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What to Do When You're Overwhelmed at Work

With the average person spending over 90,000 hours at work, here's how to make work stress more manageable
Overwhelmed at work

The average person spends over 90,000 hours of their life at work, and a large majority of us will at some point know what it feels like to be overwhelmed or suffer from work-related stress. If we are unhappy in our work environment, it can have a very powerful impact on our lives as a whole.

Common sources of work stress include low salaries, unclear performance expectations, fear of being laid off, bullying and a lack of support. These stressors can lead to chronic pain, drug and alcohol problems, insomnia, depression and many more issues. If you are dealing with any of these issues, I hope this article provides some insight into how to deal with it.

1. Talk to your boss

It may seem obvious, but I speak to a large number of people who are unhappy at work and never make their concerns felt to their employers. Of course, if your boss is the issue, it can be challenging to discuss worries for fear of repercussions. However, bringing up concerns, like telling your boss when your workload is too high, talking about a disability or asking for more flexibile work conditions, can help. They may be able to reduce your workload and/or make reasonable adjustments to make things more comfortable for you. There may be an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) they can put you in touch with that would be of additional help.

2. Take advantage of an Employee Assistance Program (if your company offers one)

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential workplace service that many large employers pay for. An EAP helps employees deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and even drug or legal concerns. It is often available to both employees and their families to help workers remain productive at work. There is no cost to the employee and it's incredibly useful for many people who would otherwise be unable to access counseling.

3. Meditate

There is a reason why everyone talks about meditating. It's because meditating has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety as well as promote emotional health. There are too many benefits of meditation to mention here. You do not have to invest hours daily or become an "expert." You can take 10 minutes in your breaks or when you are feeling overwhelmed at work. Calm, Relax Lite, and Pacifica are just a few of the many apps available that offer short meditations, breathing sessions, as well as tips to reduce stress. Here on 7 Cups, there are also a series of mindfulness exercises. Smart watches such as the Fitbit and the Apple watch also have reminders to breathe during the day as a way to manage stress and center yourself.

4. Get support from your colleagues

Some of us are able to forge great friendships at work and can talk to our colleagues about our work stress, which is useful for reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles. However, try to avoid the tendency to moan or complain as it rewires your brain for negativity.

5. Get enough sleep

By now, most of us know about the impact of poor sleep on our health, so it makes sense that it would have an impact on our workplace performance. A lack of sleep makes it harder to stay focused in meetings, complete tasks efficiently and generate ideas.

6. Find pleasures outside of work

It is very important to have other interests outside work for many reasons. Firstly, it allows for a more varied and fulfilled life, and secondly, it gives greater perspective when there are challenges at work. If you have things to look forward to such as language classes, football or other hobbies, it reminds you that there is a life outside the four walls of your office and that what happens at work is not the end of the world. It also reminds you that there is much more to a full life than work.

7. Quit, or take a sabbatical

This is obviously the last resort, but if you have tried speaking to your boss, stress reduction techniques, as well as the other suggestions and are still miserable due to work stress, it may be worth considering looking for something else. It is always advisable to find another job before quitting so that you do not put yourself in a precarious financial position. I have also counseled people through work sabbaticals so that they can take time out before making a final decision.

Ready for more support? Take our wellness quiz to see how your stress levels might be affecting you, join our empathetic community, chat with an online listener, or start affordable online therapy today.


Posted: 16 April 2019
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Temi Coker, MSC, MA, Dip.Cons

Temi is a BACP accredited psychotherapist, counsellor and clinical supervisor.

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