3 Strategies to Help You Not Feel Overwhelmed at Work

Feel overwhelmed at work picture

Do you feel overwhelmed at work? 

We’ve all had overwhelming days at work, but it seems like things intensified in early-2020 when thousands of jobs changed overnight.

Having your entire professional life and livelihood immediately uprooted is enough to cause anyone to panic, but when coupled with a pandemic, the consensus seems to hint at an almost permanent state of overwhelm.

It’s no secret that our world is changing at an astonishing rate. And while this brings tons of great opportunities, the rate of change can overshadow a sense of normalcy or routine that leaves us feeling uncertain about ourselves and our abilities to do our jobs.

To return to a sense of normalcy where feeling overwhelmed at work isn’t the norm, there are several steps we can take to reduce and eliminate the minutia of day-to-day urgency that’s quickly become the standard.

So, if you’re ready to stop feeling overwhelmed and get back to your usual productive self, this article is for you.

How to Not Feel Overwhelmed at Work

1. 3 To-Do List Items Max

I used to have to-do lists that stretched for miles on end. For every item that I checked off, I added three more to the list. This left me feeling pretty rough at the end of the day, especially when I started with ten things and ended with more than that.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the last thing you want to look down and see is a to-do list a mile long.

What started as a way to stay on track and help me focus on one thing at a time quickly became an exercise in futility and just another thing that I needed to do amidst the chaos of the day.

If you can relate, I’d recommend taking a step back from your to-do list and starting today, only focusing on the top three most important things for the day.

Maybe you have 15 items on your list. If you want to be more productive and stop feeling overwhelmed, your job is to take those 15 items and then choose the top three most important.

By focusing on fewer things, you can accomplish more.

Focusing on less allows you to prioritize your work more efficiently. And, when things are constantly changing, taking everything you do in a day and then deciding on the three most essential things provides the structure and reassurance you need to navigate the complexities that arise without veering off course.

After you’ve decided on your top three priorities, it is essential to give them your full attention and focus, which means saying no to interruptions, closing your email, turning your cell phone face down, and putting yourself in a distraction-free environment.

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Focus on each of your objectives one at a time.  

This is very important for productivity.

So many of us, especially in corporate environments, are expected to multitask. And, if there’s one thing contributing to overwhelm, it’s multitasking.  

Multitasking reduces your productivity, increases your stress, creates more errors in your work, and generally wastes your time. Do a quick online search for multitasking articles and prepare to have your mind blown!  

Multitasking does not work.  

Attempting to be productive throughout the day with your email constantly buzzing, Microsoft Teams pop-ups, and chronically checking your cell phone will only lead to eventual burnout. 

To avoid overwhelm and stress, prioritize your work and eliminate as many distractions as possible.  

2. Hello, Overwhelm My Old Friend...

Carl-Jung is often attributed with coining the idea that what we resist, persists.  And, this is especially true when it comes to feelings and emotions that we don’t want to feel (think about overwhelm, anxiousness, fear, etc.).  

Think about all of the ways that we as human beings cope with things rather than feel them.  For example, instead of letting anxiety in and feeling through it, we overeat or drink or binge on the latest TV show—anything to distract us from feeling anxious.  

The same is true of overwhelm.  Rather than welcome it in, many of us push it away.  Convincing ourselves that we’re not overwhelmed, that this is doable, it’s just a one-off, and things will get better, all the while avoiding how we feel in the moment.  

This denial or resistance to the present overwhelm only creates more stress. When we hit a low, we start the spiral of negative self-talk, telling ourselves that we know better, we shouldn’t have done this, and on and on with the shame and judgment.

This, of course, results in feeling worse than you did at the beginning.  

Resisting negative feelings will only result in more negative emotions that compound to a real humdinger one day.   

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But, it’s not all doom and gloom.

The good news is that you can avoid all of that by simply welcoming your overwhelm in and feeling through it.

Sounds crazy, right?

We habitually avoid negative feeling emotions. We don’t want to feel them because they feel bad. But, by avoiding them and coping in other ways, they only continue to build up rather than pass.

But hear me out. Let’s chart this one out to better understand how most people deal with the feeling of overwhelm.

First thought: I shouldn’t be overwhelmed at work; why can’t I keep up?

Now spend some time thinking about how you feel when you think that you shouldn’t be overwhelmed and that something is wrong with you for feeling that way.

How do you feel?

When I think about this, I spiral into a long stream of self-judgments. I feel guilty, inadequate, and that something about me needs to be “fixed.” That something is wrong with me for feeling overwhelmed.

If similar thoughts popped into your head, how do you think you’re going to perform at work when you believe you need to be fixed? That’s there’s something wrong with you?

You’re not going to be on your A-game.

Depending on how you feel, your productivity and ability to balance everything will likely decrease based on this thought pattern, which results in you feeling more overwhelmed because you’ve spiraled out of control thinking about your supposed inadequacy as an employee.

In the example above, you are resisting the overwhelm. No one wants to feel overwhelmed because it doesn’t feel good. But by opposing it and pushing it away, you’ve created more stress for yourself and increased the degree of your overwhelm.

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My coaching program is all about getting you results.  I’ll help you to:

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  • Find Your Passion
  • Grow Your Self Confidence
  • Overcome Your Fears
  • Land Your Dream Job
  • Make More Money
  • Be Happier
  • Develop Healthy Habits 
  • Improve Your Productivity
  • Identify Your Strengths
  • Set and Accomplish Meaningful Goals
  • Get Motivated
  • Overcome Procrastination 
  • Get More Life Clarity
  • Eliminate Distractions
  • Start Your Dream Business 
  • Overcome Fatigue and Burnout
  • Step into Your True Potential

What would happen if you stopped resisting overwhelm and instead welcomed it in?

