Reducing Stress: What Can I Change Now and What Has to Wait?
Confused, Overwhelmed and the Big Picture is Just Too Much?
When individuals are upset or overwhelmed, it is an uncomfortable and often frightening time. The big picture seems like too much, and the little things are driving you slightly nuts.Being confused, stressed, and overwhelmed makes people an emotional time bomb; sometimes exploding on others and sometimes imploding and harming themselves.
Fiona Wood, writing in Six Impossible Things, describes us as: “Stress level: extreme. It's like she was a jar with the lid screwed on too tight, and inside the jar were pickles, angry pickles, and they were fermenting, and about to explode.” I've felt that way, and it is not a good feeling.
The causes for feeling overwhelmed are going to differ from person to person. Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman suggested in 1984 that stress results from, "an imbalance between demands and resources” or as occurring when “pressure exceeds one's perceived ability to cope”.
Some predictable situations, behaviors, and attitudes that can cause confusion and overwhelmed include:
- Relationships – both new beginnings and endings of relationships
- Physical or mental health conditions – for yourself, a loved one or someone close to you
- Major Changes: Going off to school, job change, marriage, divorce, or separation
- Job Promotions
- Financial Difficulties
- Expecting yourself and others to do things perfectly
- Taking on too much, at work, in a relationship, or at home
- Not understanding time management
What to Do...What to Do?
Take the time to isolate the variable situations in your life that are bothering you and assign a percent of your feelings to the particular components of that situation. For instance, a person new in recovery from their substance abuse. They may be completely overwhelmed by all that they have to do for their recovery or their perception of all that they are required to do.
They would start with “100% of my overwhelmed and confused feelings are about this thing called recovery", and then identify the aspects of that situation that are causing the confused and overwhelming feelings.
What Creates the Stress?
Deal with the Smaller Components Rather than the Big Picture
Robert Pozen thinks that, "Most people get overwhelmed by the insignificant decisions of their lives. I'm urging people to minimize the time spent on these when they're not critical to their most important goals."
When you break variables down, you can sometimes see that a particular aspect is not a major contributor to your stress, and you can focus your mental, emotional and physical energies to changing another aspect.
By making small changes, you can lessen your confusion and being overwhelmed and lower your stress. Mapping out strategies, deciding the order of dealing with the variables, and planning actions will help you feel less confused and overwhelmed.
Now that the variables are isolated, take each variable and decide if there is anything that you can do:
- Immediately to relieve some of the feelings
- In the near future, and be less anxious because you have a plan
- Accept that there is nothing that you can do to change the situation and let it go
Priorities, Strategies and Decisions
Prioritize Your Actions for Now, Later or Learn to Let it Go
Prioritizing and creating strategies can relieve some of the pressure that you put on yourself if you make a decision that something can be done later, providing you are not just procrastinating. Procrastinating can happen when you do not know what to do first. Or you are uncertain about how to do something, or you just do not want to put the time, energy or effort into the task.
- If you are uncertain what to do first, ask for advice.
- If you don't know how to do something, ask knowledgeable people.
- If you decide that you do not want to do something, then learn to accept this decision, without stressing and feeling guilty about the decision.
Guilt Does Not Always Motivate People
Guilt is a non-productive emotion if it doesn't motivate you. It is a case of you cannot have it both ways, as guilt is a non-productive, non-motivational emotion unless you change the behaviors that create it.
Therefore, if you put off an action or change for the future, make a timeframe for resolving your variable. Then stick to the plan, but don't spend a lot of time talking about how guilty you feel. If you truly felt guilty, you might change that variable now.
For instance, if you elect to study recovery materials for one hour each night, don't feel guilty if something comes up that is of greater priority, and you can't get to it that night. Simply get back on schedule the following evening.
If you are going to have to change behaviors to relieve your feelings of confusion and being overwhelmed, do not try to change them all; three may be enough at this point.
Accept that some situations will not be changed by any of your actions.
How Can an Isolating Exercise Help Me? By Determining Solutions
Living Successfully with Less Stress, too
Did this article help you see that there are actions you can take that will relieve your stress?
What Can You Expect When You Make Decisions and Take Organized Actions?
"It doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions." Jim Rohn
When you commit to and follow through with organized, planned actions, you may find that your feelings are changing, also. Some predictable new feelings might include:
When we learn to prioritize, isolate variables and spend our time, energy and effort in productive activities, we reduce our stress, feel more positive and get more accomplished. With just this simple isolating exercise, we have begun to correct some things that cause us to feel confused or overwhelmed.