The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. – William James
I stared at my to-do list. It took up an entire 8.5 x 11” sheet of paper. Three of them. In a creative frenzy, I’d somehow managed to jot down over 100 to-do’s, tasks, and ideas for my businesses.
As an emerging expert for discovering your life purpose and deepening your spirituality, I was beginning to accept that this was the life: constant work, a go-go-go mentality, and no rest for the weary. There was so much that begged for my attention and so much that I needed to get done if I wanted to take my industry by storm…
But then something happened. The inspiration came and gone. I was left with the distinct desire of wanting to do nothing at all. I gave myself permission to ‘take a day off’. But it turned out the desire to do nothing had other plans, setting up shop in my mind for the rest of the entire week!
I couldn’t believe it. As a world-class overachiever, I was disappointed with myself. This was no time to take breaks! This was time to take action. Yet even s0, I couldn’t help but hear a small voice whisper: relax.
The word RELAX later became an acronym for the action steps I discovered to be incredibly valuable in conquering overwhelm and the overachiever mindset I’d always struggled with. Here are the action steps below:
Stressed and Overwhelmed: 5 Ways to Calm your Overachiever
1. Rest Matters
When you all but worship your to-do list, it’s easy to invite restless nights into your life. There have been plenty of times when I could’ve used a good night’s sleep but instead I was staring into the darkness, calculating every little task that I needed to do the next day. New ideas and thoughts raced through my mind at warp speed. I couldn’t quiet my mind long enough to lull myself to sleep.
Unfortunately, we seem to live in a society where we feel more accomplished the bigger our to-do lists are. If we aren’t constantly on the go and on the move, then we feel we’ve failed.
But the truth is: we’re only human and we absolutely require sleep. Think about it. Even our electronics don’t last forever—eventually you have to connect them to a charger, don’t you? So why should the human brain be any different?
As difficult as it may be to do so at first, you need to designate days when you give your mind a break. In other words, you need to give yourself permission to receive rejuvenation and restoration. On these days, you don’t even look at your to-do list or check your work email. These days are reserved for you to simply exist: to go outside and breathe in fresh air, to feel the sun on your face, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a nap, to watch a movie you’ve wanted to see, to spend quality time with loved ones.
And here’s the best part: when you do this, you’re giving your mind the space and free time it needs to generate new (and often better) ideas. In fact, it was because I gave my mind several days off that I received the insight to pen this very article!
2. Eat Well
It sounds like a no brainer, but I’d wager to say that most people aren’t eating for optimal performance. In fact, 56% of Americans skip breakfast entirely in their morning rush. Again: always on the move. We live fast-paced lives and rarely schedule the time for absolute essentials.
Now that you’ve scheduled a day (or two or three) of rest, it’s time to take a hard look at your diet. Are you eating properly? Are you eating at all? I remember times when I’d speed through a day on just one meal. I don’t know how I did it!
But I do know this: if you don’t take care of your health, there’s going to come a day when you crash and burn on life’s highway. Don’t be another statistic. Feed your body so that you have the fuel to enjoy your life. Eating the right foods will also improve your focus, energy, memory, and more—allowing you to get things done more efficiently so that you have extra hours left over to savor your existence.
3. Listen to your heart
A lot of us have a problem with saying “no.” We might feel inadequate if we don’t take on a new responsibility at work. We might feel as if we’re letting others down by not doing a requested favor. We get caught up in a vicious cycle of self-attack and negative inner dialogues and put ourselves down if we’re not doing enough.
But instead of letting your to-do list call the shots, it’s time to give your heart some speaking time, too. I’ve started to develop the habit of waking up every morning and simply asking myself: “what do I feel like doing today?” Before this, I’d allow myself to get consumed with routines and tasks and chores and responsibilities and I’d feel drained mentally, emotionally, and physically before the afternoon even came. Now, I can strategize my schedule in a way that’s going to make the best use of my time and the best part is that I feel no pressure or heavy weight on my shoulders to ‘get things done’.
Here’s the thing: every day is a different day! One day you might feel particularly creative. Another day you might feel outdoorsy. Another day you might feel very social. So why should we stick to the same daily routine when on a molecular level, our heart/mind/soul/body requires something different from day to day?
4. Acknowledge What You’ve Achieved Already
This is a step I fear many of us altogether skip! In our mad dash to the top, our extreme, hurried pace causes us to turn a blind eye to major milestones.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. I would write guest blogs for popular websites that would receive such a wonderful response from that blog’s audience…but I would be so caught up in the next blog I’d have to write to keep these readers engaged that I never fully allowed myself to just rest in the bliss of connecting with others.
In what ways are you speeding right past major milestones in your own life? Stop, pause, and honor yourself for how far you’ve come. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest you throw yourself a mini dance party every time you achieve something. Let’s make the journey fun and exciting!
5. Excel at Your Own Pace
Too often we compare our behind-the-scenes footage with everyone else’s highlight reels. We see the success that our role models experience. We see how well friends and family members are doing career-wise. We examine everyone who’s further along on their journey than we are and all the endless comparisons only leave us feeling inadequate, incapable, and like we’re doing something wrong.
Remember this: we’re all on our own individual journeys. Further, you have no idea what someone has gone through or what that person had to overcome in order to reach the success they now know.
You are unique. Your story is different. No one will ever walk the exact path that you are now walking. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or about how further along someone else is. There’s no rush. Enjoy the journey and the process. Choose a pace that works for YOU (not a pace you think people expect from you) and proceed with content.
Apply these five actions steps the next time you feel overwhelmed by your overachieving nature, and you’ll not only RELAX, but put into place the foundation for a more fulfilling life!