How to Deal with Constantly Feeling Overwhelmed
Overwhelm is a symptom of stress, which affects roughly one-third of the population in the United States. Overwhelm is the sensation that your stress levels are outperforming your ability to deal with them. When you're overwhelmed, you may feel like you have too much on your plate, don't have enough time to complete tasks, or are fully exhausted.
When you are overwhelmed, you may also experience other undesirable emotions such as worry, irritation, rage, or despair. You can, however, make efforts to manage with overwhelming emotions by altering your attitudes and routines, engaging in tension-relieving activities, or seeing a therapist.
The cognitive effects of being constantly overloaded might range from mental sluggishness, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, to a racing mind or decreased problem-solving skills. Cognitive tiredness can occur when we put too many demands on our thinking over a long period of time, making us more prone to distractions and making our thinking less agile. Any one of these impacts can reduce our effectiveness and make us feel even more stressed. Here are some crucial strategies to attempt if you're continually feeling overwhelmed:
- Pinpoint the primary source of overwhelm: "If I can reduce my work load, it would relieve 80% of the stress I'm currently experiencing?" Consider that for a moment. Even if you are still responsible for these items and are unable to remove them from your to-do list, this question can still assist you in identifying a significant source of stress. Finish a large job that is almost complete. If the task or project's sheer magnitude overwhelms you, break it down into more manageable components, request additional resources, or renegotiate the deadline if you can or all of the above.
- Set boundaries on your time and workload: This can involve "time boxing" the hours you spend on a task or project, leaving the office by a specified time, or refusing certain types of work. Ajay noticed he was wasting a lot of time mediating conflicts among various team members, which was not only a waste of his time but also reinforced their tendency of escalating issues to him rather than learning to handle them themselves. Saying "no" to these escalations and requiring them to do their utmost to resolve the issues before coming to him gave him more breathing room to focus on his priorities with fewer distractions.
- Challenge your perfectionism: Perfectionism can cause us to overestimate the size of jobs or projects, resulting in procrastination and psychological anguish. As things accumulate, a sensation of overwhelm develops, which can lead to further procrastination and stress. Ask yourself, "What is the marginal advantage of spending additional time on this work or project?" to determine when "good" is "good enough." If the response is a resounding no, quit what you're doing and go on. Recognizing that we cannot do everything flawlessly is also a part of this. Sue was finally ready to accept that an email can be ignored from time to time, but that if it's important enough, the other person will contact her.
- Outsource or delegate: "What is the highest and best use of my time?" you might wonder. Activities that do not fit into your answer can be taught and/or delegated. This can involve things like managing specific tasks, delegating attendance at certain meetings, having a team member handle early interviews for an available position, or outsourcing your house cleaning and food preparation. Maria had the epiphany that the weekly Sales meeting that she had always conducted should be delegated to — of all people — the Head of Sales! She realized she had employed this individual over a year ago, but she was still holding to some chores "she had always done," and she had never completely empowered him out of fear of losing control. Finally, she revealed that all she needed was an email update. She gained 52 hours a year by letting go of this one task, allowing her to focus on other high-priority strategic issues.
While we all become overwhelmed at times in our hectic professional and personal lives, employing the strategies described above can help to minimize the frequency and intensity of our feelings.