Teaspoon of Happy Stress Case Sarah May Bates

When you’re overwhelmed with work deadlines, life deadlines, laundry, thank you cards, a doctor’s appointment, ten papers that are due tomorrow, a dog that needs a walk, plus eight million other things, it’s pretty amazing how incapacitated you can get. What are you supposed to do? It’s not humanly possible to accomplish all this, let alone accomplish it in the time allotted. You have a right to be overwhelmed: the conditions you’re facing are too much for a person to manage gracefully. What ends up happening in times like these is ironically, nothing. When we’re overwhelmed and our attention is taxed, many of us try and run in 13 directions at once, and as is to be expected, we don’t move far in any of them.

When you start to drown in tasks, the best thing to do is one thing at a time, and first and foremost, to not waste time freaking out. When you start to lose it, remind yourself that you can only do what you can do, and past that, it’s impossible to do more. Be comfortable with that fact. Accept it and let it go. Not the end of the world. You’re human and you’re a hard worker. You will try your best.

Next, you can make yourself a list of what you will take action on, and in what order. I call my list “Priorities” (only because it reminds me of what this list means). On your priorities list, think out what exactly needs to get done first, all the way to what could be done last. Decide based on all related factors: due date, availability of needed supplies, etc. If everything is equally important, this list might be arbitrarily decided, but that doesn’t matter. Just decide it and write it. Now it is set in stone. You will follow it and in the order it is written. Don’t look ahead, just focus on #1.

Work on accomplishing that task. Don’t get sidetracked, and don’t waste any time freaking out about how much crap is still left to do. That’s just valuable energy being sucked away that you could definitely use, plus it’s irrational. Remind yourself to stay calm. If you start to have thoughts like “This is hopeless” or “OMG, I’m not gonna be able to sleep,” stop right away. That is the stress talking. Don’t worry. You will do what you need to do, when you need to do it. You will take care of yourself, and it will be fine. This is not the end of the world, it just feels like it is right now. As soon as you take a chunk out of the work at hand, you will feel much better and you will be amazed to see how quickly it goes. Your brain has a tendency to dramatize things when you’re overwhelmed – a workload vertigo. The stack ahead will appear much more doable with every passing hour.

While you work on your priorities list, keep a promise to yourself to take care of your basic needs first. Things like: if you are cold, get yourself a jacket. If your back hurts, stretch. When you’re hungry, get yourself something healthy to eat. Let your eyes rest. Let your feet rest. If you’re pulling an all-nighter and you need to have your wits about you tomorrow, get an hour of sleep. Sometimes when you’re working your butt off, things like this take on a lower level of importance, and that’s not cool or necessary, plus they hurt your productivity in the long run.

This may seem simplistic, but sometimes having the structure of a list with rules is all that you need to get through a tough time. My hope is that you recall this when you could use it the most. It has helped me immensely, I hope it does you too. Happy Sunday and happy long weekend if you happen to get one this week! xox Sarah

Featured image LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by Yugus on Flickr

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  1. I agree with Sarah – your posts really have an impact. I get overwhelmed easily and I know lists can be our best friends. I suck at prioritizing, though and I suck at breaking things down into smaller steps (thanks, ADHD!), but it’s a skill I’m working on.

  2. *self-reflection and self-awareness…… just because grammar/spelling errors bug me……. ;)

  3. Sarah I cannot put into words how much your posts mean to me. To the point where I have printed out the majority of them and I keep them in a binder and read them all the time. Seriously, don’t ever underestimate your ability to help others. Because you have helped me so much without even knowing it; your strength, self-relfection, self-aweareness, vulnerability, kindness and willingness to share your journey of self-love with others are so admirable. Cheers to you.

    • Sarah, this is just about the nicest thing i’ve ever read. Thank you for saying this. You made me cry! Makes me grateful to have an audience like you. xoxo

  4. Productive people learn very early on that the list is the best tool in their bag.

  5. Thank you. I have four essays, totalling 13,000 words, plus a play due within the next four weeks, so I really needed this today. Just keep plodding =)! Love, Jessi xx

    PS Also, since you suggested a while back that I should write a blog, thought you might like to read it: http://www.walkingby2013.blogspot.com

    • Hey dude, I really like it. (…hard font for me to read but lovely writing.) I am sure your words will inspire many others that might be on a similar “mission”. Make sure and let those around you know that it exists! I also loved seeing how happy you look – your smile is so bright!

    • NFW!!!! Is this yours ?!?!?!! This is rad!!!!! I can’t wait to read it :) thank u for sharing!!

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