Are you feeling overwhelmed? Stress can be toxic. If you’re suffering through a financial difficulty or a personal loss, it’s important to remember that in this moment you are in control. You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you respond to it. You choose what you focus on, how you react and what you communicate.
Here are the steps you can take to take control and begin recovering from a major setback:
1. Start thinking on paper
Your brain is rattled. During a stressful time, it can be difficult to focus and set priorities. Do you feel like you’re running around in circles? The best thing you can do is pause. Tony Robbins once said, “When you get in your head, you’re dead.”
Instead of trying to keep everything bottled up in your head, let your thought process out. Create a visual representation of what you need to think through. All you need is a pen and paper, or even a laptop with Notepad, Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
If you’d like a head start, use my Destress Sheet. This Word document can be downloaded and saved in your own storage location of choice. I recommend using Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive so that you have access to this document on every device you use.
Once you’ve filled out your Destress Sheet, you should start to feel the heaviness of the situation become lighter. Your brain isn’t jumping from emotional state to emotional state. You’ve engaged the action-centered part of your brain, minimizing emotion and engaging your logical capacity.
You can take the sheet a step further by breaking down the specific steps you need to complete for each action item. This allows you to create a visual representation of your needs. Having the ability to quickly review and make changes to your Destress Sheet will serve as an anchor during a stressful time where you might feel you’re being pulled in too many directions at once.
2. Feed your mind during short breaks.
The best thing you can do is give your brain the right kind of influence during downtime. If I’m about to face a particularly stressful day ahead, I pull up YouTube and find a 20-30 minute motivational montage. These compilations include speeches from business leaders, professors and motivational speakers.
Here are some of my favorites:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the best things you can do is unplug and recenter. For some people, meditation is the answer. For me, I find a space where I can be alone. Maybe I’ll do the dishes or throw the ball outside with the dogs. In the background, one of these videos is playing on my smartphone. This enables me to come back to a difficult task with a fresh mind and the right mindset.
3. Stress is reduced when you keep track of your time.
Have you ever noticed how time flies when you’re having fun, but seems to almost stand still when you’re working on something you don’t enjoy doing? It’s important to keep things in perspective – and part of that is knowing exactly how much time we’ve spent working on something. It might feel like I’ve been working for hours and need a break, but a quick glance at the clock can remind me that it’s only been 45 minutes, and I can definitely keep going.
I use a program called Toggl. This free tool allows me to keep track of what I’m working on, and how much time it’s taking. It’s really handy if you need to send out invoices based on time. But, anyone can use it to keep time in perspective – empowering you to keep pushing and keep mental fatigue at bay.
4. Go for a walk to reduce stress.
Exercise is a well-documented tool for reducing stress. Even a 15 minute walk in the middle of the day can boost mental energy, enhance focus and improve your mood. Steve Jobs was infamous for his walking meetings – it was his favorite way to think through complex problems.
We spend so much time sitting, that medical researchers claim that sitting is the new smoking. Our bodies were meant to go out and forage for food – and I’m not talking about the 11 steps from the couch to the fridge. Get outside and enjoy some fresh air. You’ll return to your project with a fresh perspective and a better mood.
5. Chart progress towards a clearly defined goal.
The struggle is real. You deserve credit for all of the hard work you’re doing, especially when you’re experiencing stress. The best way to give yourself credit is to track your progress. You don’t need a fancy excel spreadsheet. All you have to do is decide what your goal is, and measure your progress towards that goal everyday.
Here are some things you could choose to track:
- The number of minutes spent attacking your goal.
- Word count for projects involving a lot of writing.
- The number of deliverables processed in a given time-period.
- The amount of billable revenue generated as a result of your efforts.
- The number of things marked off of your list.
The most important thing is that you keep making progress. Keep Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in mind.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
If you’d like to set your desktop background / wallpaper to this inspirational quote, you can find a few great options here.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the best steps you can take is talking to someone. Sharing allows you to unpack some of the drama and gain an outsider’s perspective. But be careful. Sharing with the wrong person can cause problems. This should be a trusted family member or a closes friend. The information you’re sharing could be really hurtful if it got into the wrong hands.
Amazing things happen when you share. Your stress level will go down. And the relationship with the person you’re sharing with will begin to evolve. The more genuine you are, the more someone is willing to invest in a relationship with you. Trusting in the right person can mean all the difference in the world.
And the world is a happier place when you have friends and family you can count on. Don’t forget to nurture these relationships. They represent a safety net that can help you when you’re struggling. It’s the type of medicine that money can’t buy.
Pearls of Wisdom
Getting through life’s toughest battles is HARD. But, through pain you will grow. Adversity will either shape you into a more resilient person, or knock you on your ass. If you’re struggling through a difficult chapter in life, keep some of these truths in mind. They’ve gotten me through some pretty difficult chapters, and it’s funny how accurate they are.
- You’re either moving forward or moving backward in life.
- The things you mentally focus on will define your future.
- There is no substitute for taking action. All of the planning in the world can’t replace action.
- Things will almost always take longer and cost more than you think. Plan accordingly.
- Human relationships are one of the most valuable assets we have, yet they don’t show up on a balance sheet.
- Debt is a tool that can kill your dreams. Be careful.
- Social media is a fake world. Don’t be fooled by someone else’s highlight reel. They’re experiencing shit too.
- Nine times out of ten, the person holding you back is looking back at you in the mirror.
- Don’t limit yourself. Push and push until something external holds you back. You’ll be surprised at how far you can go if you just stop asking for permission.
- That little voice in the back of your head is usually right. Don’t ignore intuition.
- Live on a written budget. When you control your money, you control your destiny.
- Admit when you are wrong. Be open to other people’s thinking. Give credit where credit is due. Ego is fatal.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Whether you’re an entrepreneur struggling to overcome an obstacle, or dealing with the loss of a loved one, you are in control of how you react to the situation. Take personal responsibility and own your reaction.