8 Strategies to Combat Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

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In today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s common to experience feeling overwhelmed at work by the sheer volume of tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. When that feeling sets in, it can be challenging to maintain productivity and focus. However, there are several strategies you can employ to regain control and prevent overwhelm from derailing your workday.

A recent Employee Happiness Survey 2024 Conducted by Oak Engage have found out that around 47% employees often feel overwhelmed at work. Having such emotions can be is a common experience that many individuals encounter at some point in their careers. The symptoms of being overwhelmed can vary widely but often include a combination of physical, emotional, and cognitive signs. Recognizing these symptoms early can be crucial in addressing the issue before it leads to burnout or other serious health problems.

Feeling Overwhelmed at Work: Signs and Symptoms

1. Physical Symptoms:

One of the most immediate and noticeable signs of feeling overwhelmed at work is the onset of physical symptoms. These can include:

  • Fatigue: Constant tiredness, even after a full night’s sleep, is a common symptom. The body feels drained, and energy levels remain low throughout the day.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches or migraines can occur due to the constant stress and mental strain.
  • Muscle Tension: Stress often leads to muscle tension, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back. This can result in chronic pain or discomfort.
  • Digestive Issues: Stress can affect the digestive system, leading to symptoms like stomachaches, nausea, or changes in appetite and bowel habits.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early can be signs that your mind is overactive and unable to rest.

2. Emotional Symptoms:

The emotional impact of feeling overwhelmed can be profound and often includes:

  • Anxiety: Persistent worry or feelings of dread about work tasks, deadlines, or interactions with colleagues can be a sign of being overwhelmed.
  • Irritability: Increased irritability or frustration, even over minor issues, is common. This can strain relationships with coworkers and impact workplace harmony.
  • Depression: Feeling down, hopeless, or experiencing a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed can indicate that the stress is taking a toll on your mental health.
  • Mood Swings: Rapid changes in mood, from feeling optimistic to suddenly feeling down, can be a symptom of being overwhelmed.
  • Emotional Exhaustion: A sense of being emotionally drained or numb, with a reduced ability to handle stressors, is a key indicator of overwhelm.

3. Cognitive Symptoms:

Being overwhelmed at work can significantly impact cognitive functions, including:

  • Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling to focus on tasks, being easily distracted, or having a wandering mind are common cognitive symptoms.
  • Memory Problems: Forgetfulness, difficulty retaining information, or frequently losing track of tasks and deadlines can be signs of cognitive overload.
  • Decision-Making Difficulties: Indecisiveness or taking longer than usual to make decisions can occur when your mind is overwhelmed.
  • Decreased Productivity: A noticeable drop in productivity or efficiency at work is often a result of struggling to manage the workload effectively.
  • Negative Thinking: A tendency to focus on negative outcomes, self-doubt, or feeling overwhelmed by challenges can dominate your thoughts.

4. Behavioral Symptoms:

Changes in behavior can also indicate that you are feeling overwhelmed:

  • Procrastination: Putting off tasks, missing deadlines, or avoiding work altogether can be a way of coping with overwhelming stress.
  • Isolation: Withdrawing from social interactions with colleagues, friends, or family can be a sign of feeling overwhelmed.
  • Changes in Work Habits: Altered work habits, such as working longer hours without taking breaks, can indicate an attempt to cope with the workload.
  • Neglecting Self-Care: Overlooking basic self-care practices, such as eating well, exercising, or maintaining personal hygiene, can be a sign that you are overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed at work is a multifaceted issue that can manifest in various physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms early is crucial for taking proactive steps to address the root causes of stress. Here are ways on how to manage feeling overwhelmed at work.

Ways to Combat Feeling Overwhelmed at Work 

1. Prioritize Tasks:

How to combat Feeling Overwhelmed at work
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One of the primary causes of overwhelm is attempting to tackle everything at once. Instead, take a step back and prioritize your tasks. Identify which tasks are urgent and important, and focus on completing those first. Break down larger projects into smaller, manageable tasks and tackle them one at a time. By prioritizing your workload, you can allocate your time and energy more effectively.

2. Set Realistic Goals:

Unrealistic expectations can contribute to feelings of overwhelm. Set achievable goals for yourself, considering factors such as deadlines, available resources, and your own capabilities. Break down larger goals into smaller milestones, allowing you to track your progress and celebrate achievements along the way. By setting realistic goals, you’ll reduce the pressure on yourself and increase your chances of success.

3. Learn to Delegate:

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegating tasks to colleagues or team members can lighten your workload and free up valuable time. Identify tasks that can be delegated based on each person’s strengths and expertise. Effective delegation not only reduces your stress levels but also fosters collaboration and teamwork within the organization.

4. Practice Time Management:

How to combat Feeling Overwhelmed at work
Daniel Tadevosyan / Getty Images

Time management is crucial for preventing overwhelm. Use techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique or time blocking to structure your workday effectively. Break your day into focused work intervals followed by short breaks to maintain productivity and avoid burnout. Additionally, eliminate distractions such as social media or unnecessary meetings that can consume valuable time.

5. Learn to Say No:

It’s important to recognize your limits and learn to say no when necessary. Taking on too many tasks or commitments can quickly lead to overwhelm. Be assertive in setting boundaries and declining additional responsibilities that exceed your capacity. Prioritize your own well-being and focus on tasks that align with your goals and priorities.

6. Practice Self-Care:

Self-care is essential for maintaining mental and emotional well-being, especially during stressful times at work. Make time for activities that recharge and rejuvenate you, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Prioritize adequate sleep, nutrition, and hydration to ensure your body and mind are functioning optimally. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to handle challenges and prevent burnout.

How to combat Feeling Overwhelmed at work
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7. Seek Support:

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Whether it’s talking to a trusted colleague, seeking guidance from a mentor, or enlisting the help of a professional coach, sharing your concerns with others can provide valuable perspective and reassurance. Building a support network can help you navigate challenges more effectively and prevent feelings of isolation.

8. Reflect and Adapt:

Take time to reflect on your experiences and identify patterns or triggers that contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Consider what strategies have worked well for you in the past and what adjustments you can make moving forward. Be open to experimenting with new approaches and adapting your workflow to better suit your needs. By continuously learning and evolving, you’ll develop resilience in the face of workplace challenges.

How to combat Feeling Overwhelmed at work
Iqbal Nuril Anwar / Corelens

Final Words From Blissed Men

Feeling overwhelmed at work is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to dictate your productivity or well-being. By implementing these eight strategies – prioritizing tasks, setting realistic goals, delegating, practicing time management, learning to say no, practicing self-care, seeking support, and reflecting and adapting – you can regain control and thrive in your professional endeavors. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help when needed and to prioritize your own mental health and happiness. With the right mindset and strategies in place, you can overcome overwhelm and achieve success in your career.

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