How to cope with stress when you’re overwhelmed by responsibilities

Strategies on how to cope with stress when you are overwhelmed

There are times when life and everything that goes with it can feel heavy as the load we carry piles up on top of us and all around us. We have so much to get done, people to care for, relationships to manage, finances to juggle, pandemics to wait out, futures to plan. It can all be too much sometimes.

When we become overwhelmed and stressed, it can manifest itself in different ways for different people. For some, it brings a sense of teariness. Some people lash out at those around them in anger. For others, there are feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and even panic attacks.

Let’s just take a beat here to say that there is no wrong way to behave when things get too much. You are human, and you are doing your best.

When you start to feel overwhelmed or recognize that you are headed that way, the best thing you can do is cut yourself some slack.

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Here are some strategies on how to cope with stress and overwhelm

Acknowledge that something isn’t right

A friend of mine Tina, started experiencing panic attacks in college. At first, she didn’t know what it was, and that made it worse. She told me that it felt like total despair. That breathing became physically painful. Her body felt heavy like lead. That she had never felt as lonely as she did in the hours that the attack gripped her.

Many years later, she is a Mom and a successful entrepreneur but still gets panic attacks. What’s different now is that she has learned to use them as a signal rather than give into them.

When we met up recently, she explained that she learned that her panic attacks happen when she is subconsciously ignoring something in her life that is stressful. Now, when she gets the first flutters of panic, she makes time to sit down and work out what she is avoiding.

What’s significant here is that Tina learned to recognize her stress signal and acknowledge it. This can be the first step to righting whatever it is that causes you to feel overwhelmed and get you back on course.

Being mindful of your body, your behaviors, and how you feel will help you identify when your subconscious is signaling for help.

Identify the culprits

Once we know our stress signals, it is a step towards learning to cope or make changes. The next step is to identify the culprits that are causing us to feel stressed.

We Moms often tell ourselves that we have to cope with the workload and the juggling act that is motherhood. Guess what, you don’t! So go ahead and admit to yourself if something is too much. Nothing can change if we can’t accept that it needs to.

Perhaps your stressor isn’t related to your to-do list. It could be a worry you have about something in your life like finances, health, a relationship, and general worries about what’s going on in the world.

“Stress is an everyday occurrence that we all experience. That does not mean that we should bottle it up and cope because everyone else is.” Says Sarah Purcell, a lifestyle writer at Draft Beyond and Last Minute Writing. “Dealing with our stress is essential for mental and physical wellbeing.”

Identify what is eating you up, and you are on your way to feeling better.

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

How to manage stress and feel less overwhelmed

You deserve to feel good.

There are a few ways of managing stress and feeling less overwhelmed. You can use one of them or all of them. Whatever works for you. Here are some examples.

Forget perfection

When we feel overwhelmed, the simplest step to feeling better is recognizing that something has to give. Look at everything you are doing in your day, every commitment and responsibility, and ask yourself, “Do I have to do all of this exactly as I am?”.

The answer will nearly always be ‘no.’ Maybe let the laundry pile up an extra day, order takeaway once a week, so you don’t have to cook, carpool with another Mom for the school run and take turns.

You don’t have to do it all, and you definitely don’t have to do it all yourself.

Look after yourself

No one can care adequately for another person or their family if they do not first care for themselves. Daily care routines will reset your body and mind.

Make sure you get to have a shower each day – it doesn’t matter what time you do it – but that time is yours.

Try to avoid eating on the go and instead gift yourself time in your day to sit down and enjoy your meal. This will also aid digestion. Eating quickly when we are in a hurry can cause digestion issues, which can stress the body.

At least once a week, schedule in some time to do nothing that ‘needs doing.’ Instead, do something you enjoy, read, nap, sit in the garden, and switch off. At first, it might be difficult, but with practice, you will learn to unwind and stop your mind from running through your to-do list.

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Get physical

When there are unavoidable stressors in our lives – chronic illness, family worries, the future with Covid -19 – we sometimes must wait as they run their course. In these instances, distraction can be helpful. Once you have acknowledged that something is stressing you, look for a way to keep your mind from dwelling on it.

“Physical exercise of any kind is proven to reduce stress. Be it a brisk walk, dancing, or some sun salutations in the living room – it all helps,” says Gillian Shea, a health expert at Writinity and Researchpapersuk.

Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, ask for help. You don’t have to cope alone. Ask a loved one to help you with childcare, a spouse to help with chores, or even ask a neighbor to lend an ear when you need to vent.

There are organizations and helplines for finance stressors that you can turn to free of charge for advice and guidance.

How you feel is how millions of people feel the world over. It is not a weakness, and you are not a failure. Give yourself a break and reach out.

From saying ‘no’ to understanding what triggers your stress – our experts share advice on how to stop feeling overloaded

  • Considering changing jobs? Explore the range of vacancies on Guardian Jobs and find the perfect role for you

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, says Sarah Connell. Photograph: Getty Images

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, says Sarah Connell. Photograph: Getty Images

Last modified on Tue 30 Oct 2018 08.23 GMT

Understand the triggers

When you are feeling overwhelmed at work, it is important find out why you feel that way. Do you have too many responsibilities, or feel there are too few hours in the day? Is your boss piling on the pressure? Or is the company culture getting you down?

“Feeling overwhelmed is actually a stress response when we feel the demand on us outweighs our resources,” says Diana Dawson, career psychologist and owner of Working Career. Feeling out of control and under pressure is a form of emotional overloading and can also trigger the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, she says.

Keeping a journal of thoughts, feelings and actions can help you identify what causes this reaction, she adds. “Once we understand what triggers the stress, we can perhaps understand why that is and we can build strategies around those things.”

Don’t suffer in silence

If your workload is unmanageable, it’s a good idea to speak to your boss. This can be a daunting prospect, but making a plan before your discussion will help. Revisit your job description before the meeting. “Explain to your boss the tasks you are involved in, how long they take, the resources they require, why you find them challenging, and practical suggestions for a solution,” suggests Sarah Connell, a business psychologist and founder of MindingMe Psychologists.

“Try to control your emotions in the meeting, remain calm and professional. Focus on concerns about quality to demonstrate you are still committed to doing a good job,” she says. “It is not a sign of weakness, asking for help, and your manager may not realise how much work you have on.”

David Webb, writer and editor at employment relations specialist Acas, says that if your boss is professional, you should get a positive reaction when raising the issue. “The situation may be because of a temporary factor you are unaware of, and they may be able to help in some way.” This is an ideal scenario, but unfortunately not always the case. “If a bad boss is putting extra work on you without caring, then that’s a more difficult situation,” he says. In these circumstances, it is worth speaking to a trade union or employee representative and look into the company’s grievance procedure.

Learn to say no

The ability to say no “is probably my top tip for life as well as work,” says psychotherapist and life coach Hilda Burke. Often people who say yes to everything have this instilled in them in childhood, she explains, because they think if they do not obey rules they will be rejected. In a working environment people might think they are lucky to have a job, so it is best to keep their head down and not fuss, she says. “Challenging this type of work programming can take some time, but it can be done.”

Pushing back can particularly hard for freelancers, however, who often take on more than they can handle because of financial uncertainty. “I understand the temptation to say yes to new projects, but if it gets to a point where your existing projects or clients are suffering then it’s time to take stock,” says Burke.

She suggests buddying up with another freelancer or colleague that you trust to help with the workload. “Saying no shows your busy already, which can be a good message to give out,” she says.

Put things into perspective

Changing the way you think about your work situation could help alleviate some of the pressure, says Connell. “Remember the important things in life and do not let yourself get carried away with stresses.” She suggests trying cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness techniques. “They cannot resolve the work situation, but instead are aimed at helping you manage how you think about it and how you cope from a personal perspective.”

At times of intense work, it’s more important than ever to look after your physical and emotional self

When you are feeling stressed at work, you should leave this emotional baggage in the office. “Remember it’s just a job. Don’t take it home with you, switch off email and phone alerts when you’re at home and plan some fun stuff outside work,” says Sarah Archer, career coach and co-founder of CareerTree.

Take breaks and relax

Feeling overwhelmed at work can send you into survival mode, which becomes counterproductive. “Stress actually closes off the more creative parts of our cognitive processes and also distorts our perception of time,” says Gary Wood, psychologist, life coach and author.

While it may seem counterintuitive, taking time out to relax during the working day will help lighten a heavy workload. “The temptation is to work without breaks. The reality is that it depletes our resources and we process things more slowly and make more mistakes. The brain likes breaks.”

