overwhelm

5 Tips Every High Achiever Needs to Overcome Stress

She wiped away my tears, helped me sit down, and asked me to breathe deeply.  My heart was exploding.  I couldn’t control my breathing.  The breaths came in rapid succession like a train pulling into a railway station, one on top of the other and I felt out of control.  Helplessly, utterly out of control.

My mom held my hands, looked me in the eyes, and continued to ask me to breathe deeply.  Finally, my breath returned to normal.  She is a rock and the most compassionate, level headed person to have by your side in a crisis.  Today’s crisis was one of the smaller ones I would ever encounter, but at the time, it was the largest one I had faced in my short life.

I was a junior in high school, preparing myself for prom.  A group of my friends had met to get our hair and makeup done and had just arrived back at my house to finish getting ready when my boyfriend called me.  He said he wouldn’t be able to make it to prom that night.  No explanation, he just couldn’t go.  Later I found out he had been dating another girl at the same time and she found out about me. 

In retrospect, thank goodness that was over.  But at the time, I was devastated.  This is one of several panic attacks I have endured over the years.  This one caused by someone else’s actions, but some for sure, were caused by my own.

Today I want to share with you the practical steps to getting through times of crises, whatever that is to you.  You see, I run in a community of high achievers.  That just means that we press ourselves to be the best, to control our outcomes, to control our emotions.  These are all acceptable things, in measure, but can wreak havoc on your health and mental well being if not dealt with in a healthy way. 

1)     Breathe – The best thing you can do in a moment of crisis is slow down your breathing.  By taking deep slow breaths in, you can slow down your rapidly increasing heart rate.  Try focusing on a specific action in your breath.  For instance, the rise and fall of your chest or stomach, how it feels when the air enters your nose and exits back out.  Just focusing on the act of breathing will give your mind something to do and help it stop spinning out of control.

2)     Practice Breathing – This one sounds strange.  But if you make it a practice to focus on your breath, you’ll be better prepared when moments of anxiety hit you.  If you’re in a tough conversation, it’s nice to have this tool so you can remain calm, allowing the blood to continue flowing correctly and your thoughts to remain in order.  Set an alarm on your phone to practice breathing once a day.  The app I like to use is the Calm App.

3)     Meditate – Meditation is proven to calm brain waves and help reduce anxiety.  Take advantage of this powerful tool daily to help rest your mind and train it to respond in healthier ways when confronted with immediate stress.  Again, the Calm App is my favorite for guided meditation.

4)     Pray – Sometimes all I can muster is, “God please help me, I can’t do this alone.”  The peace that can come just from reaching out and asking for help has been the biggest source of comfort even in the scariest situations. 

5)     Walk – Get in nature if possible and go for a walk.  Nature is therapeutic and movement restores your body.  Notice and be grateful for your ability to walk and your ease of breath.  Just being thankful for what’s good can ground you and take your mind off what is bothering you. 

We will always have times of stress.  So why not be prepared with the healthiest ways to deal with that stress.  So, what works for you when you when you feel overwhelmed? 

Get More Done With Less Stress

Sometimes the daily to do list turns into a ball and chain that you drag around with no hope of ever putting it down.  Between the household chore list, the never ending things to get done at work, and personal errands, it seems that we're all running at a break neck speed to get it all in.  Hence the plethora of productivity podcasts, blogs, and programs.  Now, I am all about the latest productivity hacks.  I love to hear the latest and greatest techniques for anything that makes me more productive.  I like to do All.  The. Things.  No really.  I have every book, journal, and guide to help me achieve more in my day.  So I will be the last person to give up all of that.  It helps, it really does.  But I have found that even more important than the how to get more done attitude, is the how to reduce stress on the body so you can be more productive with the hours you have. 

As a recovering perfectionist who tried to take on anything and everything piled on me by myself and others, I have discovered that my number one defense is a better offense.  What do I mean by this?  I have a new saying in my life.  I like to tell myself, "Protect the asset."  The asset is me.  And in your life the asset is you.  I am reminded by the flight attendant's instsructions that in the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting those around you.  It is important to be able to breathe if you're going to save someone else's life.  When we run from project to project with no reserves, we will stress out, max out, and burn out.  Here are my most valuable tips to getting more done with less stress.

1)  Set a bedtime routine.  I used to be a night owl.  I could stay up half the night getting things done.  But then the next day, I couldn't get up and get going.  The first part of my day was always stressed and rushed as I got the kids ready, got ready for the day and rushed off to conquer that to do list.  Instead of arriving at work ready to serve my clients and my team, I was often snippy and stressed. After studying the habits of dozens of high performing individuals, I have changed my bedtime routine in order to get a jump start on my day.  By going to bed earlier, I can wake up earlier, avoiding the stress that used to come with my morning rush.

2)  Set a morning routine.  Once you've conquered the habit of going to bed earlier, a morning routine is much easier.  The main thing to focus on is yourself in the first hour(s) of your day.  Resist the urge to check emails or turn on the TV.  Your email is just one big list of things to do that other people have compiled for you. You'll have plenty of time to get to that later, but that should not be your first priority.  I resisted this tip for years, thinking that everyone must hear back from me the minute I awaken.  However, all it did was set me up for an overwhelmed morning, which led to a stressful day where I always felt two steps behind.  I also stopped listening to the news first thing in the morning.  Most of it was depressing and stressful as well, and not what your brain needs to hear to plan an energy-filled, productive day.  

Instead fill your first hour of your morning with activities that will feed and nurture your mind and soul.  Start with a positive reading from a devotional or a personal development book.  A quick entry in your journal or meditation can also help clear out anything you're worrying about so you don't bring that negative emotion into your day.  Most importantly, be sure to move in the first hour of the day.  You can do your work out for the day, or if time is limited, just fit in a 10 minute Yoga video or 20 minute brisk walk.  Activity fires up the brain and will help fuel you throughout the day.

3)  Plan your day.  High performers plan everything-their workouts, their work day, their deep work time, their goals.  Have you ever gone to bed wondering if you got anything done that day?  That happens more often than not when we haven't made a plan for the day.  Plan when you will answer those emails,  take appointments, make dinner, work out, work on your momentum tasks that will move you toward your goals.  Chances are if you don't plan your day, you will do nothing but respond to the demands and requests of everyone around you.  Block out the time you need to get your main projects done so you can look back over the day with checkmarks next to everything you've accomplished. 

These three things are simple but they're not always easy.  It takes practice and dedication to implement new strategies in an already busy life.  They may seem like common sense, but they're not always common practice.  I know from personal experience that these simple changes will help you deal with the constant demands and stresses that you'll face every day.  So face them with a rested mind, an energized body, and a clutter free mind to take your productivity to the next level with much less stress. 

Which one of these has been the most difficult for you to implement?  Consider talking to an accountability partner and changing one of these this week and see how it changes your day and outcomes.