Stepping Out of the Stress Trap


Preparing for the holidays is a great time to practice our stress-management skills. It’s easy to slip out of our optimal stress zone into being overly stressed…where we feel frazzled, waste energy in nervous tension, and lose our effectiveness. I slipped into this state this past week…I had an attack of the “hurry sickness”, that stressful feeling that there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Taking action doesn’t make the tension go away…when I’m working on one thing part of me is worrying about the ten other things I’m not doing. I have this feeling that I have to move faster and faster to keep up.


To me that’s a signal to step out of the stress trap. My favorite strategy right now may seem strange: I start by getting on my Nordic Track treadmill and play some Sudoku. On first glance that might seem like a time waster, but it works for me. It stops those racing feelings in my mind by focusing on something else, and the physical activity releases the tension in my body. (I’ve fixed up a stand on my treadmill to hold reading material/puzzles, so I can also use my arms in the exercise.)


Once I’ve cleared my mind and relaxed my body, I get out a pencil and some paper and write down my “possibility” list…all those items that have been going through my mind. I look at each one and decide where to put it in my time-management system:

  • Do it,
  • Delay it,
  • Ditch it, or
  • Delegate it.

The question I ask as I look at each item is “What do I do with this in the spirit of the season…with feelings of love, joy and generosity of spirit?” Once I look at the list from that viewpoint, the answers are usually easy.

So that’s my strategy. A friend of mine does something similar, only she brews a hot cup of tea and listens to music as she makes her list. And some people have the opposite problem, their problem is loneliness rather than too much to do. What about you? How do you handle the holidays? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Monkey picture by amateur_photo_bore via Flickr. Creative Commons license.
Sudoku photo by psd via Flickr. Creative Commons license.
Photo of girl writing by youngdoo via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

Thanks to Galba and bikehikebabe for commenting last week.

Related posts: The Stress Trap, The Stress Trap Redefined.

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4 Responses to Stepping Out of the Stress Trap

  1. bikehikebabe says:

    I sometimes Do it.–More often I Delay it.–I never Ditch it. My to-do list is very l-o-n-g.
    I also get on my Nordic Track treadmill but I consider that one of my JOBS. But I feel great afterwards, so that the other jobs don’t matter so much.
    My husband’s motto is, “Do it & be done with it.” :-)

  2. I like your idea Jean. I too use Sudoku to soothe my mental stress. Puzzle are hard and you have to concentrate so those racing thoughts slow down. I also like to put on my headphones and dance until I’m tired. Both activities slow me down and stop that stress spiral.

    To me the holidays are about fun, family, food and love. If I’m not getting enough of that then there’s something on my to-do list that can wait until later. :0)

  3. Jean says:

    :) Thanks for sharing your ideas, bikehikebabe and Shirley! I agree, Shirley, it’s crazy to get overwhelmed by things to do that we forget why we’re doing them.

  4. Pingback: » Finding Our Inner Light

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