How to Cope When You Feel Overwhelmed at Work

Work is a fact of life for most of us. We can’t choose whether we go to work or not because we need the money, so that means we have to put up with a lot of situations we wouldn’t necessarily choose to encounter and many of them can feel overwhelming. But just as we don’t have much of a choice in whether we face or not, we also don’t have the choice to avoid them the next time they happen, all we can do is learn how to cope.

Luckily there are ways that we can learn to deal with difficult and overwhelming situations and feelings at work. That can be something as simple as actively trying to think more positively instead of letting your negative thoughts spiral towards feeling overwhelmed. If you’re struggling to manage that, it can help to give your brain a break by focusing on your surroundings using thought-control techniques to quieten your mind and bring you back to the present.

Often an overwhelmed mind is one where thoughts have cluttered up and this can be made worse if your workspace is also full of clutter. It can be a chicken-and-egg situation where you can let your desk or work area get messy because you’re overwhelmed, but a study by the Harvard Business Review found that being surrounded by chaos like that can lead to stress, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion. So get tidying.

One of the things that often leads to a mind full of clutter is the number of notifications we receive in our business and personal lives, with cellphones and laptops always popping up with new information we didn’t need to know as soon as it happens. Multitasking affects our concentration span, meaning we fall behind with work and this only gets worse as the notifications keep coming, so it can help to mute them from time to time, maybe giving yourself 30-minute breaks from the overwhelm.

Another aspect of work that can get lost when you are feeling overwhelmed is the social, or human, side of things. If you are staying at your desk through your lunch break because you’re trying to get work done every day, you may be doing more harm than good. Research has shown that small talk with colleagues can reduce stress by improving efficiency, planning, prioritization, and organization, so why not invite one for lunch to have a catch-up?

Music can also be a powerful tool to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed because the right music can improve your brain’s ability to organize new information. Another positive thing you can try that might not sound like ‘work’ is getting a bit of exercise, because low-intensity exercise – like stretching at your desk – can help battle the sense of fatigue and exhaustion that being overwhelmed can bring on.

When all else fails, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope, you need to know that you’re not alone. A Gallup poll found that 44% of full-time employees feel burned out by their jobs from time to time, so your colleagues and even managers will be sympathetic if you reach out to them early enough, and will want to help you spread the load and ease the pressure on you. It’s much worse from their perspective for an overwhelmed colleague to try and hide their situation until it is affecting the company’s output before asking for help.

All of these tips can help you avoid that spiral of negative thinking that can crop up for anyone us when we’re at work, so the next time you can feel the pressure building up and your grip on your workload starting to slip, why not try some of them and see if you can start to feel more in control?


About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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