There’s nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed.

Having too much on your plate is something we can all relate to. And let’s be honest, it stinks. In yesterday’s Pantsless Wisdom, I talked about feeling overwhelmed, and how to work on being less stressed, less distracted, and more focused.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but today, I want to share five things that have made a huge difference in keeping me relaxed and focused (because let’s face it, the Jessie Spano, sleeping pills, “I’m So Excited” look isn’t good for any of us).

Exercise

For the past 10 months, I’ve made a serious commitment to my own personal health – which is usually the first thing that gets neglected when life get busy. I can’t tell you the difference it’s made, not only on the scale, but in giving me more energy, helping me focus, and keeping my mind sharp.

Bonus tip: Exercise early, right when you wake up, before anything else. It’ll get your day started off on the right foot and you’ll already feel a sense of accomplishment before even diving into the to-do list.

Be selectively available

I used to leave GChat, Facebook Chat, and Skype open all day. Throughout the day, friends and clients would message me and I’d get distracted from whatever it was I was working on. Over the past six months, I’ve shut all of these down unless I need them for some reason.

When you limit your availability, you lessen the amount of distractions and give a big boost to overall focus. That, and you’ll notice that the people who still really want to get in touch will find a way – don’t worry about losing your friends.

Get caught up

Just recently, I FINALLY got caught up on my Google Reader. Each evening, I do what I can to go to bed with a clear inbox (though this is easier said than done). The point? Get caught up. Organize your desktop, unsubscribe from those old email newsletters you signed up for years ago, write your to-do list before you go to sleep, so you know exactly what needs to be accomplished the next morning.

Leave your credit cards at home

One of the biggest stessors is money (or lack there of). Putting something on your credit card may feel good at the time. But that Louis Vutton bag or second iPad probably isn’t going to feel good when you’re paying it off (plus interest) over the next several months.

I do my best to follow the “Don’t spend what you don’t have” rule. It keeps you from losing control of your spending, and in turn, losing control of your sanity. Unless you can pay it off immediately, use credit sparingly. And if you can’t afford it, don’t use it at all.

Schedule “me” time.

Making time for yourself is the single most important thing you can do for personal health, but also, professional focus. Stepping away from work, distancing yourself from the grind, is probably the best thing you can do for your productivity.

Do something completely mindless. Play a video game. Watch a movie. Walk the dog. Do something that relaxes your mind and clears you head. Whatever it is, add it to your calendar like you would any other meeting – and stick to it. Force yourself to relax, and come back to work with renewed energy, perspective, and focus.

How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed?

I had some great responses from my email subscribers with some of the things they’re doing to stay sane and de-stress:

Crysta Anderson shared some thoughts on prioritization and setting goals. I especially love this:

“I also build mini-deadlines into my day with appropriate rewards. For example, if I hit 500 words of a draft by 10:30 AM, I can go get a cup of coffee. If I complete a certain task by noon, I get a mid-day run. You have to figure out what you respond to and what motivates you. For me, it’s fresh air, coffee, or lunch with a friend.”

Megan Cassidy has a similar tactic:

“I try to always have something to look forward to, big or small. Whether it’s a weekend trip, a manicure, a coffee date with a friend, whatever suits your fancy…schedule it just like your work day or “me” time.”

Stephanie Florence takes advantage of her long commute to rock out with her, well, I’ll let her explain:

“I’ve found it’s easy to become overwhelmed due to long hours in the office and especially as we enter fall and winter. You go to work in the dark. And you leave work in the dark. My hour commute is the time I take advantage of rockin’ out to any and all music. The car is actually only one of two places I willingly sing and as a dancer I find myself working on choreography to the music in my head (gotta keep the hands at 10 and 2, you know ; ) If a friend calls during a jam session, one of the first questions is if I’m out for the night. Not quite… These car rides keep me motivated during the tough (and often tired) times.”

Royale Scuderi points out that often it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference:

“My best de-stressing tool is my dogs! When I start to feel overwhelmed I take a break and take my dogs for a walk. It helps me slow down, re-focus and put things in perspective, plus the fresh air is a boost to my energy levels!”

Stephen Anfield focuses on what he calls “Green Time”, which simply means getting outdoors and enjoying the fresh air.

What about you? How do you de-stress and get rid of that overwhelmed feeling? Share your technique(s) in the comments below.

About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. I also watch entirely too much Saved by the Bell, run marathons, and drink plenty of craft beer. Check out the work my company is doing at Proof Branding.