Anxiety and stress come from feeling overwhelmed, feeling out of control or fear of the unknown. Sometimes it’s all three at once. These things can cause you to catastrophise things, so it is important we keep things simple, look at something at face value without exaggerating it, and not let your imagination run wild.
Anxiety can be debilitating and paralysing and stress can lead to physical illness. So if I can give you even one strategy that will help reduce your anxiety or manage your stress, it will make life so much easier for you. Especially in today’s day and age with the pandemic and raising numbers of Covid cases.
Reducing Overwhelm and Gaining Back Control:
Feeling overwhelmed comes from having too many things on your mind at once. It is like looking at a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in pieces and not knowing where to start. The most important thing to remember is that you start with one piece.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
- Make a list of every single little thing that is crowding your mind.
- Next, we are going to assess whether or not each thing is in your control, can be influenced by you or if it is out of your control. Let’s explore this further.
Nobody likes the feeling of being out of control. Anxiety can elevate by feeling out of control. We need to create strategies to increase our circle of control and our circle of influence to reduce our circle of concern.
What does all this mean?
- Circle of Concern – Are all the thing we worry about or are ‘concerned’ about. These are things you may not necessarily have direct control over. This includes things such as:
- Your boss’ mood
- The pandemic
- Covid cases rising
- How someone reacts to something you say
- Circle of Control – Are all the things we have direct control over. This includes things such as:
- What you say
- How you feel
- What actions you take
- What you wear
- Circle of influence – Are all the things that you can influence in your Circle of Concern, to increase your control over them. This includes things such as:
- Being careful what you say so that you don’t make your boss’ mood worse
- Doing what you can to keep yourself safe in the pandemic such as wearing a mask
- Reducing your exposure to crowded areas to reduce your risk as cases rise
- Being mindful of people’s feeling when speaking to reduce avoidable offence
Let’s go back to your list now.
- Beside each item on your list consider which circle it fits into and write it down beside each item.
- With the items that are in your Circle of Influence, come up with at least 3 ways you can influence each item. This increases your level of control, which reduces anxiety.
- This might include things like:
- Switching off the news
- Deciding how you will vote in the next election
- Spending less time on social media
- Accepting that have no influence over it
- Gain more education on it
- With the items that are completely our of your control, you need to let that concern go. Being concerned about things you have absolutely no influence over whatsoever only serves to increase your anxiety and stress and makes you sick.
- Acknowledge how you feel about it and accept that it needs to get filed away in your brain, in the ‘can’t do anything about it so need to let it go’ section.
- This might include things like:
Now that we have established what circle these list items fall into, it is time to start taking action. This action might be implementing the Circle of Influence strategies or creating a ‘to do’ list and actioning these tasks in order of priority.
To Do List:
- Move all the things you need to action onto a fresh list. Keeping your lists clean and organised also reduces overwhelm. We want to keep things simple, as simple is anxiety reducing.
- Go through each item and decide what needs to be actioned within the hour, within the day, within the week, within the fortnight and within the month.
- Put deadlines beside each item. Parkinson’s Law says that however long you have to get something done, it will take you that period of time to complete it. So keep the deadline short and strict.
- Start to go through and action the item in order of priority, in line with the deadline.
- Once completed, cross them off the list. There is a strong sense of success and achievement as you tick things off.
- If lists overwhelm you, create a ‘now’ list from your big list.
- Choose the 3 most important things you need to get completed first.
- Write them on a fresh piece of paper.
- You are not allowed to think about or look at, the long list, until your top 3 are done.
- Once they are done, select the next 3 things. So on and so forth.
Fear of the Unknown:
If you suffer anxiety caused by fear of the unknown, completing the above exercise is super important.
It will help you gain more influence over things, so they become more known to you and increase your level of control.
But it is also important to remember, just because something may be unknown to you , it doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad.
- Focus on the things you can control or at least influence
- Making lists, or mind dumps, help you see things for what they are, without feeling like there is a box of jigsaw puzzles in your brain.
- Keep your ‘to do’ list short and sweet with deadlines.
- Reduce your exposure to things that trigger your anxiety.
- See things for what they really are, rather than catastrophising them and making ‘mountains out of mole hills’.
- Coach Terri