Communications professional,  Leadership

What to do when you feel overwhelmed

A mixture of depression and stress. You feel like you want to cry because you have so much that is on your mind.”

Urban dictionary

This long weekend I spent a good chunk of my time working after feeling pretty overwhelmed for most of last week. I have taken on a few new clients, have a lot going on I my personal life and my routine was all out of whack. It left me feeling like I was drowning by the end of the week.

For those of you that know me this doesn’t happen very often. I always have a lot going on, never one to just sit around. However, I normally contain my worries pretty well. I like to think that I am self- aware so I know when I am starting to spin out of control. It’s not a fun feeling so I thought I would share with you some of the things that I do when I am feeling overwhelmed which help get me back on track.

Write a list

This article was on my list and if it wasn’t I probably would have realized about 11pm tonight that I hadn’t written it. I’m a list person so this works well for me. Even if your not it can really help when in these situations to get your head around what you have on. Take 10 minutes write down everything you have to do, go into detail, include work and personal stuff.

A) It gets it all out of your head.

B) When you get into a panic it helps to have a list in front of you to reflect on and calm you down.

C) You get a sense of control by crossing things off the list.

Eliminate distractions

When I am feeling overwhelmed I have a very bad habit of trying at doing five things at once. Flicking between screens, opening a new web browser, checking my phone, half responding to a few emails. When I feel like this and I have something I need to focus on I eliminate any possible distractions. I close everything else on my computer down. I leave my phone in another room. A lot of the time I won’t even have music on (it’s an excuse to keep changing playlists when you decide you don’t like the song). Eliminate all distractions and just focus on one task. Finish it, close it and move on to the next thing.

Make time for distractions

Yep, I know this seems like exactly the opposite advice. When you feel like you have sooo much work to do that you are drowning you sometimes feel like you just have to sit at your desk and work, work, work (thanks Rihanna). But I actually find that if I take 30 min or an hour out, I can be more productive. Pay bills, put on laundry, reply to those text messages, start dinner. Whatever it is that keeps taking my mind away from what I am doing. All the life admin that feels like it’s just another thing you’re not doing. I just get it done. Then I can sit down to work, and I’m much more focused.

Ask for help

This week once I realised (read: husband pointed it out) I had probably taken on a bit too much, and I wasn’t going to be able to do it all on my own I decided it was time to ask for help. I don’t find asking for help easy, but it was the only way I could deliver work to meet my standards.

I reached out to a friend, and ex-colleague, who had some capacity and asked them to help with some of the desktop research and editing work that I could easily handover. After talking to her and explaining what I needed, her confidence instantly made me feel better.

I also called a friend to talk through a project that was getting the better of me. Together we came up for a clear plan for the way forward. Meaning I could spend the weekend actually writing rather than worrying about which direction to take.

Find what you can let go of

When you are feeling overwhelmed everything seems important. Everything seems urgent. I tend to book in more things, volunteer more time, take on more work when I am overwhelmed. Using your list, step back and see what you can let go of at the moment. Sometimes it’s coffee with a friend, might be going to the gym, writing a social media article. This weekend for me it was my Spanish homework. I wanted to do it but compared to spending an hour prepping for a workshop that allows me to feel a bit more in control as the week begins, it had to go. (As did cooking dinners for the week and washing the sheets but there is always next weekend).

Sometimes the only thing you can do to get through busy periods is work more hours. It’s a fact of life. Some weeks there are simply not enough hours in a day. We all have these times and it’s about finding ways that work for us to cope and get through with our mental health and relationships in tact.

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