Managing stress and anxiety is something we all have to navigate. You don’t need a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder in order to desire support with managing anxiety or stress. Some levels of stress can be a healthy part of the life experience. Experiencing chronic stress, unfortunately, has become a common experience. Given the fast-paced, high-pressure, outcome-based environment that most of us have been conditioned to experience and navigate within the systems of our society, we are all bound to experience a run in with anxiety-like symptoms at some point. Stress and anxiety intermingle.
Challenges with stress and anxiety may look like:
- Frequent self-doubt
- Urge to do everything perfectly
- Inner push to please everyone
- Increased irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep issues
- Difficult thinking and communicating clearly
- Worrying a lot or fearing some catastrophic may occur
- Battling with unwanted thoughts frequently
- Body aches or pains
These are just some common examples, but symptoms can look different from person to person and can be experienced at different intensity levels.
Many people describe struggles with anxiety using words like “overwhelm” and “stressful”. Overwhelm, stress and anxiety are all ways that people experience an “off-ness” within themselves, which tends to impact how they think, feel and act in some way. Given that anxiety impacts at least 40 million adults, and heightened stress levels have led to burnout becoming classified as a public health crisis, it’s essential that we learn how to incorporate lifestyle shifts that help to mitigate these challenging experiences.
There are many resources available that provide particular strategies you can apply in the moment, when you are feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. We may feature more on particular strategies here, in later articles. For today, the focus is on providing an outline for how you can create a structure for your life that helps to build a foundation for reducing stress, anxiety and overwhelm over-all. Creating this foundation, over-time, will also help with managing these experiences as they arise in the future.
The 6 Foundational Steps Are:
- Take Back Control of Your Schedule
- Slow Down For Self-Care
- Believe You Belong
- Know & Connect With Your Why
- Feel the Feels
Take Back Control of Your Schedule
When stressed out or anxious, most people report experiencing too chaotic of a schedule. On occasion I will receive a report of too rigid of a schedule causing stress as well. Both extremes create a sense of “out of control” within the individual. This out of control feeling, drives how they spend their time, which often leaves them spending their time in areas that they think they “should” or “must” dedicate themselves to. As a result, less time, effort and energy are spent doing what actually fuels them and brings them joy; they wind up feeling resentful and exhausted.
To prevent this cycle, or to reduce it from continuing, it’s essential to take an honest look at your schedule and intentionally prioritize what you want and need to. Get very clear about how you want to spend your time and commit to respecting your time-boundaries, so that you can orient your time effectively, as well as in a way that feels good for you.
Slow Down For Self-Care
Self-care has become a buzzword, but it is not about luxury living, big spending, or one-off self-indulgences. Self-care is really about choosing to prioritize your own needs, so that you can function well. It’s self-maintenance. Just as we care for tangible things that we want to last (like cars, homes and phones), we need to make time to maintain our own needs. Including self care in your schedule is essential.
Believe You Belong
Most people do not talk about their deep dark feelings of not feeling good enough, yet nearly (if not all) of us have experienced this “not good enough” feeling. The trouble comes in when someone begins to believe that “not good enough” voice, and they doubt their sense of self and their innate belonging. It’s hard to commit time and care to something you don’t fully believe holds value.
Often, prior experiences in our life lead us to believe that we are not good enough, and we cling onto those old narratives. They can wind up controlling decisions we make and lead us to feel the need to over-please, over-achieve, over-work, over-commit, over-give, or overly-criticize ourselves.
This storyline is one that needs to be acknowledged and addressed, so that you can begin to step into your innate belonging. As a result, you will trust yourself more, and feel more clear-minded with your decision making.
This process takes time and compassion. However, no matter who you are, you DO belong. Your life does have purpose. You are of value. Your life matters. Once you integrate this belief more fully, you will find more ease in dedicating time with and for yourself, which will help with the first two foundational steps we’ve discussed so far.
Know & Connect With Your Why
We are all motivated by various things. We have motivators from outside of us, like money, relationships, and so one. We also have inspiration that is fueled from within us. Inside inspiration comes from those things that bring us joy just because they feel good to do or engage with; there is no inherent reward gained outwardly from these experiences.
When stressed, we are often pinched off from the internal inspiration and clinging onto the external motivators. This works in the short run, but it does not last in the long run. If we are doing things only to avoid or gain something from outside of us, we tend to stop realizing what we need and want on the inside.
