-it note or index card next to my bed.
I read the new thoughts I’m practicing every morning and evening evening.
Over time, these thoughts become second nature and I end up completely dropping old thoughts!
Release your expectations
A major cause of stress and overwhelm may be your own expectations.
For me, it turns out this is where most of my stress and overwhelm comes from. So I want to dive more into expectations specifically.
After doing my own coaching in this area, I came across a lot of “should” statements.
“Should” statements are always thoughts and they are rarely useful.
Here are some common “should” statements I see from those around me that lead to stress and overwhelm:
- I should be out of debt / I should have more money
- I should…
- own a home by now
- be married by now
- [insert other life event]
- My job should require fewer hours
- My boss should…
- be nicer
- less demanding
- more understanding
All of these “should” statements can feel like 100% true facts.
You believe they are so true.
But actually, they are all just thoughts.
And thoughts are totally optional.
I recommend releasing these expectations from your life.
Your stress and overwhelm will decrease and you’ll feel so much better.
With each expectation that I’ve released from my life, I certainly feel much better!
What expectations do you want to release?