Guest Post by Denis Geoghegan
Whether you work as a freelancer or from an office, today’s workplace can be challenging. There’s the tight deadlines and competing demands on our time. Add other demands, such as the media showing us adverts with perfect people, social media showing us the fun others are having, and our family vying for our time. It’s no wonder so many people want to stop feeling overwhelmed.
We feel overwhelmed when the sheer weight or volume of things we have to do feels too much for us. Some people may experience this as feeling like they’re simply doing a poor job in every area of their life. For others it may mean they are irritable, eating poorly, lacking focus, or suffering from stress-related headaches.
If you do find yourself suffering from feeling overwhelmed and stressed then here are some steps that should help.
Step 1: Get Your Priorities Straight
With so many demands competing for your time it’s important to set clear priorities so you’re really clear about where you will and will not spend your time.
One way to do this is to set some big goals for 5 years time. Perhaps you want your job to look different, or you want to get in shape, or you would like a better house. Whatever it is, write each of them down.
It’s obviously overwhelming if we try to think how to reach multiple goals that are five years away. Therefore it’s a good idea to break down each goal into a bite sized chunk, such as a 12-week timeframe.
Write down what you want to get done in the next 12 weeks to contribute to each goal. One important thing, which will help reduce stress, is not to focus on the outcome (such as increasing my income by 10%) but instead focus on process (I’m going to reach out to 20 potential customers).
If you hit your process goals (reaching 20 potential customers) but fail to reach your desired outcome (10% income increase) you can still be happy – because you did what you could and the overall outcome was beyond your control.
Goal setting in this way so you focus only on the things within your control can help to reduce stress.
Step 2: Resolve Immediate Imbalances
If you perceive that you are not getting your fair share of something then this can be demotivating.
In the workplace, for example, if you’re doing the same job as someone else but getting paid less then this will be demotivating. As a result of this imbalance you will find yourself unmotivated but you may also find yourself putting less effort into your job. This theory, whereby you put less effort into your job because you perceive there to be an imbalance is know as equity theory. This theory has been around since the 1960’s.
Perceived imbalances, don’t just occur in the workplace, they can exist in any part of your life. You may feel, for example, that you do more than your fair share of household chores.
Whatever the perceived imbalance, make a plan to address it as part of your 12-week plan. As an example, in the case of a workplace inequity, you could first ask your boss to rectify the situation. If that doesn’t work, you could update your resume. You could even sign up to an online course that will take your skills to the next level.
Even though it might seem that signing up to something new will add further stress to your life, knowing you’re actually taking charge of your life and your future can actually lead to a reduction in stress as you look positively forward to the future.
Step 3: Target Low Hanging Fruit
What simple steps can you take right now that will reduce your overwhelm? These are the low hanging fruit – actions you can take right now for immediate effect. For most people, this will include:
- Making better food choices. By eating more nutritious food we give our bodies the best chance to cope and recover from a very demanding day.
- Get more sleep. Without adequate sleep we’ll be tired, and when we’re tired and have a cloudy brain, stressors are exaggerated and life is more difficult to cope with.
- Cut out time-wasting technology. Do you find yourself wasting time in the evening or on your morning commute with social media? Then consider replacing this either with something that is more constructive, or something which will put you into a positive frame of mind for the day.
These are just three suggestions. What other low hanging fruit can you implement right now to reduce your overwhelm and stress?
Step 4: Build Your Resilience
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your emotions, regulate them, and understand how they affect people around you. A person with higher emotional intelligence will be significantly better able to cope with life’s stressors.
A person with higher emotional intelligence will also be more successful professionally and personally than someone with a lower emotional intelligence. There are many facets to emotional intelligence, including:
- Empathy: the ability to not only understand how others feel but to share their feelings.
- Social skills: the ability to interact and communicate with others, and to understand the social rules of interpersonal interaction. Social skills include both verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Optimism: a positive view of the future, a confidence that everything will work out well.
- Self-control: in relation to emotional intelligence is the ability to regulate your actions and behaviour in the face of temptation, thus enabling you to achieve your goals.
- Political awareness: understanding and interpreting the different power dynamics that exist whenever any group of people come together.
Essentially, resilience isn’t something you can work on by itself. Rather, there are a number of factors, such as those listed above, which can help contribute to increasing resilience.
A sense of optimism can get you through challenging times. Exercising self-control can stop difficult working relationships from getting out of control. And finally, a good support network can give you a sense of security and safety, reducing the perceived size of challenges.
It’s not difficult to see how increased resilience can help us in our working lives. Especially when you consider the frenetic way in which we work today, where we are available anytime and anywhere in an instant.
By including an area of emotional intelligence improvement within your 12-week plan you’ll slowly work towards becoming much more resilient, better able to cope with the demands your working life throws at you.
We all feel overwhelmed and stressed from time to time. However, some people are better able to cope with stress than others. Wherever you are right now, improving your ability to cope with stress and overwhelm will enable you to live a happier and more productive life. This applies equally to the workplace and your personal life.
In this article we’ve presented four easy to implement steps to help you:
- getting your priorities straight,
- dealing with obvious imbalances,
- targeting low hanging fruit, and finally
- improving your emotional intelligence.
By implementing these four steps you should find that your ability to cope with high workloads increases. Not only that, but your stress and anxiety will be reduced. You will feel as though you have the time in each day to accomplish the things that are important to you. All of these factors will mean you’ll be much less likely to find yourself feeling overwhelmed and suffer burnout in the first place.
What methods have helped you to stop feeling overwhelmed? Please share in the comments!