Learn to reduce overwhelm by identifying and reality checking stressors, practicing relaxation techniques, and prioritizing your mental health.

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If you’ve been following the D20 Theory Instagram account for a while, you probably know me well. Something you may not know about me is that I work at a non-profit mental health clinic in addition to productivity and mindset coaching.

My education and experience in mental health has undoubtedly informed my mindset practice. One of my specialties when working with clients is stress management, and I have developed a five-step exercise to reduce current stress and prevent future stress.

Why do we feel stress?

Stress is a natural response to real or perceived danger. It’s your body’s way of getting you to pay attention to something important.

This was an essential survival skill for our cavewoman ancestors. Fortunately, we rarely need to worry about being eaten by saber-tooth tigers these days, but our bodies still produce the same stress response to much smaller threats to our wellbeing.

Your anxiety about being late for a doctor’s appointment or your friend getting upset that you canceled your plans is valid. However, the consequences of these events are likely not life threatening.

Reduce Stress in Five Steps

Follow these five steps to effectively reduce stress and prevent that overwhelming feeling from returning.

Identify Stressors

The first step to reducing stress is to identify the source of your stress. I call this “naming the beast” because your mind and body are reacting to this stressor like it would a saber-tooth tiger.

It’s important to begin with this step because it’s much more difficult to reduce your stress level if you don’t know what’s causing it.

Ask yourself the following questions…

Why am I feeling overwhelmed? What are my specific worries?

Be as detailed as possible with your answer. The key to reducing stress often lays in the details that we haven’t given enough attention to.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t know why I’m stressed…I just am,” take a step back and ask yourself questions like a friend might ask you. What would a friend observe or know about your current situation that they may think is stressful—even if you haven’t given it much thought up until this point.

Reality Check

Step two is to determine whether the stress you feel is a reaction to real or perceived danger.

Ask yourself the following questions…

Are my worries based in reality or emotions? What is the most likely outcome for this situation?

Recognizing that your stress is the result of negative emotions or mindset isn’t a bad thing. That awareness allows you to address your stress appropriately.

Short-term Solutions

The third step is to develop short-term stress reduction strategies.

Ask yourself the following question…

What will make me feel better right now?

Don’t worry too much about your solution’s immediate effect on the outcome of the stressful situation. Your goal right now is to clear your head and reset your stress level so you can later address the stressor head-on.

The short-term solution may be directly related to the source of the stress—like studying for a test—but that shouldn’t be your only priority right now. It may also be an act of self care, completely unrelated to the source of the stress—like taking a walk or listening to music. It could also be a combination of the two–like listening to music while studying. Don’t be afraid to get creative!


When you’re starting to feel better, it’s time to figure out how you can make a significant impact on the stressful situation.

Ask yourself the following questions…

What are my non-negotiables for today? What are my deadlines?

Your deadlines determine what you need to accomplish today. These priorities are your non-negotiables.

Long-term Solutions

The last step is to find a long-term solution. The first four steps should be completed when you’re actively experiencing stress. This step, however, won’t necessarily happen right away. It can actually be more beneficial to return to this step a few days later, once you’ve had time to reflect on the entire situation and the outcome.

Ask yourself the following question…

What will make me less likely to experience a stressful situation like this in the future?”

Consider what led to this stressful situation, what was helpful as a short-term solution, what priorities need to remain non-negotiable, and how you can identify future stressful situations before they become overwhelming.

Overwhelm Reduction Worksheet

The Worksheet Library contains an Overwhelm Reduction worksheet that walks you through this exercise when you’re feeling stress. Coaching program members can access this worksheet—and every other worksheet in the Library—for free.

I also teach stress management and other mindset strategies during private group workshops. If you’re interested in learning how I can support your workplace team, networking group, or social club, schedule a call for us to chat!