Are you feeling overwhelmed, slightly out of control and worrying that you’re getting less done than you should? Several professionals have made a similar comment to me recently (and not only accountants that are starting to recover from January), so here’s 9 things to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed, feeling like your're drowning in your own workload

What is overwhelmed?

Overwhelmed can feel like you’re drowning in a sea of hundreds things to do and people to get off your back – and you just can’t keep your head above water!

The trouble is, waving your arms frantically around wastes energy and doesn’t help. I spend a lot of time underwater and I think it’s good, but that’s when I’m Scuba Diving!  All divers are taught the importance of stop – think –act. It’s like that with being overwhelmed, although every fibre of your being is yelling at you to get frantic – waving your arms frantically doesn’t help.

Why does workload make us feel stressed?

There are several things going on, creating and deepening the stress:
splash long

  • Drowning: Like in the drowning analogy, your mind moves into survival “fight or flight” mode, leaving you less control.
  • Internal struggle: Nagging at yourself develops into negativity, which nibbles away at you. Your mind stays active like a central heating system pumping cold water round the house, working hard but achieving nothing.
  • Negative self image: Lack of results and achievement reduce self worth.
  • Getting physical: Being overwhelmed moves on from your mind to your body, leaving you worn out. Some years ago I was shattered by 10:00 every morning, and those were the good days!
  • Avoidance: It’s natural to avoid things that cause the emotion, trouble is then you start to shut down and without realising it, you’re avoiding good things too (yep, I’ve been there too).
  • Indecision: Making decisions gets harder, even silly ones evoke stress.

In the cold light of day it’s easy to say these are illogical. They stimulate irrationality and emotional response, and who said that’s logical? It happens to us all from time to time, so feeling overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re odd. Drowning maybe a good metaphor; but it’s only a metaphor, you can get through!

So, here’s 9 things to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed, but remember that “ripping somebody’s head from their neck, isn’t dealing with stress at work”.

9 things to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

OK, honesty time here. From time to time I’ve had to employ some, or all of these tactics. I am struggling to finish writing my book, and I need to keep revisiting this list! Even if you’re normally really organised, sometimes you can “fall off the wagon“, it’s about admitting it! Feeling in need of help isn’t bad, it just is! Click here to read about a client who wanted to de-stress, and ended up telling her story about business success tips.

  1. Should and must: Remove the words “should” and “must” from your vocabulary (e.g.“I should work on my networking strategy”, “I should spend more time chasing prospects”). These words  make things worse, try “I want to”….
  2. What’s good: Remind yourself at the beginning, middle and especially end of the day, what’s going well. There is always something that’s good, even if you have to look for it. Pick two good things from each day, visualise them before going to bed.
  3. Take smaller steps. Rather than trying to re-do all of your website, do one page at a time and recognise each as a positive step forwards. Doing one small task can make you feel better about a larger projects.
  4. Reward yourself. Rewards are often stronger than punishment, if only we’d allow ourselves to use them! A simple cup of tea after finishing a set of notes can do it, and a bigger step has a bigger reward. Choose rewards that are meaningful to YOU not somebody else (did you read about how Heather and I reward ourselves differently?).
  5. Get Physical: No matter how busy you are (possibly MORE important when you’re busy and overwhelmed) take breaks. A 15 minute physical break, where you DO something PHYSICAL really helps. You’ll recover the 15 minutes in additional productivity. A walk round the block will help. Try to focus on something other than work for the first 5 minutes of that walk, it will help even more.
  6. Eat Frogs First: Brian Tracy’s analogy of eating a frog is great, we only have a limited supply of willpower. It runs out during the day so your ability to tackle hard tasks reduces, so do your hardest task when your energy is at its highest. Pushing hard tasks to the end of the day, doesn’t stop our subconscious thinking about them. Worrying for hours over the task we’re putting off  slows you down all day.
  7. Get disciplined: Using a default diary, or dividing up your day into time-slots where you focus on different categories of your to do list will help. Did you read “how-to-make-your-to-do-list-actually-work
  8. Perfection is the enemy of the “merely” good enough: Get real with yourself and remember that something that isn’t perfect, is better than a perfection which doesn’t get delivered.
  9. Have a picture in your head: Use your imagination and visualise (or hear, smell, taste or feel) how you’ll be when you’re done. It’s a simple image of me getting my book published that keeps me going. Focus on “what’s the point

It’s your future: Which will give you better results, chance or change?

You will also find our free download reports really useful. Try “Guide to time management”, “Work life balance”, or “3333 Time management”. Download them today, it's free and waiting for you to download right nowClick here for instant access (email address required).

I’ve used all of these to help me and many clients. How do you deal with feeling overwhelmed?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access