‘How are you doing?’ an acquaintance asked when I bumped into her unexpectedly in the grocery store.

The appropriate response to what happened next could have easily been “clean up on aisle 5” and it would have been completely fitting.

She caught me on a weary stressed-out day. Her question plain and simple exploded the top off of Pandora’s box because sometimes life can be messy.

A simple response of “good but challenged” would have sufficed but on this day, my response to her simple spilled out all over aisle 5. She didn’t need to know that our finished basement had flooded twice in just over a week adding to my already over full plate. I was smack dab in the middle of a week of incredible work challenges, all while I was waiting for a much anticipated call back from the doctor. And, that’s the very short version of my reply.

When it was over I was the one left wondering what just happened. Life doesn’t exactly come with dashboard warning lights, but sometimes the signs are nearly equally obvious that something needs to change.

3 warning signs that you’re a little stressed:


Call it what you like – I’ve heard it called verbal vomit – not a pretty name, but an accurate description. When you suffer from loose lips, it’s time to ask yourself a clarifying question. What is going on inside that I just said all that…the need to share beyond what I’d share to this person or in this situation on any other day?

Short Fuse.

When you go from zero to 60 in a moment’s notice or you experience the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back, it’s time for a change. It isn’t about that one last lone straw. It’s about the full load. When one small “one more thing” tips our scales, we know that our fuse has been shortened by what we’re already carrying and it’s time to do something about it.

Over reacting.

Have you ever responded completely over the top to a situation – something along the lines of pulling out a Ginsu knife for situation nail clippers could resolve? Over reacting disproportionately is a warning sign that change is needed.

Reading the warning signs:

Any one of these symptoms could simply be the exclamation point on a really bad day or a bad week. Or, they might also be the equivalent of a low fuel warning light on your dashboard. If you’re honest with yourself, you likely already know which of the two it is. If your load is feeling a bit too heavy and your stress levels are through the roof here are 10 things you can do.

10 Things you can do to reduce your stress:

  • Dump your load – No, not in aisle 5, but on a piece of paper or in a note on your phone or computer. Being able to “see” the weight you’re carrying is a first step in being able to deal with it.
  • Scale back – When you have too much on your plate, choose to let go of or defer handling the items that aren’t critically necessary. Say no, or not right now to lighten your load.
  • Make a to-do list – It takes energy to remember everything that’s on your plate. Consider a paper to-do list or an app such as todoist so that you don’t mentally need to track everything. This will also reduce the stress of worry that you’ll drop one of the many balls you’re trying to keep in the air.
  • Focus on what you can control – Refuse to let anxiety run unchecked for things that are not within your control. Instead focus on what you can influence and what you can change.
  • Share the load – Ask a family member or friend for help with some of the items on your plate.
  • Build down time into your schedule – Over full schedules amplify stress. Find time in your day to exhale. Go for a walk, do a crossword puzzle, read a book. Find time for you to recharge.
  • Find a babysitter – Hire a sitter or share the load with another mom. You could each watch your kids for a bit to give each other a break.
  • Get enough sleep – Burning the candle at both ends is a habit we all fall into occasionally. When life is overly stressful, it’s important to get enough sleep so that you have the necessary energy for the challenges of the day.
  • Exercise – Exercise releases endorphins. If you don’t exercise regularly, find a class to join or go for a walk or run. Treat your body right so that you have the stamina to carry your load.
  • Talk it out – Talk to a friend, see a counselor, or find a support group. When you share with a trusted confidant in an appropriate setting, you far less likely to burst when you bump into an acquaintance.

I’ve already implemented several of the items from this list. While all of my stress didn’t instantly melt away, I’ve reduced it considerably since my “moment” in aisle 5. I’m thrilled to say that my basement is dry and I received the all clear from my doctor. And, I have to say that I’m thankful for bumping into my acquaintance because it was just the warning sign I needed to implement some changes to shift my load.

What about you? What warning signs do you see when change is needed? Or, are you planning to try a few of these. Comment and join the conversation. And, why not share so that you’re friends who could use these tips find them. It could be something good that