It is also necessary to look after yourself outside of work. “A lot of my clients, when they get very stressed during busy times at work, start eating junk food and abandoning their exercise regimes. The result is they sleep poorly and feel even worse,” says Burke. “At times of intense work, it’s more important than ever to look after your physical and emotional self.”

Move on

If you have exhausted all your options, and you are still struggling, then it might be worth looking for a new job. “If [a stressful job] doesn’t make you ill it can erode your confidence in your own abilities, which then makes it harder to leave and find another job.”

When looking for a new role, it is worth researching a company’s work culture, so you do not find yourself in the same situation. Sites like Glassdoor survey workplaces, and also ask about management style during job interviews, suggests Archer.

Looking for a job? Browse Guardian Jobs or sign up to Guardian Careers for the latest job vacancies and career advice

Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but what is stress? How does it affect your overall health? And what can you do to manage your stress?

Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Any type of challenge—such as performance at work or school, a significant life change, or a traumatic event—can be stressful.

Stress can affect your health. It is important to pay attention to how you deal with minor and major stressors, so you know when to seek help.

Here are five things you should know about stress.

1. Stress affects everyone.

Everyone experiences stress from time to time. There are different types of stress—all of which carry physical and mental health risks. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time. Some people may cope with stress more effectively and recover from stressful events more quickly than others.

Examples of stress include:

  • Routine stress related to the pressures of school, work, family, and other daily responsibilities.
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness.
  • Traumatic stress experienced during an event such as a major accident, war, assault, or natural disaster where people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress may have very distressing temporary emotional and physical symptoms, but most recover naturally soon after. Read more about Coping With Traumatic Events.

2. Not all stress is bad.

In a dangerous situation, stress signals the body to prepare to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival and in response to stress. In non-life-threatening situations, stress can motivate people, such as when they need to take a test or interview for a new job.

3. Long-term stress can harm your health.

Coping with the impact of chronic stress can be challenging. Because the source of long-term stress is more constant than acute stress, the body never receives a clear signal to return to normal functioning. With chronic stress, those same lifesaving reactions in the body can disturb the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. Some people may experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger, or irritability.

Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.

4. There are ways to manage stress.

If you take practical steps to manage your stress, you may reduce the risk of negative health effects. Here are some tips that may help you to cope with stress:

  • Be observant. Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
  • Talk to your health care provider or a health professional. Don’t wait for your health care provider to ask about your stress. Start the conversation and get proper health care for existing or new health problems. Effective treatments can help if your stress is affecting your relationships or ability to work. Don’t know where to start? Read our Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider.
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and improve your health.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and relaxing activities.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
  • Stay connected. You are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.
  • Consider a clinical trial. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other research facilities across the country are studying the causes and effects of psychological stress as well as stress management techniques. You can learn more about studies that are recruiting by visiting Join a Study or ClinicalTrials.gov (keyword: stress).

5. If you’re overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.

You should seek help right away if you have suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol more frequently as a result of stress. Your doctor may be able to provide a recommendation. Resources are available to help you find a mental health provider.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Anyone can become overwhelmed. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call the confidential toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lifeline chat is a service available to everyone.

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Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Often when people face a new and stressful situation—a job that’s a bit too challenging, a thorny relationship hurdle that will take a while to sort through, a change in lifestyle that feels like a step down from what they had—they feel overwhelmed at the thought that they may have to deal with this stress for an extended period of time.

People who worry about this long-term stress have reason to be concerned: chronic stress, the stress type of stress that is continual and unchanging, can take the heaviest toll. People who face chronic stressors may wonder if things will get easier—if they will adapt.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the stress of virtually any situation, even if the situation itself is there to stay for a while. If you are facing a new hurdle, a challenging life situation, or are just wondering if it gets easier and how to speed the process, the following are some stress relief strategies that can help.

Note: If you face a life crisis or overwhelming stressor, these techniques can help significantly, but seeking the help of a professional may be necessary at some point if the stress does not become manageable.

Have The Right Attitude

We can’t always control what we are facing, but we do have a choice in how we face it. We can choose the attitude we take, and whether we face each challenge as a threat or a challenge.

Research shows that viewing something as a challenge helps you to mobilize your resources and bring your “A game” to the situation more easily, while viewing the same situation as a threat can lead to a greater tendency to feel stressed and shut down

If you read about avoidant coping, you can see some of the problems that are associated with shutting down or avoiding your stressor. The following steps can help you to move into a more empowered frame of mind if you need to.

