This article provides 16 practical tips to help professionals deal with feeling overwhelmed at work. The tips range from time management strategies to self-care practices, and are designed to help readers stay focused, productive, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Feeling overwhelmed by your work-life balance (or lack thereof) isn’t uncommon.
In fact, it’s something most people struggle with at some point in their lives. The rush of an oncoming deadline might exhilarate you in the moment, but if your workload is a constant source of stress, it might be time to re-evaluate. Likewise, major life events can often throw even the most organized person into a state of shock. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and stay overwhelmed.
Here are 15 simple tips to help ease the burden and get yourself back on track:
- First off, What’s the bigger picture? In her article for the Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Zucker suggests setting aside time to take stock of what’s actually causing your stress. Are there tasks you are nearly finished with, and just need to be completed to get a sense of calm and satisfaction? Or are there things you can and should set aside for a different team, or a different time? Once you know, you can make better and more effective decisions.
- Finding ways to delegate or outsource tasks can be a very effective way to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. Simply put: If there’s less on your plate, there’s less for you to feel stressed out about. Setting aside time in the midst of your busy day to make your life less overwhelming is always worthwhile in the long run.
- The key to effective delegation is being able to trust your team. If there’s tasks only you can do, make space to finish what is the highest-priority thing. But if there are things someone else can take on, let people help—and trust that they’ll get the job done.
- Zucker also highlights the importance of letting go of perfectionism. If offloading tasks to your team makes you feel like checking in more and stressing out about it being done your way, that isn’t going to be productive for anyone involved. So let go a little, when appropriate. It doesn’t mean sacrificing quality for completion, it just means allowing others to do their best and give you more room to breathe.
- If you’re the kind of person who feels like they work best in a crisis, you may find yourself constantly surrounded by crisis. The fact is, the only people who should be best at putting out fires are firefighters—so step back and consider if it’s worth it to plan ahead before you get to crisis mode, so you can have all of your skills at the ready, before things become urgent.
- The other half of the equation might not be about your workload at all. An essential part of reducing that overwhelming feeling is being honest with yourself about your time and energy. Despite how capable, knowledgeable, skilled or experienced you are, nobody can function effectively, long-term, on little sleep or poor self-care. Are you taking care of yourself, outside of the office?
- As Michael Pusar shares in his article for BetterHelp.com, “losing one hour of sleep decreases cognitive performance significantly.” Getting enough sleep can be challenging, but the difference can be striking and profound. Working late to catch up, pushing yourself—it might come at a cost, and be making things worse, not better.
- Along with sleep, other forms of self-care are important as well. A healthy diet and regular exercise can mean a world of difference for long-term wellbeing. A car can’t run on bad fuel and needs regular maintenance and care, and you’re so much more complex than a car. Taking care to provide yourself with healthy foods and making time to get in some kind of regular exercise boosts mood, energy, and health.
- One thing that affects stress, mood, sleep, and health overall is your caffeine intake. Coffee lovers, don’t be afraid! You don’t have to give up the best part of your morning cold turkey. But caffeine is a stimulant, and so for some people, reducing caffeine intake can really change their sleep habits and even digestion for the better. Consider cutting back to just that first morning cup and seeing what changes occur.
- Pusar also suggests that developing a support system can be helpful for dealing with stress. Not only should you surround yourself with the best and most capable team, co-workers, or freelancers you can find, but your support system outside of work is also extremely important. Do you have people in your life who can help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Build your support team!
- In his article for Forbes, Chris Meyers suggests that if you take the time to practice mindfulness, you can diminish stress in the moment and train your brain to react differently the next time it happens. Our brains are wonderfully plastic and new neural connections can be made at any time. Each time you work on mindfulness in the moment, you’re building new pathways for future you to feel less overwhelmed.
- Along with mindfulness, keeping an attitude of gratitude can also help you see how far you’ve come, especially if you’re someone who has a tendency towards perfectionism and being hard on yourself. Give yourself permission to be defined by your successes and achievements, not just the places where you feel like you fall short.
- Meyers also suggests that once you start to focus on gratitude, you’ll see that even your failures gave you a chance to learn and grow. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Don’t let yourself be frozen in fear, too afraid to make a mistake. Accept imperfections, and learn from mistakes. Everyone fails, or falls short, or misses opportunities.
- Craig Boneau, of TinyBuddha.com, offers this simple advice: Remember that this, too, will pass. The bad times won’t last forever. If you struggle with anxiety, it might feel as if you’ll always feel like you’re swimming upstream, but the feeling will pass in time. And not to sound like a downer, but with the perspective that everything is transient, you might start to value the good times more when you’re experiencing them, rather than being bogged down by the stressful ones.
- Remember: No work is wasted. Everything you’ve done, everything you’re doing, will help you build your skills for the future. It might feel like your plans are constantly thwarted, or life throws you a curveball and you barely are able to duck, let alone try and catch it, but hindsight is always 20/20.
- And finally, breathe. Give yourself ten seconds to take ten deep breaths, and focus on being a little less in your head, and a little more in your body. You have the power, and you can make a choice right now to step away from that feeling of stress and step towards a calmer, more peaceful, and happier life.
Above all, just know that whatever it is you’re going through, it’s going to be okay. Sometimes, as the old adage goes, the only way out of something is to get through something. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not just an oncoming train!
Taking the time now to find balance and peace in your daily life can really pay off in all areas of your life, from work to health to sleep and even to your relationships. So make the change. It’s never too late to start.
Read more about how to look after yourself at work and other essential skills in my new book Future Skills: The 20 Skills And Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World, subscribe to my newsletter, and connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.