Do you live with a sense of overwhelm most of the time? If so, you’re not alone. It’s debilitating and can lead to chronic stress, depression, and an array of other health issues.

But what if you could manage overwhelm by looking at where you may be needlessly adding tasks (and stress) to your life? What if you could start making more confident decisions and feeling less stressed by asking four simple questions?

  1. What do you expect from yourself?
  2. What do you expect of others?
  3. What do you others expect of you?
  4. What do you expect from the situation?

What do you expect from yourself?
One of the easiest ways you can fall into overwhelm is by placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. When you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, start by looking at the simplest way to accomplish what you’re trying to do.

Write down everything you think you should be doing and then ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t do each item on that list. Look for hidden expectations such as standards you feel you need to maintain (perfectionists beware – this will make you squirm).

What will make you feel better right now and allow you to be satisfied with what you’ve accomplished? Mark items on your list that don’t have to be done right now. Commit to doing them later, or work on ways to relegate, delegate, automate, simplify, or eliminate those items.

What do you expect of others?
Another way we keep ourselves in overwhelm is to place the same expectations we have of ourselves on others. If you often find yourself frustrated with someone else, it may be that you’ve placed expectations on them that they don’t have for themselves.

When we find ourselves at odds with someone, it can be helpful to step back and try to understand how they’re perceiving a situation. More importantly, try and honor their perspective and work toward a solution, even if that solution means you eventually have to “agree to disagree.”

Ask yourself how you can look at the situation from the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint. Are you expecting things from this person that they simply aren’t going to be able to give? If so, how can you work toward a solution while understanding their perspective better?

Write down all the expectations you have for the other person and see if those expectations are actually their expectations, or expectations you think they “should” have.

What do others expect of you?
How do we figure out what others expect from us? I’d argue it’s a combination of our personal expectations, past experiences with this person, our take on the current situation, and ever-dreaded assumptions. More times than not, we assume what others expect without actually clarifying.

Making assumptions about what others expect of us can be a big source of unneeded stress. Instead of assuming what another person expects from you, take the time to ask them. Set appropriate boundaries kindly but firmly, and work to find common ground. Again, if it helps, write down what you think the other person expects and then ask them about the top three items that are causing you the most anxiety. You may be surprised by their answers.

What do you expect from the situation?
Often, we go into situations hoping for a particular outcome. We want the promotion. We want our presentation to persuade others to invest in our startup. We’re attached to how we think something should turn out.

But in truth, we know we’re never 100% in charge of how things will turn out. When you find yourself in an overwhelming situation, step back, and ask yourself what you expected to happen. What got you to where you are, and how did that differ from what you thought would happen?

Write out what you thought would happen and what actually happened as a sequence of steps or numbered bullet points. Where are you most disappointed or frustrated, and why? Is your disappointment or frustration due to the situation, a person in it, or both?

How can you now reset expectations about this situation and make decisions about what you need to do next? How can you stay curious as to how the situation as it is now can lead you to something better?

One of the easiest ways to manage overwhelm and lower stress is to get up close and personal with the expectations you have for yourself, others, and situations. By asking questions, appreciating other perspectives, and learning to reset expectations when things don’t go your way, you can better manage your to-do list and feel good at the end of the day.

Originally published on Roots of Abundance