Understand the Role of Attitude

Your attitude can help to determine how stressful a situation feels for you, and how you approach your options. In fact, attitude can affect which options you see and do not see, which can also affect your stress levels and the outcome of your actions.

Examine Your Thought Patterns

Your thought patterns may feel automatic, but you can choose where your focus lies. To begin to make that choice, it helps to become aware of your habitual thinking patterns. This exercise can help you to see these patterns more clearly and can help you to relieve stress in the process.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk means using more optimistic language in your head, and focusing more on possibilities. It involves more than merely trying to look on the bright side, although that is part of it. Learn the specific areas where you can shift your focus and in the process, alter what is possible for you, and how stressful or stress-free your life feels.

Change What You Can

Sometimes there are certain aspects of a situation you can change, even if you cannot change the situation as a whole. For example, you may, for financial reasons, be unable to quit a job you don’t enjoy, but you can connect with co-workers more, alter your attitude while you’re at work, and use your break time for stress management activities, all of which can alter how you feel when you are at this job. The following steps can help you to make changes where you can and relieve stress as you do.

Try Solution-Focused Coping

Solution-focused coping means taking action to change your life where you are able. These changes can be large in scale, or small but targeted. Change itself can bring stress, so it’s important to choose the changes that will matter the most.

Find and Eliminate Tolerations

Tolerations are those nagging stressors in your lifestyle that you put up with almost without realizing it, but which bring you constant low-grade stress. The thing about tolerations is that they add up to bigger stress. Cutting out tolerations can bring stress relief so you can tolerate more of the things you can’t change.

Create a New Life Plan

Knowing where you want to go, having a plan for the future, can help to minimize stress in the present. Planning changes according to your values and priorities can be helpful and inspiring, even if you can’t bring those plans to fruition for a little while longer.

Build Resilience

If you can’t do any more to change your situation, you can still reduce the stress you feel as you manage your daily life. Certain activities can promote resilience and help you to feel less stressed overall, and less reactive to the stressors you face when they rear their ugly heads. The following are a few resilience-building activities to add to your life—the more they become an automatic habit, the less your stressors will bother you!

Self Care

When we are tired, hungry, and run-down, everything feels more stressful, and we have fewer coping resources at our disposal. We tend to react to stress rather than respond to it. We let things snowball. Focus on taking care of your body, and you will have a greater ability to handle frustration and stress in your life overall.

Exercise

Exercise is one of those wonderful stress relievers that can build resilience by helping you to blow off steam. Better still, regular exercise can help you to become less reactive toward stress. Because of that and the obvious health benefits of exercise, this is a powerhouse of a stress reliever that should be worked into your schedule when at all possible.

Meditation

Meditation can help you to remain centered in the face of stress and can help you to regain a sense of peace when you are feeling off-balance. There are many meditation techniques that work well, so try a few and stick with a favorite technique or two that really feel right. Over time, you should find yourself reacting to stress with less intensity and more able to remain calm and peaceful.

Positive Attitude

Maintaining a positive attitude is one thing you can do to make everything in your life feel easier. A positive attitude also helps you to get along better with others (which can lead to greater social support and less conflict) and can help you to remain feeling good, even when things around you are not so great.

All in all, it would be great if we could simply avoid or eliminate the stressors in our lives. Unfortunately, that’s only possible to an extent, and there will be times in life when we are all faced with unpredictable or unavoidable stressors, when we need to rely on resilience. You may not be able to change everything in your life, but these tips can help you to adapt more easily to stressful situations you may face.

Feelings of stress and anxiety can crop up seemingly out of nowhere. As they creep in slowly, you may begin to feel as though you’re struggling to keep your head above water. As we age, the demands of life and responsibilities keep growing, and the adjustment periods can lead to stress as we learn how to manage everything.

As the topic of mental well-being has been in the spotlight more frequently in the past few years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken notice. In fact, WHO included “burnout” in its list of International Classification of Diseases, a diagnostic tool for medical providers—though the guidelines won’t go into effect until 2022.

Here are four tips from experts at Riverview Health on how to manage feelings of burnout:

1. Make an appointment with your primary care provider. How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Prolonged periods of extreme stress not only affect your mind, your mood and your relationships—it can have serious effects on your physical health, according to Riverview Health chief medical officer and family medicine provider Eric Marcotte, MD.

