The situation as it stands
In the sidebar of this blog, I had placed a poll and asked how often do you feel overwhelmed. At least 40% of you responded that feel overwhelmed at least once a day, with over 30% of you stating that you felt overwhelmed all the time. The definition on Dictionary.com says that to be overwhelmed is to be overcome in your mind or feelings. I would add that you can physically get overwhelmed if the emotions go unchecked.
One thing that can lead to this feeling of being overwhelmed is that there is no end in sight and no hope for change in the situation. In this post and the downloadable exercise, I am going to help you see how you can have the power to make some changes in your life, changes that will help you gain some feelings of control, and some hope for the future. You may also see that your pattern is to let people dictate your schedule and your to-do list, we can address that a little as well.
If you have not been taking time to slow down and listen to your soul and your body, there are probably many things in your life that you are doing or are going on around you that may be causing you undue stress. Because your life goes at such a fast pace, you don’t even think about the things that are bugging you, or you may mutter or your breathe and stew about it, but never actually consider you may have a choice.
SAFE mode for assessing your life
I wrote in an earlier post that tells my story, of needing to put my life in SAFE mode, like a computer, to be able to fix what was wrong. Because I had allowed my situation to get to the critical stage, Iam still in SAFE mode, almost 6 months later. I am blessed to have a husband who has helped me and care for me as I have healed and repaired the damage done.
I am not asking you to go as far as that (although some of you MAY be at that point), but I do want you to consider setting aside a time period, like we had discussed in the last post, to spend some time just sitting and thinking. Put yourself into SAFE mode for that time. In SAFE mode, all non-essential programs and functions are shut down so that the computer can focus on solving the problems. Just the same way, our brain may have a difficult time coming up with solutions with all the other stuff pressing us.
I recommend that you do this exercise by yourself at first, or for a few times, but then if your life is heavily involved with other people, I suggest you sit and do the same exercise with them as well. Obviously your spouse or significant other is crucial to have on board, but even older children can be brought into this discussion. It can make a great family meeting and an opportunity to build your family as a team working together instead of you and your spouse bearing all the load.
But I can’t change anything, I am stuck in my life!
I do want to say that there are some of you, if you read this far, that are skeptical. You may have extreme circumstances in your life. You may have a critically ill child you are caring for. You might be a single mother. Some of you may say, “well, it’s nice that HER husband will help her, but mine never would!” I encourage you that even in difficult circumstances, being able to make small changes in your life can help bring you some hope and a feeling of having some control. Please take time to download the worksheet and answer the questions!
You can download and print the Life and stress assessment, or you can just read below!
I encourage you to do this exercise today, as soon as possible. Come back, if you’d like and share what you found in the comments. If you feel it too personal, please feel free to send me an email at bernicemwood @ gmail dot com. Just know this is not a one-time exercise. This is something you need to allow yourself to do on a regular basis, daily if possible!
Life and stress assessment
We all have stress, that is not the question. The question is, what areas are causing me the most stress? What are some things I CAN do, no matter how small, to help relieve some of that stress?
Remember, so many things that happen in our life are just because we are on auto-pilot. For the sake of your mental and emotional health, you can step up and make some changes. The changes may be small in the beginning, but they can give you hope and encouragement, and possibly the strength to make even more substantial changes.
SAFE mode exercise 1
When you are sitting quietly, and letting yourself get in touch with how you are really feeling, think about one or two areas that cause you major stress. Things that get your heart rate up and cause you to panic or yell at your kids.
Here are some examples-
Your kitchen table is constantly piled high with stuff
The kids are always fighting over seats in the car
Your morning at work gets frittered away with trivial stuff, and by lunchtime, you feel extremely behind
My personal story- I am an animal lover, but not to the extent that some are. I love my doggies, and I loved my cats, when I had them. I had a cat named Honey, which we rescued years ago. She had a neurological condition that basically made it as though she had Parkinson’s disease. She shook and could not focus or walk steady and her symptoms got worse the older she got. Eventually, to keep her from using the bathroom all over the house, we had to make her a pen in the kitchen. Last year, when my stress level was through the roof, she was getting even worse. She stopped using the litter box for the most part, she shed horribly as she could not groom herself, and she yowled incessantly. The vet assured me she was not in pain. It was extremely stressful to listen to her and to clean up her messes, and the smell was unbearable. I eventually made the decision to have her put down. It may have been a bit selfish on my part, but it was something I “needed” to do to relieve that area of stress in my life.
Let’s look back at the examples above. What could be done to help alleviate these stressors without throwing out your kids or quitting your job?
The kitchen table- figure out what is being put there and create a space that is convenient that those items can be put on. Is it backpacks? Put some hooks in the coat closet or behind the door. Mail? Set up a mail center, near a trashcan, lol! I find too, that a completely empty surface doesn’t attract as much clutter as an already semi-cluttered one, so try to keep it empty so it will be obvious when someone is placing something “out-of-place”.
I called the front!-When my kids were younger, there were 3 still at home in the elementary/middle school age. To cut down the seating arguments, everyone had assigned seats in the car and the front seat position was designated by the week.
Email and water-cooler chatting eating away at your morning- Most jobs do not require that your email be handled immediately when you first get in. Try not to start with email as it can tend to suck you in! When you leave work the day before, have a post it note, or an action folder ready with what needs to be tackled first thing in the morning. Work on it first BEFORE jumping into email. Keep your water-cooler chatting to a minimum. This takes determination, but can really help your sanity! If you have an office, see if shutting the door can help with your productivity level in the morning. If you HAVE to check email for URGENT work issues that may have popped up overnight, open and take a quick scan but do not read ALL of it or process it during this early morning productive period.