How to Cope When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

Published: Jul 28, 2020

 Remote Work       Workplace Issues       

The technology-fueled frenzy and never-ending deadlines cause many employees to feel burned out, stressed out, and anxious. This can lead to a loss of productivity, relationship issues, health problems, and a halt in career growth.

That’s the bad news. The good news is if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your work, there are ways to cope and get your productivity back. Here are five.

1. Complete simple tasks first

Maybe you’re working on one big task and it’s overwhelming you. If so, look for a task you can complete in less than an hour. That will make you feel like you’re back in control. Once you're done with the simple task, then go back to the big one.

Or, maybe you started working on something, but just as you were about to complete it, a more urgent task landed on your desk and this new task is proving to be more demanding than you initially thought. You’ll get your confidence back by returning to the original task and completing it. If you do that, you’ll find that your mood will be better, and you’ll feel re-energized and ready to take on the urgent, demanding task. 

2. Create a plan and stick to it

As much as you feel like you should spend every minute of your workday doing real work, it’s actually more practical to spend a few minutes or an hour planning the day’s work. Write down what needs to be done for the day, which tasks need to be prioritized, how much time you need for each task, how you're going to tackle each task, and when you'll take your breaks.

Be as practical with the timelines as possible, and don’t take on extra tasks in between your schedule unless you’re forced to. Make a list of what you're not going to work on no matter what. When you have a plan, all you need to do is focus on it, and everything should come together nicely by the end of the day. You’ll find that this works much better than jumping from task to task, unsure you’re supposed to be focusing on, what comes next, and whether you’ll have time to get everything done.

3. Use an accountability partner

If you’re unable to work productively because you have too much to do or you can’t beat your social media addiction (or other distraction), get an accountability partner whom you can check in with from time to time. Find someone you trust and feel comfortable around—your favorite colleague, your significant other, a close friend—and share with them your goals, progress, and potential challenges. They can help you navigate the challenges and eventually help you achieve your goals (and you can help them, too).

4. Take regular breaks

If you’re feeling anxious about your work, sitting at your desk all day will make matters worse. You need time away from your work to look at it with fresh eyes. And breaks will re-energize you. So, get outside, maybe walk to the park and back. Or go to a serene place for lunch. Whatever you do, make sure to get out of the (home) office from time to time, instead of wasting time staring at the computer or ceiling.

Alternatively, you can sign up for online fitness classes or go for hikes (if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere you can do that). Activities like these will help you stay fit and less susceptible to fatigue and overwhelm at work.

5. Take a personal day

Sometimes you need more than a walk in the park or yoga class to beat the overwhelmed and stressed out feeling. Sometimes, every task you take or action you perform seems to go wrong. In that case, although it might seem counterintuitive to finishing your work, the best solution can be to take a paid day off. This can clear your mind and get you back on track. Even just one day off mid-week can do wonders for your state of mind.

And this is important to keep in mind now more than ever, with so many of us working from home, anxious about job stability, and worried about Covid-19. So, when you feel like things are piling too high at work, don’t be afraid to take a personal day or two. You still get PTO now, and a few days in a beach house rental could do wonders for your mental health. Taking personal time away from work will allow you to return refreshed, and allow you to complete your work more productively, efficiently, and on time.

Melissa Bethany enjoys exercising and taking care of her body. Her hobbies include biking and cycling, and her favorite things to do are reading and writing.