“Stress and fatigue can lead to problems with your respiratory system, heart and gastrointestinal issues,” Dr. Marcotte said. “It also can lead to high blood pressure, which takes a toll on your entire body and can lead to a heart attack or stroke or put you more at risk for other diseases.”

By making an annual appointment with a primary care provider, you can stay on top of your health—even if you feel fine. Having annual baseline results from blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and other preventive screenings will help you and your provider know if something is off in the future.

2. Take mental health days.

Whether it’s taking time off from work or going for a night out to take a break from your kids and responsibilities at home, too few people take advantage of mental health days. A large reason for feeling hesitant to take time for yourself is the dreaded feeling of guilt.

Guilt that you’ll let down your employer. Guilt that taking a day off to do nothing makes you appear lazy. Guilt that taking a break from your family means you don’t love them.

If you’re constantly operating in stress-mode, you’re not doing yourself, your coworkers or your family any favors. Allowing yourself to step back and decompress helps you refocus and return to a happier, healthier state of mind, which those around you will notice.

3. Invest in personal wellness coaching.

Professional wellness coaches can help you improve your overall health and well-being by establishing a partnership through conversation that facilitates progress, discovery, change and growth.

The wellness coach at Riverview Health is credentialed through the American College of Sports Medicine as a certified health and wellness coach (CHWC) and is trained to help patients develop and implement personal wellness plans by:

» Accepting and meeting you in your current state of health

» Addressing all elements of well-being

» Asking you to take charge

» Guiding you in doing mindful thinking and doing work that builds confidence

» Helping set realistic goals, as small victories lay the foundation of self-efficacy

Sessions are designed to help you learn new skills, strategies and tools to make healthy, sustainable behavioral changes.

4. Discover employer-based counseling services.

Despite how it may feel when you’re overwhelmed at work, your employer doesn’t want you to feel that way. Many companies are investing in their employees by offering free counseling services as part of their benefits packages. While services may vary from employer to employer, you don’t have to have experienced a catastrophic life event to seek counseling. In fact, many employer-based counseling programs offer multiple counseling sessions for an unlimited number of life stressors— whether it’s related to work, home life or something else.

And though these services are brought to you by your employer, counselors offer a safe space and are bound by privacy laws to never share anything with your employers. Check with your company’s human resources department to ask what kinds of mental health and wellness benefits they offer.

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Seraphina Seow ・ April 13, 2021

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

The short answer is probably not because, well, you probably can’t fix it. But the inclination to tend toward this approach makes sense, since not trying to improve a troubling situation for a loved one can breed a sense of helplessness and anxiety. “It’s difficult to see a loved one struggling and not have much control in the midst of it,” says Stephanie Zerwas, PhD, a board member at Therapy Aid Coalition and a clinical psychologist at Flourish Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

So, how can you effectively support and help someone struggling with a tough work environment while also coping with your own difficult emotions associated with the situation? Below, see five possible solutions.

Not sure how to help someone struggling with a tough work situation without making it about you? See 5 expert tips below.

1. Give your emotions space, and seek therapy if needed

As a first strategy, it can help to validate and process the feelings you experience by naming them. From there, you can try using various coping methods (like journaling, exercising, or connecting with your other friends, for example) that historically worked for you. That said, do bear in mind that you may not find these methods to work as well as they used to, since the stress you’re facing—in absorbing the stress of your loved one compounded by the stress you may be experiencing just by nature of living through pandemic times—is likely unprecedented, says Sally Chung, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Bellevue, Washington.

“Your loved one may already be exhausted, feeling down or unsure of themselves. Having to deal with someone else’s anger on their behalf can make them feel really small.” —Sima Kulshreshtha, LICSW

If in allowing yourself to feel your emotions, you find that anger about your loved one’s work situation is what arises for you, consider talking about it with a therapist rather than unloading your charged thoughts on the situation to them. “Your loved one may already be exhausted, feeling down or unsure of themselves,” says Sima Kulshreshtha, LICSW. “Having to deal with someone else’s anger on their behalf can make them feel really small.”

Kulshreshtha says to observe yourself as you journey through this with your loved one. “If you’re upset all the time, and there’s a lack of joy in your life, and everything is painted gray, maybe you’re not in a position to even support anyone right now. And it’s okay to state that.” Someone who loves you would not want you to offer support that will hurt you in the process, she adds, so allow yourself to be supported by a therapist until you are ready to be there emotionally for your loved one.

