What to do when Stress is Engulfing you

I’m no stranger to stress and you’ll know all about my burnout if you’re a regular reader of my blog. Lately I’ve been under a great deal of stress and I’m really feeling the effects of it. I’m feeling that same fatigue I felt when I was really sick. I’m not sleeping well and I’m waking up feeling so awful that I’m nauseous. In the past few days I’ve been so stressed and anxious that I’m finding it hard to enjoy anything.

When I lack sleep, it has an inflammatory effect on my autoimmune thyroid disease. That means I feel more fatigued. I am also irritable and can’t be as patient with my children. I then beat myself up about being a bad mother and a horrible person to be around and it spirals even more. I worry that I’m slipping backwards into poor health, leading to reduced income and inability to function in everyday life.

stressI’ve also been feeling unsettled in that I’ve written this book, Avoiding Burnout, to guide people towards living a life of joy. And here I am buckling under the strain of a few stressful things. Then I reasoned that I can’t completely avoid all stress in my life from recovery onwards. There will be periods of great suffering and loss in my future. There will be stressors that I simply can’t avoid. The trick is to identify what’s happening and to work out how to address it.

The first step in my process is to identify the sources of stress. At the moment, I’m very stressed about changing schools for my girls. I am a people-pleaser and I want people to like me. I’m so uncomfortable letting people down and rejecting the school. I’m also stressed about the short-term impact on my children, knowing that this decision is causing them sadness to leave friends and the discomfort of knowing that they are not going to be part of next year’s events.

The change in schools costs money in the form of acceptance fees, new school uniforms and other unnecessary costs. Our family has suffered a great loss of income in the time that I haven’t been able to work. These are unplanned costs and it does create stress for us as we could be spending the money on other important things.

Another source of stress is my book launch coming up. I have planned an event for the end of November and if you’ve read my book you’ll know that the month of November is typically so busy and stressful already. My book has been out since August so I really don’t want to delay the launch any longer. It will trigger more book sales and enable me to sell my book for a few months at the store where I’m launching. In preparation for the launch I am also busy with my website which is a lot of work as well.

I’m also trying to finish my first five speeches in my advanced series of Toastmasters. This occupies many evenings and takes time to prepare. I also expend energy and increase stress levels with the anxiety of presenting a speech to an audience.

As mentioned, November also brings a lot of commitments: concerts, teacher gifts, dancing exams, my tax return, children’s parties, school galas and all the year end parties and demonstrations for extra murals. We have even made a rule in our house that we are not to have any house guests in the month of November. It’s just too busy and we can’t cope with the additional stress.

It feels that I’ve taken on so much at the end of the year and I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all. The school stress has been the most significant and it’s difficult for me not to overthink all the events and unpleasantness that comes with leaving. Rumination can be very harmful and it’s best to notice it and put an end to it as soon as possible. Click here for an article on how to address it.

The second step in my process after identifying the sources of stress is to think of benefits of the things I’m doing:

  • Leaving school: long term benefit to the girls to be in a place where they can be themselves and be valued for their own unique gifts and talents.
  • Book launch: increased book sales and hence income, as well as exposure for boosting my brand.
  • Website: I’ll be able to sell books to local customers which is of great benefit to me when I’m doing speeches and directing potential readers to my site.
  • Speeches: I’m becoming a better story teller and will allow myself to practice my professional speaking skills starting early next year.
  • November: It’s great that we made that rule about house guests as in the future we wont struggle as much as we have in the past.

I’m also ever aware that my health is incrementally improving over the long term. If I think back to three years ago, how I felt and how little I could manage, I realise how far I’ve come. Because of what I’ve been through in the past few years, I’m much more in tune with my body and I realise much quicker when things are getting out of hand. I’m able to correct course faster to ensure that I don’t get quite as sick as I once did.

The next stage for me is to apply techniques that I learnt during my recovery period. I learnt that meditation is an amazing stress buster and I realised that as I’ve been becoming busier, I’ve been sacrificing the meditation. In the past week I’ve made time for meditation, simply sitting still and connecting with my body and mind.


I was feeling so terrible on Friday that I skipped yoga and that’s a really bad sign for me. Yoga is truly therapeutic and it is a great way to bring calm to a frazzled mind. At the moment I’m trying to figure out whether yoga is good or bad for me because it can be pretty tough and intense at a time when my body is really struggling under the strain of stress. I’m spending this weekend doing very little and sleeping as much as possible in the hope that I’m strong enough for yoga on Monday and I can return to my usual routine.

Another really important remedy is enough sleep. Inadequate sleep has such a dramatic effect on my day that I really have to fight for more sleep. I made it clear that there is no story time for kids this weekend so that the routine is quicker and I get to bed earlier than usual.

Making loved ones aware that we are struggling is an important concept as no-one can really know just how awful you feel until you speak up. Asking for help is essential so that those around you can provide you with the support you need. I asked my husband to cook on Friday night and I insisted on afternoon naps this weekend.

It’s clear that boosting our happiness levels is a way to combat stress. There is a plethora of research showing that social relationships are the key to boosting happiness. Yesterday morning I met with a school friend and had a wonderful catch up after many years. I really enjoyed hearing all about the past twenty years and how she has connected with her passion. Even though I was very tired, this activity of connecting with an old friend brought me benefits.

It’s easy when we get very stressed to seek crutches or negative behaviours to help us to feel better. People often turn to alcohol, eating or other unhealthy patterns of coping. I have had to find other ways of coping because I had to change my diet so much as part of my recovery. I no longer drink alcohol, have caffeine or eat gluten so drowning my sorrows in wine, coffee and pastries is not an option for me. I have to face my emotions head on, understand where they are coming from and find healthier ways of combating stress.

I’m going to continue following these steps to address my current stress levels. I’m going to keep an eye on the sources of stress, think about how each aspect is benefiting my life and find ways to reduce stress levels and to feel better. The most meaningful of those are adequate sleep, asking for help, meditation and building social relationships.

What methods do you use when stress is overwhelming in your life?

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I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.


  1. Stress is also not my favourite thing and this is what I do to take the stress out of life:
    – exercise… no matter how healthy I eat, exercise is always my missing link. Some form of exercise that gets your heart rate up. My favourite is interval training on a bike, to music I love.
    – keeping a “To Do” list… helps me free my mind from all the thousands of things I have to do. “Getting Things Done” by David Allen is an awesome book to read.
    – positive self talk… be aware of what you say to yourself when you get stressed. No one is perfect, we all think negative things about ourselves, but the the minute I catch myself thinking a negative thought about myself I say something positive in return. My two favourite positive self talk phrases are: “I have tremendous power, I can do remarkable things” and “I am strong”… Really simple but it calms my irrational fears. Both I learnt from Brian Tracy an amazing motivational speaker.
    Hope this helps! đŸ™‚

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