Think about welcoming a friend into your home. You hear the doorbell; your best friend comes over to have drinks on the patio and enjoy the weather. How would you treat that friend?

You’d make sure your place looked nice, that you were a welcoming host, that your cocktails were on point, and that the conversation was fun and engaging.

How could treating overwhelm just like a friend benefit you?

Rather than pushing it away, you welcome it with open arms.

Instead of thinking that you shouldn’t be overwhelmed, what about something like “overwhelm happens to the best of us.”

We’re living in a complex world where things change so quickly it’s sometimes hard to keep up. You’re only human; and, you’re going to get overwhelmed sometimes. And, you know what, that’s okay!

Now, I’d encourage you to spend some time on the above thought.

Do you feel the difference between the two?

Simply welcoming overwhelm in by changing your beliefs about it evokes an entirely different feeling.

Instead of inadequacy about being overwhelmed, you’re showing yourself compassion because you are, after all, a human being.

How do you feel when you think: I’m a human being; it’s only natural I will be overwhelmed at times. And, that’s okay.

For me, this feels uplifting.

And when I feel optimistic about the future of my work for the day, I tend to hit the ground running. I get more done and feel better at the end of the day when I think about the effort and value I created for others in my work.

If you want a long-term success strategy for overwhelm, start treating it like a friend and welcome it into your life when it shows up.

By doing so, you’ll be able to process the feeling and work your way through it more quickly.

3. Mind Your Thoughts

When we’re changing behaviors, our brains can be pretty resistant.

And, if you’re someone who has felt overwhelmed for some time, then it’s likely become what your brain is most comfortable with. This means that your primary thought or belief when you’re doing your job is that you’re going to be overwhelmed and that things at work are out of your control.

While there are certain aspects of your job, and the decisions made at work may be beyond your control, you can still decide how you respond to your workday.

This involves becoming mindful of the thoughts you’re having about overwhelm at work.

If you find yourself planning for an overwhelming day or expecting things to be so crazy that you won’t be able to function, guess what, they probably will be.

These types of thoughts are just priming you for a day filled with chaos where you spend most of your time feeling overwhelmed.

The goal in becoming mindful of these types of thoughts is to notice them without judgment.

Rather than getting down on yourself for having them, be curious about them. For example: let’s say you find yourself thinking that your workday will be a real humdinger.

Your first step is to recognize that this is a thought you’re thinking. And, then celebrate the fact that you recognize it as a thought, not the truth.

Now that you are aware of it, you can become more curious about it.

You could ask yourself, how do I know today is going to be overwhelming?

And, your brain will likely respond with all the reasons that this thought is true. That the past week has been overwhelming, why wouldn’t today be?

These reasons are likely compelling too.

Learn how to live your best life faster.

My coaching program is all about getting you results.  I’ll help you to:

  • Improve Your Mindset
  • Find Your Passion
  • Grow Your Self Confidence
  • Overcome Your Fears
  • Land Your Dream Job
  • Make More Money
  • Be Happier
  • Develop Healthy Habits 
  • Improve Your Productivity
  • Identify Your Strengths
  • Set and Accomplish Meaningful Goals
  • Get Motivated
  • Overcome Procrastination 
  • Get More Life Clarity
  • Eliminate Distractions
  • Start Your Dream Business 
  • Overcome Fatigue and Burnout
  • Step into Your True Potential

But, does your brain have the ability to predict how overwhelming today is going to be?

No. It’s just like the weather. Just because it’s raining today doesn’t mean it’s going to rain tomorrow. Tomorrow could be gorgeous with tons of sunshine!

The same is true of your workday.

Your brain has no way of 100% predicting how the day is going to go. It relies on your past days to make predictions about the present.

And, if you start the day with the thought that it’s going to be overwhelming, then your brain will spend most of the day trying to prove you right.

You will become focused on all the overwhelming things happening to you rather than all of the things you are in control of.

You always have an alternative option.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Once you become mindful of your thoughts about being overwhelmed at work, you can be curious about them.

Ask yourself, is it true that every single day at my job is overwhelming? And then explore whether or not the story you’re telling yourself is true or false?

Sure some days are sometimes overwhelming, but is that every day?

Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Once you become mindful of your thoughts, you can introduce more curiosity into your work and life and start determining whether the stories you’ve been telling yourself are true or false?

You can use this information to then select thoughts that set you up for success rather than failure.

You have the power and ability to determine just how successful you will be in your career and life. You are not a victim of your circumstances. Circumstances on their own are neither good nor bad; it’s your thoughts about the circumstance that provides the value.

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PS:

If you’re in a job that doesn’t align with your interests, strengths, and values, there’s usually not a lot you can do long term to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you feel stuck in a job that isn’t cutting it for you, one of the easiest ways to move out of overwhelm is to find a job and career that aligns with your values and interests.

Think about having a job that you look forward too; how good would it feel to leave work every day knowing that you made a difference in the world and helped other people?

If you feel stuck in your career, I want to help. Click on the link here to set up a free consultation where we’ll learn more about each other, your situation, and whether or not coaching is right for you.

You can create a better future for yourself. Why not start now?

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