2. If the person shares their struggles with you, focus on reflecting their emotions back to them

If you want to lend emotional support to your loved one, Dr. Zerwas suggests pulling out the emotion words when they’re telling you about the issues. For example, ask, “Did you feel angry because of X incident?” This gives the person a chance to pinpoint the emotion they felt in that situation, which may help them process how they feel about it and land on a course of action that they can take.

When they talk about the emotions they felt, you are also able to relate to how the emotion feels, forging a sense of connection between the both of you.

3. Ask permission before sharing how you feel

Ask if they have energy to listen to you express your true feelings about their situation. Your purpose for sharing your emotions is so both parties understand how the other feels and is able to feel more connected and not alone in a struggle, says Dr. Chung. The goal of sharing how you feel should be unity, not leading your loved one or both of you to get more worked up, stressed, or agitated.

Likewise, if your loved one grants you permission to share your feelings, take care to not shift the conversation to focus specifically on how you feel about it. Rather, use it as a springboard to allow them to further express themselves and land on a course of action.

4. Remember you cannot ease every struggle your loved one goes through

Trying to fix the problematic work situation may not always be realistic, and the pursuit of such may cause you to feel more upset. Dr. Zerwas recommends writing key messages on a crisis card or in the notes app of your phone to remind you that struggles are an inevitable part of life, and it’s okay to have limited ability to ease them sometimes. When you’re feeling especially low, read these to yourself.

Also remember that your loved one may not even want you to try to fix the problem, but simply wants support. In fact, Kulshreshtha says trying to fix the situation can send the message that you don’t trust them to come up with an effective strategy themselves. Besides this, “they’re probably already agitated from what’s going on at work, so you pushing them to do something is going to send them into a freeze mode more than sending them into action,” she adds.

5. If your loved one seeks your advice, don’t spell out exactly what they “should” do

If the person asks for advice or grants you permission to share your thoughts, create a space for them to mull over barriers to taking action. You can say something like, “It sounds like you’re not really happy there. What are the barriers to you leaving the job or bringing it up to your boss?”

Allow them to come to the decision to take action on their own. Should they decide to, invite them to let you know how you can help before you do anything you think might be beneficial (like finding job openings or cleaning up their résumé). Taking action before they ask for your help may make them feel overwhelmed or ashamed that they hadn’t taken those steps themselves. Kulshrestha suggests preparing yourself also to fully honor their decision If they end up not wanting to take any action.

Because remember, while you always want to prioritize protecting yourself and your own mental health (whether through therapy, coping mechanisms, or otherwise), ultimately the most important factor at play when it comes to a loved one’s taxing work conditions is putting their lived experience first.

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How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Every day you’re hustling. You run from work to homeschooling your kids, to volunteer work, to spin class, to the grocery store, and before you know it, the day has ended, you’re crashing in bed and sleeping just long enough so that you have sufficient energy to do it all again the next day. It’s not stress; it’s just the demands of everyday life, right?

Stress comes in a wide variety of formats—from the stress that results from highly traumatizing life experiences, such as war, the death of a loved one, being in a natural disaster or dangerous event, to the emotional stress that comes from unhealthy relationships to the pressure that builds after relentlessly grinding day after day to complete work and family responsibilities. This April, we recognize stress awareness month as a time to reflect on the short- and long-term detrimental health effects that stress can cause on the mind and body. Even more importantly, it is time to commit to identifying the causes of stress in your life and put a plan in place to make the lifestyle changes needed to minimize stress.

What Stress Can Do to Your Body

You may be a resilient, competent person. Still, it doesn’t mean that even if you are succeeding in work and family responsibilities despite a hectic schedule that you’re not putting your mind and body at risk of the adverse effects of stress. Stress can cause such mental and physical risk factors as:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Irrational bouts of anger
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Disinterest in hobbies or once loved activities or social withdrawal
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Spending less time exercising
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Extreme fatigue and loss of mental clarity
  • Feeling overwhelmed emotionally
  • Change in sex drive

What to Do if You are Suffering from Too Much Stress

If you identify with the symptoms above, it may be time to talk to your doctor or a qualified mental health expert about managing your stress healthily. Also, embrace these coping strategies:

Identify Your Support Network

Make a mental list of the people you can turn to for help and support in your life. Consider individuals in every realm of your life, such as family, friends, co-workers, and your care team. The individuals that you identify should be people that you can reach out to not just for conversation but to help alleviate stress factors in your life. For example, which co-worker could you ask to share the burden of a long-term project? Is there a neighbor who could help you shuttle your kids to their athletic practices? Should you have a conversation with your partner about better distributing household chores?

