Reduce Stress One Piece of Pie at a Time

Today more than ever, there is intense pressure to be productive, multitask, and perform. All of this pressure can be a fertile breeding ground for feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, the more overwhelmed we feel, the less productive we are. Sometimes juggling numerous responsibilities can leave us feeling helplessly paralyzed, avoiding what needs to be done rather than tackling it head-on.

There are numerous ways Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can address this all-too-common problem. One simple way is the pie-chart technique. Here's how it works:

1. Identify all of the things that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. They can be projects, errands, or even difficult people.

2. Create a pie chart, using each of the items you listed as pieces of the pie. For this, you'll need to rank which things are the greatest contributors to your stress. Then assign each one a percentage, based on how much of your stress you can attribute to it. For example, if your pie chart has three items: returning phone calls, preparing for a presentation, and a difficult co-worker, they might be assigned percentages of 60%, 25%, and 15%, respectively. Make sure that it all adds up to 100%.

3. Identify the most stress-inducing problem, and prepare to tackle it. Although this may seem like common sense, when overwhelmed, most people feel that there are so many problems that it would be hopeless to solve any of them. Consequently they end up avoiding their problems while the problems get bigger. Focusing on only one problem at a time makes feeling overwhelmed and giving up less likely. And by solving the problem that is responsible for the most stress, people generally feel much less anxious and more empowered to solve the rest of the items on the pie chart.

4. Break the identified item into steps. Oftentimes, one project or problem all on its own can trigger feelings of hopelessness and worry. Identifying all of the steps needed to solve the problem is a way of seeing in a concrete way how the problem does have a solution.

5. Complete each step one at a time. Focusing on one small step rather than ten or more steps, makes the task feel more manageable. It works the same was as focusing on one problem from the pie chart rather than all of the problems at once. Additionally, because one step is easier to complete, it promotes confidence and mastery, making the rest of the project feel less difficult. With each step completed, solving the entire problem seems more likely. After completing one step, move onto the next.

6. Continue this process for the rest of the items from the pie chart. You can continue to work in this fashion until all of the identified problems are solved, or at least more manageable. However, most people find they no longer need this approach after completing the first few items from the pie chart, as they feel much more confident in actively solving problems.

For more information about how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works, visit Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Los Angeles

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