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“If you had sent in clear instructions to begin with, I wouldn’t have had to re-do this three times.”

This was the greeting I found in my inbox one morning at work from a Senior Director who collaborates with my boss. Overwhelmed, I thought to myself:

So I began crafting my response. 

“Dear Mrs. Senior Director,

Actually, I did send out the instructions. Multiple times. With bullet points. Everyone else was able to complete this task with no problems.”

Okay, so I never actually sent that email (obvi). I had to bite the bullet and ignore her passive aggressiveness. 

Some days at work are great. I’m productive. Things get done. I can leave on time.

But then there are days like this one. When not only is my to-do list absolutely insane, I’m stuck taking hits from senior-ranking employees. They think that they’re the best thing to happen since the Full House revival. 

Which wasn’t even that great (although I still watched both seasons). 

Talk about feeling overwhelmed!

You just gotta suck it up. Because you don’t want to get caught up in the whole “office politics.”

…or get yourself fired.

According to the American Psychological Association, the 7 most common reasons for feeling overwhelmed in the workplace are:

  • Low salaries.
  • Excessive workloads.
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement.
  • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging.
  • Lack of social support.
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions.
  • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

How many of these can you relate to?

Let’s face it, workplace stress happens, even at your dream job. Some days you’re just counting down until it’s home time… 

Here are some of my tips that I use when I feel overwhelmed at work:

Tip #1: I Make A To-Do List And Then Prioritize The List

If my head is spinning with everything I have to do, I’ve got to write things down as a checklist or in a to-do list format. Then I take it one step further and number the items to help prioritize the list. 

Also, it helps when I’ve got a cool gel pen to write with. #rainbowswirl

So look over your list, and think: what’s gotta be done today so I don’t drown in the sea of muck tomorrow? 

Don’t forget to check off your first item from your list: make a to-do list. 

Tip #2: I Try My Best And Forget The Rest

If you want to get through the daily grind, you literally have to give yourself pats on the back. 

Did you send out that meeting report?

Pat on the back! 

Ran outside in -10C weather to get your boss a cup of coffee?

Big cheer!

All you can do is your best so you don’t beat yourself up about the rest. You really only have the energy to do so much. 

Tip #3: I Put Things Into Perspective

“My fingers can’t type this report any faster!
I’m never going to finish it on time!
Why is there literally a new email every minute?!
Why can’t my boss print his report himself?
No, Janyce, I don’t have time to attend your meeting!
I’ve never been this busy in my whole life!
I can’t handle all this pressuuure!”

Um, hang on and chill for a sec. 

What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if something didn’t get done on time? If you didn’t get a chance to re-organize your boss’ whiteboard exactly how he wanted it?

You were hired for the job for a reason: because you were the best fit for the job. 

So get a grip! Take your time, do things right, and breathe!

So unless you’re doing physical outdoor labour in the Canadian winter, you’ve still got a pretty cushy job.

Tip #4: I Take A Short Break

You know when you’ve been staring at your computer screen for too long and you can just feel that pounding headache happening right at your third eye? 

It might be because you’ve glued yourself to your swivel chair for 8 hours and have been typing away like crazy.

This is the perfect time to use your Stop, Breathe, Think mindfulness app at your desk or in a quiet space.

If you’re craving social interaction, small little rewards or a chat with coworkers help spruce things up. Who doesn’t want to know what happened at their coworker’s brother’s bachelor party? 

So force yourself to MOVE once in awhile. Go get a tea or coffee. Take a short lunch break. Wash your dishes together. 

Short breaks will help you be more productive in the long run. Try it! 

Tip #5: I Listen To Music (Using Headphones)

Who doesn’t love using yellow sticky notes to write down every task?

Backstreet’s back! Wait, let me clarify…they never left.

If you work in an “open concept” office space like ours, you can pretty much hear every phone conversation. So listening to music to drown out distractions is a must. Just set up your favorite playlist and you’re good to go. 

Unless something really juicy is happening…

One time, I got so caught up in listening to a co-worker argue with her boyfriend on the phone over where to go to dinner (“I just want something light…I don’t want to go to Taco Bell!”) When they finally agreed on sushi, I cheered in my head like my favourite couple from Dancing with the Stars, had just won the Mirror Ball. I also wasted 15 minutes of my life and this is exactly why I can never leave on time…

Tip #6: I Try To Turn Off My Work Brain After Hours

You know the feeling when you’ve worked for so long at the office that by the end of the day, your body has gone numb?

Easier said than done, but when you’re done work, stop thinking about work! 

Do something to take your mind off of it. Maybe you need to quickly debrief with a coworker or a friend. Or perhaps you need to do some yoga. It could be that you need to take a bath and drink a glass of wine (or two).

Whatever it is, just know that you get paid to go to work, to do work but not to think about it afterward. And no one likes unpaid overtime.

Tip #7: I Talk To My Manager

At my first job evaluation, one piece of feedback I received was that whenever I felt completely overwhelmed, I was told that I did not ask for help enough. 

“Memo for last month’s meeting? No problem!
Attend this week’s meeting? Of course! 
Complete the additional report for another co-worker? Yes definitely!
Stay late for 15 days in a row? Sign me up.”

In short, the job evaluation was eye-opening for me because I’ve always had the mentality that asking for help meant admitting failure. My boss corrected me and told me that asking for help is a sign of maturity (and it also ensures that things get done on-time and effectively). Turns out, having help is actually freaking awesome since it means less work for you! 

So, to conclude, these are my tips for helping me when I feel overwhelmed. 

Any tips you guys find useful for when you feel overwhelmed? Let’s learn from each other to make the hard days a tiny bit easier! Do you ever feel overwhelmed at work? Read how to manage your stress, increase productivity and happiness when you're feeling overwhelmed.

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