Feeling overwhelmed?

The past two years were really draining for most of us and it´s kind of understandable if we are feeling exhausted after all those pandemic-related changes, restrictions and stress. Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. However we need to get out of that and gain new energy and spirit!

Emotional exhaustion is often a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no influence or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation and “it´s all over their head”. Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it more difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. Our work lives have become increasingly demanding, presenting us with ever more complex challenges and a rigorous and stringent pace. In addition to that, there are also personal or family needs, so it´s no surprise that we may feel constantly overwhelmed.

Our typical response to ever-growing workloads is to work harder and put in longer hours, rather than to step back and examine what makes us feeling overwhelmed and find a new way of operating. The cognitive impact of feeling perpetually overwhelmed can range from mental slowness, forgetfulness, confusion or difficulty concentrating or thinking logically. When we have too many demands on our thinking over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue can also happen, making us more prone to distractions and our thinking less agile. Any of these effects, alone, can make us less effective and leave us feeling even more overwhelmed.

 As a stressed-out state can over time cause permanent damage to our health we have to take it seriously and address it promptly. If you are feeling constantly overwhelmed, here are some key strategies to try:

Identify the main source of overwhelm.
Ask yourself the question, “What one or two things, if taken off my plate would alleviate 80% of the stress that I feel right now?” While you may still be responsible for these items and cannot actually take them off your plate, this question can still help you identify a significant source of your stress. If it’s a big project that’s almost done, finish it. Or, if it’s the sheer size of the task or project that is overwhelming you, break it down into more manageable components, ask for additional resources or renegotiate the deadline if you are able — or all of the above.

Set boundaries on your time and workload.
This can include “time boxing” the hours you spend on a task or project, leaving the office by a certain time, or saying no to specific types of work. Saying “no” to escalations and setting expectations creates more breathing room for to focus on priorities with fewer distractions.

Challenge your perfectionism.
Perfectionism can lead us to make tasks or projects bigger than they need to be, which can lead to procrastination and psychological distress. As things pile up, the sense of overwhelm grows, which can then lead to more procrastination and more overwhelm. Know when “good” is “good enough” by asking yourself, “What is the marginal benefit of spending more time on this task or project?” If the answer is very little, stop where you are and be done with it. Part of this is also recognizing that we cannot do everything perfectly.

Outsource or delegate.
Ask yourself, “What is the highest and best use of my time?” Activities that don’t fall within your answer can be taught and/or delegated to others. This can include managing selected projects, delegating attending certain meetings, having a team member conduct the initial conversations with a client, or outsourcing some of your domestic work.

Challenge your assumptions.
If feeling overwhelmed is an ongoing struggle, it is likely that you have assumptions that are keeping you stuck in unproductive behaviors. These could be beliefs like that “If I am not around something will fall through the cracks” or “If I’m not attending that meeting then I am not visible in the organisation”. While these big assumptions  are feeling real to you, these limiting beliefs are most of the time not true, but they keep you stuck in old patterns that significantly contribute to the sense of overwhelm.

While we may all feel overwhelmed from time to time in our demanding work and personal lives, employing the above strategies can help mitigate the frequency and extent to which we feel this way.

Do you want to find out more and get more practical tips? As a member of our website breakyourpattern.net you can join our FREE Expert Exchange Web Session “Feeling exhausted” to understand more about some of the possible reasons for feeling exhausted and get some practical tips how you could get out of that. The session will consist of a brief presentation and there will be time for you to comment and do a self-reflection before we will close with some practical tips on what you could start to do, in order to be fully energized, looking forward to your next challenges ahead! We would be delighted to see you there!