All of us experience stress and feel overwhelmed at some point.
It happened to me a few weeks ago. I had too many projects going on, and good ideas wouldn’t come to me, even though I tried for days. I was stressed, under pressure, and I had a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. As a result (or perhaps as a cause), I didn’t rest properly, and I felt like everything was out of control.
When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I follow this action plan.
Action Plan to overcome the stress
- Find the root of the stress
Stress creates confusion, and it’s difficult to think clearly. I ask myself why I’m uncomfortable, what scares me, and why I feel overwhelmed. When I identify the root of the problem, it is easier to move forward.
- Clear up the agenda
Stress is usually related to lack of time, so I immediately clear up my task list and calendar. When I reschedule or cancel as many tasks and actions as possible, it immediately lowers my stress level.
- Define the most important task and plan
This step is critical. I write down all the important tasks that can’t be rescheduled and plan the next few days, trying to balance out my days as much as possible.
- Clean the environment
Before I start working, I clean and organize my desk. If I feel very stressed, I also take a shower. These actions help me to work in a friendly environment. They also prepare me for the work ahead of me. After completing these very easy and mechanical tasks, I’m ready to begin.
- Just start
I start with the first task on the list. I focus on only one task at a time, without thinking about the rest of my list. The goal is to complete the first task – everything else is secondary.
- Go for a walk or do some exercise
I love walks – they are extremely effective to clear my mind, organize my ideas, and inject motivation. A walk before, during or after work completely resets my brain.
- Repeat this process until the stress disappears
I keep myself in that mode until everything is back to normal and I am no longer feeling stressed.
Some tips against stress
- Don’t check/respond emails
99% of the emails can wait for a couple of days.
- Avoid distractions
I usually put my phone into airplane mode and sometimes, if necessary, turn the wifi off so I can’t access the Internet and get distracted.
- Drink Tea
Somehow, tea helps me a lot to enter the focus mode. I think is the mix of the caffeine, hydration, and repeating the drinking action constantly.
- Pomodoro technique
If I’m very stressed and unmotivated, I use the Pomodoro Technique: work for 25 minutes, have a 5 minute break and repeat. When you complete the cycle 4 times, take a longer break of 20 minutes.
Sometimes we feel so stressed that we mix reason and feelings. Identifying the causes of why we feel stressed helps us to understand how we got there. It also allows us to measure the damage that stress has caused on our routines and habits. Once we do this, we can start working to fix the situation as soon as possible.
Dealing with stress is tricky, and if we don’t take action, stress and pressure can create a domino effect to other aspects of our lives.
In my experience, understanding the situation, staying calm, planning, and having a clean environment are the keys to overcoming stress.
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How do you deal with stress? How do you break the overwhelmed state of mind?
As always, I would love to hear your comments!
PS: My online course Strategy & Business for Illustrators is now available for pre-order!