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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stress and Balanced Living: What's Your Biggest Challenge?



Stress comes in many flavors. Sometimes it's the annoying red lights you catch when you're running late. Other times it's the excitement and nerves of starting something new. No matter what it looks like, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of balance.
That might not sound like earth shattering news. You already know you have to do something to feel less stressed and more balanced. The tricky part for most people is figuring out what to do.
Becoming aware of what's throwing your life out of whack is a good place to start. Once you have an idea of the specific issues causing you to feel overwhelmed, it's easier to create a plan for addressing them. Though everyone has different challenges, many people will find they've been stumbling over one of these four "balance bumps."
1) The Tug of War: It's tough to feel balanced and relaxed when parts of your life pull you in different directions. The most common example of this is when work responsibilities require you to spend more hours in the office, while home responsibilities call for you to spend more time there. Unless someone invents a way to create more time in a day you can't do both. Something has to give. Unless you find a solution that you could be you. No one wants that.
2) Creeping Commitments: Perhaps you've created a nice balance between energy spent at work and at home. You've even managed to carve out a little time for yourself to do a hobby or volunteer work. Gradually, however, one piece of your nicely balanced schedule starts to require more time and energy.
Maybe it's a family member that needs a little more attention or a new client requiring a lot of attention. It could even be your "fun" activity: you're the best volunteer they've ever seen, so they keep asking you to do more and more. Whatever the source, those small but steady increased demands for your attention can gradually lead to feeling drained.
3) The Faulty Thermostat: Maybe you have a very high "busy-ness" threshold. You can comfortably juggle a lot of activities, feel calm when everyone else is pulling their hair out, and function well on only a few hours of sleep-as long as you have your coffee. You might even be an adrenaline junky: you thrive on stressful situations. You haven't noticed, however, that you now need an extra cup of coffee to get going in the morning. You're also feeling more irritable.
It's possible that what was once normal for you has become toxic. Because your "stress thermostat" is set so high, however, it hasn't registered yet. Your idea of a stressor might be a natural disaster hitting your home. Anything less than that is "normal", so you keep handling it.
4) I'll Do it Syndrome: Is it tough for you to say no when someone asks you to do something? Maybe you believe the only way to get something done well is to do it yourself. Whether you're a people pleaser, control addict, or Superwoman wannabe taking responsibility for every project, errand, or chore could be the reason you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Once you've become aware of what's pulling you out of balance, it's time to take action. Depending on your needs you might require assistance making changes. Supportive friends and family members are a good resource.
A life coach can help set priorities and take appropriate steps towards creating a balanced life. A therapist can also help, especially with identifying and addressing counterproductive behaviors and choices. If you feel depressed, emotionally distressed, or experience any symptoms that concern you, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional immediately.
Getting out of overwhelm might seem impossible, but it can be done. With a bit of self-awareness, setting clear priorities for your life, and making changes so all parts of your life work well together you can increase your life balance. Where do you want to start?
© 2011 Donna L. Hamilton, MD, MS
Donna L. Hamilton, MD, MS is a former board-certified pediatrician residing in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Currently, she is Chief Wellness Officer and co-owner of Manifest Excellence, LLC. Dr. Hamilton specializes in holistic wellness promotion and speaks nationally on this topic. Dr. Hamilton teaches a comprehensive approach to health and wellness by addressing mental, emotional, social, spiritual and physical well-being. For more information visit
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