To shift this, we need to get more connected with what our inside desires are, and allow ourselves to re-fuel using some of these feel-good experiences. Oftentimes these look like hobbies or ways to self-express, such as dancing, singing, cooking, baking, crafting, art, music or other forms of physical activity.
Feel the Feels
Cutting over or being flooded by emotions is the most common experience presented to me. Managing emotions feels difficult for so many people. However, emotions are important to be able to manage. While we do not want to be flooded by them, we also don’t want ourselves to be cut off from them.
What we want to learn is how to notice them and gain an understanding of what the emotion is saying we may need at that time. Sometimes we don’t feel safe, other times we feel tired, hungry or disconnected. What you feel helps show you what you need.
The process of exploring, acknowledging and understanding emotions can feel confusing, because this way of going about it is so different from what most of us were taught or modeled growing up.
Nonetheless, cutting off emotions, or letting emotions take the driver’s seat of your life, will ultimately lead to feeling more out of control or stuck. Instead, we can learn how to notice them and help understand or meet the need that may be lying beneath the emotion.
Willpower is often quoted as the #1 reason why people do not follow through with the desired behavior or life changes that they desire. Accountability helps to mitigate the challenges that struggles with willpower tend to present.
Accountability can look different for different people. Nowadays there are apps that can help with accountability on your watch, phone, computer or tablet. Sometimes these are effective. However, I have found that more active accountability is able to occur from person to person. The connection and support of another human being is powerful.
Active accountability means intentionally having someone in your life who:
- Cares about your outcomes
- Who respects your autonomy to make your own choices
- Reliably supports you
- Shares honest feedback (not just what you want to hear nor who is overly-critical)
If you are often trying to handle everything on your own, or you have not been receptive to allowing others to support you with honest feedback, accountability may be an area you’d like to explore and strengthen.
Over-all, incorporating these 6 key areas will help to build and enhance the foundation of your life, so that you can reduce the anxiety, stress and overwhelm and manage them better when they do occur.
If your anxiety, stress or overwhelm symptoms are getting to the point where they are negatively impacting your ability to function and enjoy life on a regular or patterned basis, then reaching out for more support is important. Depending on your particular situation, you may benefit from either therapy or coaching. You can reach out to Dr. Toni to inquire about which option may best fit your needs, using any of the below options.
**Free consultations are offered for both therapy and coaching services.
Authentically Me Psychotherapy for Therapy:
Dr. Toni Coaches, LLC
Below are videos from a series Dr. Toni did with Dr. Toni Coaches. You Are welcome to check them out for further information and support.
Take Back Control of Your Schedule: https://youtu.be/Leki3woeHYA
Slow Down for Self Care Video: https://youtu.be/UCyYPzCD_-c
Believe that You Belong Vide: https://youtu.be/D03ScT5EltY
Know & Connect with Your Why Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAuJQlpXb0k&feature=youtu.be
Feel the Feels Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta4GigOBCwo&feature=youtu.be
Accountability Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpoKYK-87UA&feature=youtu.be
Dr. Toni Warner, LCSW, MSW, MeD, is a mother of three, a transformational life & wellness coach for the busy ambitious who’re ready to crush overwhelm, tame the anxiety, effectively manage stress and delete burnout. She helps her clients to create meaningful balance in their lives while boosting motivation and energy levels, without sacrificing productivity at work or quality time with loved ones.
Dr. Toni is the founder of Dr. Toni Coaches, LLC, a coaching, educating and consulting business. It’s mission is to inspire and enact meaningful change in the world by helping heart-centered impact makers and busy leaders to create work, life & relationship balance, allowing them to more deeply and meaningfully live, love, connect and share their gifts, enhancing their lives and the lives of others.
Dr. Toni is also the founder of Authentically Me Psychotherapy, LLC, where she supports high achieving and creative individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, burn out and disconnection, to get in touch with their core selves so they can live more fully and authentically aligned lives.
Dr. Toni has been in the helping professions field for over a decade and is trained in a variety of tools and techniques, such as brainspotting, Life Coaching, CBT, trauma-informed approaches, and others.
For therapy in PA: www.authenticallymepsychotherapy.com
For transformational life coaching: http://bit.ly/drtonicoaches
***Please note that coaching and therapy are not one in the same; they are separate services and the above mentioned are separate business entities. If you are unsure which service best fits your needs, simply reach out and ask: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
DISCLAIMER: All content is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute as any form of medical treatment or advice.