These days it’s rare to find someone who isn’t feeling overwhelmed from time to time – especially in a work setting! So, how do we manage overwhelm at work and still get everything done? Here are my top 5 tips for managing overwhelm and potentially avoiding it altogether.
Tip 1 for managing overwhelm at work – Stay Healthy
Often when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we turn to sugary or fatty foods to help us get through, a bottle of wine to unwind at the end of the day or we skip the gym because we are too busy.
Research suggests that physical activity can improve vital brain function. It influences an individual’s ability to adapt to changes in environmental conditions. So, when you exercise, you are improving your neuroplasticity which helps you to adapt to changing situations which could otherwise be overwhelming to you.
Studies by the late Professor Pieter Rossouw indicated that diet, stress and mood are all intertwined so eating habits that involve caffeine, alcohol, tobacco or sweeteners (CATS) may be contributing to your overwhelm at work. Eliminate the CATS and your brain will thank you for it.
Sleep restores and conserves energy, flushes out toxic substances, and helps to form memories. While you sleep your hippocampus becomes the ‘file manager’- sorting and storing events into long term memory or discarding them. The lack of quality sleep means that we wake feeling unrefreshed and often exhausted. You may find that the events of the day are more stressful than if you’d had a good night’s sleep.
When we are overloaded with demands, our brains become depleted, and we are less able to regulate our behaviour. Our ability to make good decisions, be influenced by advertising, take calculated risks or control our emotions are all affected by this depletion.
Practicing mindfulness or having a regular meditation practice will relax and refresh your brain which will enable you to improve your overall performance and allow you to manage overwhelm at work. If you are an active person, mindfulness can be practiced ‘on the move’. Try running and being aware of the pounding of your feet on the path, for example, or listening to music or a relaxing podcast while exercising. Mindfulness is an active experience.
Tip 2 for managing overwhelm at work – Learn to say NO!
At work, our overwhelm can often come from having a very long to-do list and as Benjamin Franklin said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person”. If you are the busy person in your workplace, learning to enforce boundaries and say “no” is vital to reducing your overwhelm.
Obviously, you need to be selective about what/who you say “no” to but practicing this with the non-essential tasks first, will empower you and help you to reduce that to-do list.
Tip 3 for managing overwhelm at work – Make a list
On the subject of lists, often we can get caught up in ALL the things we have to do. In our heads it seems to be an insurmountable pile of never-ending tasks. By doing this, we are using hypnotic language which convinces our brain that we are extremely busy so our unconscious mind will find ways to make that true.
When you make a detailed list of all the tasks you need to do, you are taking the vague, abstract, hypnotic language and making it detailed and specific. You may be surprised how simply doing this may reduce your overwhelm.
If not, the next step is to order the list by priority then cover up all but the top two tasks with another piece of paper to avoid being overwhelmed by the length of the list. Then, get stuck into task number one – as Brian Tracy puts it “Eat that frog”. Once you do, you’ll start to feel less overwhelmed and can keep on moving down the list of tasks.
Tip 4 for managing overwhelm at work – Ask Questions
At times we can talk to each other without truly understanding what is being asked of us. Over time our language has become very vague, relying on others to have the same interpretation of words that we have which is very rarely the case.
If you had a room of 20 people and you asked them all what “love” means, you would get 20 different answers because we all apply the same label to different experiences, beliefs, values etc.
Rather than assuming that your interpretation is the same as that of the person speaking to you, ask questions. Questions that start with how or what are especially useful as they draw out more detail and can really clarify what is expected by both parties. Avoiding misinterpretation can save a lot of overwhelm and can potentially save you a lot of work too!
Tip 5 for managing overwhelm at work – Me Time
When we have a lot going on at work, it’s easy to skip that lunch break or work late to get everything done. What you may not realise, is that taking breaks through the day and allowing yourself time to relax and unwind in the evening is essential to help manage your overwhelm at work.
It may sound counter-intuitive but even short breaks can revitalise your brain which can save you making costly mistakes, having emotional outbursts, and taking longer to complete tasks. A rested brain is capable of so much more than a tired one. So, do yourself a favour and take some me time through the day – go for a walk, eat a healthy lunch, drink plenty of water, step outside and breathe some fresh air. Who knows, you may even have an epiphany while doing so that could help with your workload!
Overwhelm can be experienced in any area of life but most of us will be familiar with overwhelm at work. It can sneak up on you if you aren’t aware of your emotional state and left long-term, overwhelm can create some serious issues not only in the workplace but to your mental and physical health. So, learning to reduce and manage overwhelm in the workplace is extremely important.
I hope you get value out of these tips. If you haven’t already, you may also like to get your free copy of my e-book “Brain Basics” (see below) where you will learn more about your brain function so you can work with it to obtain better results.