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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my dear friend Kelly Matsudaira. Kelly is passionate about personal development and reflection on life and often pops in to share words of wisdom! I hope you enjoy today’s article!}

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by Kelly Matsudaira

No one likes to feel stressed out. But when those tasks and things on your ‘To Do’ list start to pile up with no end in sight, it can be easy to quickly feel overwhelmed, especially now that school is back in session and schedules are filling up fast.

Feeling overwhelmed is a common symptom of anxiety that most people go through in life. However, you don’t want it to take full control over you because then your body and mind will suffer.

If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, you may notice that you can’t focus clearly or keep a level head. That’s because anxiety can mess with the brain on a chemical level and affect how your neurotransmitters and hormones are being produced. This will cause you to think differently.

When you’re under immense stress, parts of the brain will “shut off” in order to cope with the stress.

But if that anxiety isn’t under control, it could snowball into a full-blown panic attack where it feels like the world is caving in on you, and you have a feeling of dread or impending doom that something terrible is about to happen. Most of the time that’s not the case, but your brain doesn’t know the difference between fantastical thoughts and reality.

A Practical Guideline to Calm Yourself Down

So before you wind up curled into a ball on the couch, rocking back and forth, and sobbing uncontrollably, here are seven easy, practical ways of dealing with the feeling of being overwhelmed before things get worse:

  1. Be in the Present – This is one of the most important things you can do when you’re stressed out. Your mind may be all over the place, mainly in future thinking about everything you have to do, but try to be in the current moment. Nothing can hurt you in the Now. Once you get yourself grounded in the present moment, then you can start to look at what you have to accomplish and start taking steps to achieving everything.
  2. Practice Time Management – Most people feel overwhelmed because they have too much on their plate. They have no clue how they’re going to find the time to do it all and fit it all in. To save your energy, and sanity, you must learn how to manage your time. Figure out what your priorities are, create a calendar, set a schedule, ask for help, whatever you have to do to manage your time.
  3. Learn to Say ‘No!’ – If you’re a people pleaser, this may be hard for you, but I promise your life will become easier if you learn to say ‘no’ to others. If an event or project doesn’t fit into your schedule, then politely pass on it. You need to think about your time and energy, not everyone else’s. I understand you have commitments, but if you can start turning things down to make more time for yourself, it’ll be worth it in the end. Remember, for every ‘no’ you give, you’re opening up a ‘yes’ somewhere else. More time for family? More time for your hobbies? More time for other projects?
  4. Simplify Your Life – This goes along with number three. Don’t set yourself up to be stressed out and overwhelmed by taking on more than you can handle. Accept only what you can logically accomplish. Simplifying your life means freeing up your schedule from unimportant things to make room for things that really matter to you.
  5. Take a Break! – This may sound counterintuitive to your hectic lifestyle, but stopping to take a breather could be one of the best things you do for yourself. You can’t always be running at high speed. It’s okay to take some time for yourself – exercise, take a walk out in nature, meditate, practice yoga, try breathing exercises, or journaling. Distracting yourself away from the chaos for just a brief period of time will leave you feeling refreshed, and then you’ll be ready to jump back in to tackle whatever comes at you.
  6. Take Baby Steps – You don’t need to complete every task on your ‘To Do’ list today. Slow things down, review your list, organize it, prioritize it and take one task at a time…baby steps. You don’t need to see the whole picture right now, just the one task you need to work on. Then when you’re done, you can move onto the next one. Multi-tasking is a great concept in theory but it’s not practical. There’s too much going on, your mind is all over the place and life becomes too chaotic. So chuck the idea that you need to be a multi-tasker; you need to become a one-tasker. Keep laser focused on one thing at a time so you can produce the highest quality work when being at your best.
  7. Shift Your Mindset – You and only you can control your thoughts. You can choose to become overwhelmed by your situation and produce anxious, fearful thoughts, or you can shift your perception. When you look at things differently, you’ll notice the fear dissolving, your confidence coming back and a sense of calmness and peace surrounding you. Stop overthinking and overanalyzing everything to death. Let things be and let go. Everything will turn out exactly as it’s supposed to. You can’t control everything in your life, so why try?

Feeling overwhelmed comes from your thoughts and you have full control over them. You can decide to believe your thoughts or not. You can choose to feel anxious or fearful, or feel calm and at peace, with any situation.

Learn to manage your self-talk, turn self-defeating thoughts into positive affirmations, and you’ll change the way you feel towards yourself and your life.

You are so much bigger and stronger than you think. You can do anything you set your mind to. Remember, there is always a choice!

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