When I’m overwhelmed—whether it’s a work project or an anxiety-provoking situation—one of the best things I can do is to ask myself questions. For me, this is the best way to shrink my stress and make it more manageable. It’s the best way I can transform a big, hairy monster into a cranky mouse, maybe even an ant. Questions help us dig deeper into an issue and gain a better understanding. They help us put a name to nebulous, overwhelming things. Questions help us to refocus and find solutions. Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself to help you find what you need:

  • What emotions am I feeling right now?
  • What specific support do I need? In other words, if someone were to ask me, ‘How can I help?’ what would I say?
  • What is my biggest problem or obstacle right now?
  • What are the most outlandish solutions for this problem? (Often when we give our minds free rein, they tend to come up with some great solutions—or at least kernels of great solutions that we can somehow use or expand.)
  • Is there a way to make this playful? Lighter? More Enjoyable? How?
  • What would comfort me right now?
  • What’s one thing I can knock off my list to make my life easier?
  • What do I see, smell, touch, taste and feel in this moment?
  • What’s a small step I can take right now in the right direction (for me)?
  • Am I focusing too much on what others think, on what others are doing?
  • Am I focusing on something I should be doing? According to whom?
  • What do I really want?
  • What is the truth?
  • Is this a priority? Is it important?
  • Is my current state of mind and body heightening my stress? In other words, maybe I’m sleep deprived. Maybe I’m hungry. Maybe I’m getting sick. Maybe the situation isn’t the issue, but I simply need rest, food or medicine. Maybe I’m making the situation seem worse than it actually is.
  • Will this matter a few months from now? A year from now?
  • What really matters to me?

Just like we gather a collection of healthy coping tools and techniques, we can gather a collection of questions that help us take healthy, nurturing actions. Turn to the above questions when you’re stressed out about everything from work to a relationship. And create your own list of questions that serve as a bright guiding light when you’re feeling cloudy, confused and maybe even afraid.

Photo by Tim Foster.