Keep calm while you tackle your to-do list.
If you’re worrying, “I have so much to do and not enough time,” you’re not alone. With the holidays approaching, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by mounting work and the pressure of hosting and gifting.
With more stress and less sleep, usual everyday interactions don’t come easily. You might snap at anyone who asks you for something, wish to wave a magic wand that clears your mountain of tasks, and run (literally) from your desk to where you need to go—yesterday I ran into my yoga class late and flustered, while everyone relaxed in shavasana. Sigh.
You can take control of your day. These five coping techniques help me to decrease stress and feel at ease. I pretend I’m the cool breeze over the mountains:
Take Deep Breaths
When you’re stressed or anxious, you hold your breath to concentrate or shallow breathe as you anticipate a meeting or deadline.
In his book, Think Like A Monk, Author Jay Shetty says, “when you align with your breath, you learn to align with yourself through every emotion—calming, centering, and de-stressing yourself.” Controlling your breath is an accessible tool to steady the energy in your body and return to a relaxed state.
I’m a shallow breather when I’m anxious. I turn to American YouTuber Yoga With Adriene for exercises to elongate my breath. This technique is one of my favourites, and can be done where you are:
Inhale through your nose for four seconds
Hold your breath for four seconds
Exhale through your mouth for four seconds
Repeat four to five times
This week I told myself, “I’m breathing in joy, I’m breathing out worry.” Or, take a cue from grunge rock band Bush’s Machinehead as a reminder to breathe in, breathe out.
Make A Visual Timeline
When we see our progress, we’re more motivated to keep going. I have a giant timeline on my wall, so I can see how I’m contributing to our team goals. Our CEO Thomas is a fan of David Allen, who created the stress-free productivity model, Getting Things Done. I’m reminded of the value of visual timelines when Allen says, “Our minds are for ideas, not holding them.” Here’s how to create your own:
Do One Thing at A Time
When we pile up tasks in our minds, we do unproductive things to cope. Multi-tasking can especially be a problem, as we trick ourselves into thinking we’re getting a lot done.
A Guardian article reinforces this sentiment, “multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.”
Go back to your timeline to refocus: what do you want to achieve by the end of the day? What are your three tasks to get there? Repeat this process diligently every day, one step at a time.
Be Open and Honest With Your Colleagues
If you’re overwhelmed, turn to a team member or manager and tell them. You can say, “you know what? I’m feeling overwhelmed. Are you? I’m doing my best, though it could help to talk it out.”
You’ll likely learn your colleague is overwhelmed, too. The more we check in with each other, the more we feel supported and want to return to our work.
Sometimes people can look content on the outside, but the feeling might not be the same inside. By sharing, we connect and create an opportunity to strengthen our immune system and decrease anxiety. If sharing out loud doesn’t come naturally, consider writing an email.
Remind Yourself Of Your Achievements
It’s easy to forget what we’ve achieved, when getting through a week feels like a month. Bring out your notepad. Reflect on what you did and how you were as a person. Did you make time to support a colleague who needed an ear? Did you get an exercise class in, that you were ready to neglect? Did you pack a healthy lunch and keep your body and mind nourished? What tasks have you accomplished specific to work projects? Now read the list to remind yourself of everything you’re achieving.
Since March our business has grown so rapidly that we’re constantly trying to keep up. On the days our content team feels overwhelmed, we reflect by asking, were we kind to ourselves this week? Did we encourage someone to get through a difficult task? Was there an honest conversation that was hard but necessary? These moments help us stay the course.
How We Start The Morning Sets The Tone For Our Day
When you feel tempted to say, “it’s one of those days,” while milk spills over the counter at breakfast, you’re late to a meeting, or get a speeding ticket, stop. Tell yourself: “I’m in control of my day and I’m going to get shit done.”