What to do to reduce overwhelm

Do you ever feel that there is “just too much to do and not enough time?”

I felt that way last week, leading up to the 7th Annual Naturopathic Conference in NYC (continuing education for NDs held on October 9th, 2011) that I plan and direct as President and Executive Director of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

If you are wondering whether that feeling of overwhelm can have a negative impact on your health and your effectiveness, you are right!  

Stress, in the form of “too much to do,” can raise your cortisol and adrenaline levels, lower your immune function (making you susceptible to infections), disrupt your sleep and digestion, and throw off your hormones.

Luckily there are things you can do to reduce the feeling of overwhelm and the impact of stress on your body.

I’m going to share with you what I find to be helpful, and I’d love to hear your strategies too. Please share your comments below.

  • Clear your mental desk!”  Take out a piece of paper and write down all the things on your mind that need to be done. Stay with it until you write down everything on your mind. I often use this technique if I wake at night with my mind racing through all the things that need to get done.
  • Exercise: Whether a walk around the block, a yoga class or 20 minutes on the eliptical trainer, exercise can be a great way to help you gain perspective on all the tasks at hand.
  • Shower: While it sometimes seems there is not even time for a shower, I find that the shower is the best place for me to relax my mind and often the place I think of things that I had forgotten.
  • Prioritizing: One of my assistants asked me the other day how I made it through college and medical school with so many credits, classes and tests.  My answer, which is the same strategy I use today, is to prioritize tasks.  When there are more things to do than can possibly get done, the key is to know your goals/objectives/intentions/priorities for the next 24 hours, week, month, and year.That way you can put the “to-dos” in categories based on your overall desired outcomes, priortize them based on when they need to be completed, and exclude anything that is not in line with your goals  – which means saying “no” to tasks that cause you to “spin your wheels.”
  • Ask for help! Even though it can seem like doing it all yourself is more efficient, the reality is that asking for help (delegating) can reduce overwhelm.  We can all achieve more by working together after all! I find that it makes a difference to give your helper clear instructions for a specific task.
  • Sleep, eat and breathe! Whatever you have to do to make sure you set aside as close to 8 hours as possible to sleep, please do. Keep lots of protein-filled snacks/meals nearby (nuts, protein shake, frozen chicken or turkey, etc) and take a deep breath frequently through the day.

How do you know that your body is stressed? Here are the most common symptoms I hear from patients: racing heart, heart palpititaions, can’t sleep, chest pain, stomachache, heartburn, headache, dizziness, and decreased memory.

Your body will tell you when it needs attention.  The key is to listen and respond by being patient with yourself. You are only human afterall! Rest, fuel (food and water) and mental breaks are essential for optimal functioning!  Otherwise, our bodies go into a constant stress mode and can’t turn it off.

If you have a feeling that you need to “push the reset button” and turn off your stress response, please know that it is possible. Set up a time for us to meet and let’s create a plan for your body, so that you can keep up with the “to-do” list without knocking yourself out.

For those of you who are wondering how the conference went, I am excited to report that we (my conference planning team and I) received extremely positive feedback and had more attendees than in past years, which is all outstanding because the proceeds from the conference all go towards the effort to license NDs in New York State.

Healthy regards,

Dr. Doni