How to cope when you feel overwhelmed at work


Take control of your day with these tips.

Complete a task you’ve started
This is for when you need a quick burst of confidence. Take up a task you’ve started but not completed. Find something that you can complete in 30 minutes or an hour. Finishing the task will give you a sense of accomplishment, boost your confidence, and give you a sense of being in control. It will help you settle down and navigate the anxiety you’re experiencing. By doing this you’ll be better prepared to tackle the other tasks on your to-do list.

Create a routine schedule
Very often we get distracted by emails, colleagues, social media, etc and the day spirals out of control. Break up your day into time blocks to complete different tasks to get a handle on things. Set aside designated time to do routine tasks, so as to give your days a routine. For example, do the toughest tasks during the first two hours of your day. You’re at your most productive in the morning, and this way you feel a sense of accomplishment when the anxiety-inducing tasks are done. Curtail the amount of time spent checking emails. You could do it once every hour so that they don’t distract you. Keep the second half of the day, say from 4 pm to 5 pm for team discussions, review meetings, etc. Don’t allow people to interrupt you when you’re working in one of your designated time slots. Your time has value and others need to respect it as well. This strategy will help you be more efficient, reduce distractions, and reduce the stress associated with tasks.

Ask yourself if the task is necessary
There are times when our to-do lists are longer than they need to be. We add on tasks that we think are necessary or have to do, but in reality are a waste of time at the moment. So take a good hard look at the list. Ask yourself if all the tasks are really necessary and need to be done that very day. Is it essential to have that meeting today? Do you have to respond to those emails/phone calls immediately? Can that update not be sent tomorrow? Find these items on your list and decide you’re not going to do them today. This will help you focus on the priorities and feel less anxious and overwhelmed.

Stand up for yourself
Saying ‘no’ is an important element of standing up for yourself, and essential in your process to take charge of your day/life. Your time is limited and important, but you give it away easily with your inability to say ‘no’. So stand up for your time. Set reasonable boundaries as to what you will and will not do. Once you set these boundaries for yourself, you’ll communicate them in your interaction with others as well. People will be able to recognise them. Spend some time in identifying when you will say ‘no’. Consider all aspects when someone demands your time. Is it something that only you can do? Do you have the bandwidth and time to take on the task? Will taking it on affect your other commitments? Is the task in line with your work priorities? This way you’re unlikely to take on more tasks that you can handle and remain in control of your time.

Accept your imperfections
Our pursuit of perfection can cause problem assumptions and unnecessary stress. Acknowledge that sometimes your best effort will be imperfect, and that there will be times when you will need to relinquish control or ask for help. Identify these problematic thoughts you have related to your performance expectations and notions of success. Accept your imperfections and understand the limits of your capabilities. By doing so you will be better equipped to move forward while the stress and anxiety threaten to take over.

Photograph: creativeart / freepik.com