Prioritize Your Sleep

Aim for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night—including weekends. With proper rest, you’ll feel rejuvenated every morning and can tackle your day with clarity and focus. Depending on what time you need to wake up every day, calculate what time you need to be asleep to catch your eight hours of ZZZs. Give yourself adequate time before lights out to start winding down. During this restful period, turn off all electronic devices, including your television, tablet, and smartphone. Their screens’ glows could be disrupting your ability to settle in and fall asleep at a reasonable time.

Recommit to Your Passions

One of the most effective ways to combat stress is to make time for activities that bring you joy and a sense of personal accomplishment. If you’re spending all of your days and nights on work or family responsibilities, you could put yourself at risk of burnout. It may feel like you’re neglecting your other obligations, but it’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Commit to enrolling in a yoga class, picking your guitar back up, tending to your garden regularly, or investing at least a few hours weekly to a hobby or passion.

If you are still struggling to cope with stress factors in your life after trying these three strategies, talk to your doctor. They can help you manage the factors and triggers in your life that are impacting your health.

Feelings of stress and anxiety can crop up seemingly out of nowhere. As they creep in slowly, you may begin to feel as though you’re struggling to keep your head above water. As we age, the demands of life and responsibilities keep growing, and the adjustment periods can lead to stress as we learn how to manage everything.

As the topic of mental well-being has been in the spotlight more frequently in the past few years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken notice. In fact, WHO included “burnout” in its list of International Classification of Diseases, a diagnostic tool for medical providers—though the guidelines won’t go into effect until 2022.

Here are four tips from experts at Riverview Health on how to manage feelings of burnout:

1. Make an appointment with your primary care provider. How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

Prolonged periods of extreme stress not only affect your mind, your mood and your relationships—it can have serious effects on your physical health, according to Riverview Health chief medical officer and family medicine provider Eric Marcotte, MD.

“Stress and fatigue can lead to problems with your respiratory system, heart and gastrointestinal issues,” Dr. Marcotte said. “It also can lead to high blood pressure, which takes a toll on your entire body and can lead to a heart attack or stroke or put you more at risk for other diseases.”

By making an annual appointment with a primary care provider, you can stay on top of your health—even if you feel fine. Having annual baseline results from blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and other preventive screenings will help you and your provider know if something is off in the future.

2. Take mental health days.

Whether it’s taking time off from work or going for a night out to take a break from your kids and responsibilities at home, too few people take advantage of mental health days. A large reason for feeling hesitant to take time for yourself is the dreaded feeling of guilt.

Guilt that you’ll let down your employer. Guilt that taking a day off to do nothing makes you appear lazy. Guilt that taking a break from your family means you don’t love them.

If you’re constantly operating in stress-mode, you’re not doing yourself, your coworkers or your family any favors. Allowing yourself to step back and decompress helps you refocus and return to a happier, healthier state of mind, which those around you will notice.

3. Invest in personal wellness coaching.

Professional wellness coaches can help you improve your overall health and well-being by establishing a partnership through conversation that facilitates progress, discovery, change and growth.

The wellness coach at Riverview Health is credentialed through the American College of Sports Medicine as a certified health and wellness coach (CHWC) and is trained to help patients develop and implement personal wellness plans by:

» Accepting and meeting you in your current state of health

» Addressing all elements of well-being

» Asking you to take charge

» Guiding you in doing mindful thinking and doing work that builds confidence

» Helping set realistic goals, as small victories lay the foundation of self-efficacy

Sessions are designed to help you learn new skills, strategies and tools to make healthy, sustainable behavioral changes.

4. Discover employer-based counseling services.

Despite how it may feel when you’re overwhelmed at work, your employer doesn’t want you to feel that way. Many companies are investing in their employees by offering free counseling services as part of their benefits packages. While services may vary from employer to employer, you don’t have to have experienced a catastrophic life event to seek counseling. In fact, many employer-based counseling programs offer multiple counseling sessions for an unlimited number of life stressors— whether it’s related to work, home life or something else.

