HOW TO REDUCE STRESS + OVERWHELM
3 TYPES OF ACTIVITIES TO BE AWARE OF WHEN MANAGING YOUR ENERGY
if you want to reduce stress + overwhelm in your life, or for other reasons wish to pick yourself up, you might want to look into how you distribute your precious energy.
when I was recovering from stress, I came across a book by the danish psychologist Birgitte Hultberg, called Aldrig mere stress in danish (I don’t think the book has been translated to english, so I hope I’m not doing too much harm here, trying to explain some of the content).
she mentions that there are basically 3 types of activities.
what they have in common is that we need to invest energy to get started on them.
the difference between them is the energy they give us or demand from us while doing them + when they are over.
3 TYPES OF ACTIVITIES
1. PLUS ACTIVITIES :
plus activities are activities that we want to do, we look forward to doing them + we enjoy spending time on them.
they leave us feeling energised + in a good spirit.
we are gaining energy from these activities.
e.g. spending time with loved ones / with our favourite hobbies + interests / on activities that relax + recharge us / maybe even finally doing something we always wanted to try but never got around to.
2. ZERO ACTIVITIES :
these are activities we don’t want to spend time on, but they have to get done – so we have to invest energy.
once they are over with, we feel satisfied that we managed to do them, which gives us energy. but since we had to invest, to begin with, our energy tank end up at zero.
e.g. household chores / running errands etc.
3. MINUS ACTIVITIES :
activities we don’t want to / feel like spending time on.
they demand energy from us both before we have started, while we are doing them + after the task is over.
these activities drain us of energy.
e.g. spending time with difficult relatives / experiencing stressful events such as moving house, breakups, divorce, losing our job, deaths / going to work when we hate our job.
when reading this, it seems so obvious what the reason for feeling low on energy is. no wonder we experience stress + burnout. or tend to get overwhelmed easily. we are simply spending too much time + energy on minus activities rather than on plus activities. instead of filling our energy tank to lift ourselves higher, we are draining ourselves more + more.
unfortunately, we are not aware of this when we’re heading for a meltdown. it usually takes a severe wake-up call before we take a step back to evaluate what is going on.
people experiencing stress tend to be too conscientious + want to do too much. our focus is on what needs to be done rather than what we feel like doing. we get so narrow-minded that we forget to take time to rest + recharge ourselves.
if we easily get overwhelmed by too many + too intense stimulus (e.g. as an HSP), it is also due to not practising enough self-care. we might compare ourselves too much to others, trying to fit in, not understanding that we all have different needs.
to claim back our power + have the energy to live the life we are dreaming of, we need to eliminate / reduce minus activities and eventually replace them with plus activities.
we need to shift our focus + learn to prioritise to
however, if you start adding lots of fun activities while still having too many draining activities on your plate, you are just going to bring yourself lower from having too much going on. so to reduce stress + overwhelm from your life, it would be wise to declutter first.
below is a couple of simple exercises to help you do this.
EXERCISE 1 :
GET AN OVERVIEW TO HELP REDUCE STRESS + OVERWHELM
first, get an overview of what minus activities are taking over your life + what plus activities you want (back). creating an overview makes it easier to notice what you are actually dealing with + following do something about it.
your task is to let go of draining activities so you can give yourself more space. space to breathe, to rest + to realise what you truly want / need in life.
if you tend to get overwhelmed / worn out / stressed easily, I bet you already have an idea of what activities (+ people) make you feel low. you will quickly list a handful of draining activities you have going on in your life. it might be a bit more challenging to remember all the good stuff.
to get a better overview, I suggest you write it all down.
grab your journal or maybe some sticky notes (you could use different coloured notes for the positive / uplifting + negative / draining aspects of your life).
write down whatever + whoever you feel is overwhelming / stressing / draining you.
this can, for instance, be :
- a person / a relationship
- a commitment / a job
- a situation (e.g. spending time in crowded places / spending every sunday with in-laws etc.)
then identify all the precious moments in your life (past + present).
recognise when you feel uplifted / alive / happy. even look to the future for inspiration.
some questions to inspire you :
- what did you use to love spending time on when you were younger ?
- what / who puts a smile on your face ?
- what makes you feel blessed + loved ?
- what (in your ideal world) make you want to jump out of bed in the morning ?
- what did you always want to try ? (having something to look forward to / dreaming of is also a way to lift ourselves higher / to give us hope)
the purpose of having you notice the positive things in your life is to motivate you to let go of the negative. when you realise how many amazing things you already have, you can’t wait to start spending (more) time on / with these.
but, first, let’s get rid of some negativity …
EXERCISE 2 :
MAKE ONE CHANGE EVERY DAY TO REDUCE STRESS + OVERWHELM
take some time every evening to reflect upon your day :
keep a gratitude journal + focus on what was specifically good about this day.
you can use the notes from the previous exercise if you need inspiration.
when we focus on what we are grateful for, we realise how lucky + blessed we already are. our perspective is on abundance rather than lack. we immediately lift ourselves higher, making it easier to deal with the heavier side of life (like decluttering !).
then focus on one negative thing that’s constantly draining you of energy /
making you feel a bit annoyed.
e.g. are you the one always doing the dishes after dinner, though you would like to spend time relaxing ?
do you tend to procrastinate ?
find ways to eliminate or reduce this activity from your life starting TOMORROW (e.g. tell your family members that it’s time to take turns doing the dishes or start doing something you always procrastinate).
if you get into the routine of practising this every day, there will be lots of extra energy available to you before you know it.
you will feel lighter + freer, which again will positively affect your outlook on life.
now you are ready to indulge in whatever + how many plus activities you wish. and you are free to set intentions to attract the life of your dreams. with a positive mindset, anything is possible !
WHAT ABOUT ZERO ACTIVITIES ?
once we’re in this uplifting state, the more challenging tasks in life (e.g. zero activities) will not seem that unbearable anymore.
before we get there, though, it can be wise to delegate zero activities to family + friends. if that’s not possible, it’s not the end of the world if certain chores are ignored for a week or two either. when you are low on energy, your focus should be to rest / recharge / save energy. so if you have to spend time on this type of activity, it’s recommended you supplement it with a minimum of one plus activity + also only do ONE zero activity at one time.
hopefully, with this knowledge + these tools, we can learn to take charge of our lives. both to reduce stress + overwhelm AND to aim to live the life of our dreams.
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thank you so much, Loy. you might be my first guest, so that means a lot !
I have a lot on my mind, so I’m not planning to stop writing anytime soon. you can look forward to another post already tomorrow.