Feeling overwhelmed can be crippling. Sometimes the feeling is that we have too high a workload, but at least as often it is psychological factors that overwhelm us: responsibility, expectations, stress, the feeling of not being enough. Then it rarely helps to “work harder”. Instead, the solution must be about taking a holistic approach to the relationship between work and the emotional actions it provokes. But how?
Here are 4 tips to help you along the way.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is subjective, and comes from feeling that you lack control over your work situation and/or life. Whether the feeling stems from the fact that you actually do have too much to do, or you are more affected by psychological factors, it is important to find strategies to take control of the situation so that you do not get burned out or depressed.
When you feel overwhelmed, it often leads to frustration, exhaustion, and sometimes a little desperation. Often, it feels like you are constantly busy, but still never get anything done. The stress reaction can in turn lead to counterproductive behavior like, for example, procrastination or poor sleeping, dieting or exercise habits.
So, how do you get out of the feeling of being overwhelmed? Here are our 4 tips:
1. Take control of your inner voice.
Unfortunately, your inner voice is not always your biggest supporter. On the contrary, it is all too often happy to tell you about the enormous responsibility that rests on your shoulders, what great expectations surround you, and how close you are to failing and disappointing everyone. Unsurprisingly, this leads to anxiety, stress, and performance anxiety, which can make you to feel overwhelmed even when your workload is normal.
Be sure to become aware of your inner voice. Listen to it from an outside perspective and think critically about the “truths” that your inner voice tells. Is the risk of failure really as great as the voice says? Do you usually fail as often as your voice thinks you do? And even if you fail, is it really the end of the world? It almost never is, even if failure leads to your being fired. It’s hard, but it’s not Judgment Day. On the contrary, failure can open up new opportunities.
Accept that the inner voice will probably always be there and be a little unkind, but be aware of it, limit its power and make sure it also tells you about positive scenarios. Practice noting how the thoughts come and go, without placing any special emphasis on them. Practice being here and now, without dwelling on what might happen tomorrow.
2. Handle the time carefully.
When you feel overwhelmed, it is very important to pay attention to how you use your time and energy. This is not primarily a matter of how you set up your schedule, but rather how you reason about time.
Let important and difficult things take time, instead of telling yourself that you should be able to miraculously cope with them twice as quickly as usual. It is a mistake that we often make when we feel stressed and overwhelmed, and it often leads to a task taking even longer than normal, or to the whole work process collapsing so that nothing gets done at all. Let the job take as long as it takes instead, and it’ll be done faster.
If the task feels frighteningly large, break it down into smaller parts and preferably start with the smallest part. And do not try multitask. It is rarely effective and almost always leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed getting even worse. Also, don’t waste time and energy on things you can’t influence, but focus on what you can do to make things happen.
3. Do something physical, practical or social.
This is really about time, too. When you feel overwhelmed by work and responsibility, it’s easy to ignore things that feel less important. Don’t you have time to go for a walk, rake leaves or fold laundry when you have so much important work to do?
Then you’re forgetting one thing: Simple, physical, practical activities that do not require as much intellectual concentration can dissolve many knots in your brain. How often does it happen that you come up with creative solutions to difficult problems when you are out walking or when you are standing and folding laundry? In addition, simple physical, practical activities are a very good way to free yourself from stress, and the difference can be very large, even if you only spend half an hour on them.
The same applies to socialising. When you feel overwhelmed and stressed about work, you may be more absent in relation to your surroundings; you may not take the time to chat at the coffee machine or play and joke with your children in the evening, because you don’t have the energy to do it. It can be good to try to defy that lack of energy and devote those extra minutes to socialising, because the effect you often get in return can provide an unexpected energy boost.
4. Establish good habits. The fourth and final point is more about how you can prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed in the longer term – because the very worst thing is when that feeling returns time and time again or is there permanently. Then it is very important to review what habits and routines you have, and how they affect your feelings about work and life.
If you want to feel good and achieve your goals in the long term, it’s always about having the right habits. What you do automatically every day, without even reflecting on it, determines how your life turns out, what results you achieve and how you feel mentally and physically. Establishing good habits is probably the absolute best way to take control of your life and steer it where you want to go.
It is important to understand that you really can get rid of bad habits and replace them with good ones. During a transitional period, you will have to fight very hard and can benefit from the help of a coach, but if you persist, the new habit will get established and become just another habit. Whether it’s work, health, personal life or anything else, you’ll be able to achieve good results by learning to do a little more right every day. However, remember to focus on one habit at a time, because you won’t be able to change all your routines at the same time.
Feeling overwhelmed can be terrible in many ways, but remember that there is a lot you can do to take control of your work and your feelings. We hope that the four tips above can be helpful on the road to a more harmonious work and life situation. Good luck!
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