And though these services are brought to you by your employer, counselors offer a safe space and are bound by privacy laws to never share anything with your employers. Check with your company’s human resources department to ask what kinds of mental health and wellness benefits they offer.

Stress reduction is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, just like diet and exercise. These tips will help you keep your stress levels under control.

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

How to cope with stress when you're overwhelmed by responsibilities

When you’re stressed, your head may start to hurt, or you may feel nauseated, dizzy, or just plain overwhelmed. Stress can have a huge impact on every aspect of your life, so stress reduction is necessary for maintaining both your physical and emotional health. Since you can’t simply wish stress away, managing stress is a vital skill to develop.

Whether you experience a sudden stressful situation, such as a major issue at work or a crisis at home that needs to be addressed right away, having a plan for stress in place is a good idea, says Larry Kubiak, PhD, a psychologist and the director of psychological services at the behavioral health center of Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare in Florida. “Stress can occur at any time or place, and we do our best when we have tools at the ready to deal with it,” he explains.

If it’s an urgent problem that requires your immediate attention, managing stress is important so that you can think clearly. The same is true with ongoing, nagging concerns about your job, health, finances, or family members that create a steady buildup of stress. “Know the kinds of things that are available to you on short notice so you can utilize them, such as listening to music, going for a short walk, or guided imagery,” says Dr. Kubiak.

Try these tips to help you with general stress reduction as well as specific anxiety-provoking experiences.

1. Step Back and Put the Problem in Perspective

Maybe you’re disappointed that you didn’t get a promotion you were up for or concerned that money is a little tight this month because of an unexpected medical bill. Feeling stressed is a natural reaction. But try to take a step back and ask yourself: Will this issue still matter in a year? In five years? If the answer is no, take a deep breath and try to move forward. Keeping things in perspective is crucial to managing stress.

2. List Some Solutions and Come Up With a Plan

If there’s a specific problem you need to fix, make a list of all possible solutions and pick the best one for your situation. Realizing that you have options and coming up with a concrete plan will have a direct effect on stress reduction. “Break the task into smaller parts so you can try to accomplish what you need to in an hour, a day and then next week so the problem becomes more manageable,” suggests Kubiak.

3. Accept Those Things Beyond Your Control

Some circumstances are simply beyond our control, and we have to learn to cope with and accept them. Fortunately, you do have control over how you react to stressful situations. Staying calm and being willing to accept emotional support from others can help in managing stress.

4. Give Yourself a Break to Relax and Recharge

Daily stressors can creep up on you before you realize it, so treat yourself to at least one relaxing activity every day. Listening to music, meditating, writing in a journal, or enjoying a soothing bubble bath are all great ways to relax and relieve stress. “Meditation allows us to clear our minds and be able to see things in a more realistic perspective,” notes Kubiak. Taking time for yourself is important for both preventing and managing stress.

5. Try to Get Some Regular Exercise Every Day

Exercise is one of the best methods for managing stress because it can relieve both the physical and emotional effects of stress. Consider fitness choices that also deliver specific stress-reducing effects like yoga, tai chi, Pilates, or one of the martial arts, all great ways to get rid of pent-up stress and negativity. “Exercise can help regulate and dissipate in a productive way those ‘fight or flight’ stress chemicals in the brain,” says Kubiak.

6. Open Up to People and Express Your Feelings

If something’s bothering you, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to people you trust, like friends, family, or coworkers, about what’s on your mind. Even if you’re not looking for specific advice, it usually feels good just to get your feelings out into the open.

7. Set Reasonable Expectations in Your Daily Life

Being busy is sometimes inevitable, but regularly taking on more than you can manage can cause unwanted and unwelcome stress. Tell yourself that it’s okay to say no to activities at your child’s school or to extra projects at work — you are not obligated to accept every request made of you. Additionally, don’t take on more financial responsibilities — such as a new car or a bigger house — if you think they’ll be a stretch. Being realistic about your finances is an important strategy for managing stress.

8. Resolve Issues Before They Become Crises

It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant topics and circumstances, but if you’re concerned about a brewing situation, whether it’s at work or at home, address it early to keep it from becoming more serious, harder to solve, and more stressful for you. Problems are always easier to handle before they develop into full-blown calamities.

Everyone feels stress — it’s impossible to avoid it all the time. But it is possible to keep stress under control by setting realistic expectations of yourself, learning how to keep problems in perspective, and enjoying relaxing breaks from the daily demands of life.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.