Managing stress at work: how to overcome when overwhelmed

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First of all, breathe. In, hold, 2, 3, 4, out, 2, 3, 4. Repeat as needed.
Does that feel better?

It’s all too easy to get stuck in a stress cycle. One stressful project comes, and then another. And then another, and it brings a friend. Pretty soon, there’s a stress-riddled To-Do list breathing down your neck. The stressors eat at us until we’re paralyzed; we think about them, but the overwhelming feelings prevent us from putting a meaningful dent in the list.

When feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to remember the feeling is temporary. There are actionable strategies you can use to reclaim your balance and get back on track—and if you’re reading this blog, you’ve taken the first, crucial step.

1. Admit you’re stressing

Sometimes, stress can actually be a good thing. It’s like the check engine light that goes off in a car; at the very minimum, you now know that something is wrong. It’s what you do next that can stop you from feeling overwhelmed.

In stressful situations, it’s tempting to put nose to the grindstone and plow ahead full-tilt. If you don’t stop working, things will calm down, right?

Take off those situation glasses. You know, those emotion-colored shades we all wear in heavy situations. Take a step back, and look at your situation objectively. You’re stressed—and chances are, it’s preventing you from doing your best work.

Being honest with yourself is the first step toward alleviating stress-related anxiety. But the buck doesn’t stop there. Consider sharing your feelings with your team or supervisor. Stress can make you feel isolated, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone; by letting others in on your experience, you can get flat with your team while opening the door to getting support.

2. Ask questions you don’t know the answer to

It can be hard to pinpoint the source of stress. But in order to squash the pressure, you need to identify what’s holding you back. You can identify your stressor(s) by asking questions. What could be causing the stress? What can I accomplish between now and the deadline? Do I fully understand what this project is about? Did that person hurt my feelings by saying that?

Don’t be afraid to go deep when it comes to questions about stressors. Humans are complex creatures, and our brains aren’t good at siloing emotion; it’s possible that you have multiple factors negatively impacting you from different areas of your life. Identifying them is key.

By asking questions, you’ll get to the root of your stress—at work, and in other places, too. Questions allow you to pull out the negative pressures in your life, and examine them for what they are: real problems that you have the power to solve.

Figure out what’s next

Once you know the source of your stress, ask yourself, “What can I realistically do about it?”. The keyword is “realistically.” Be honest with yourself, and create an action plan to take down your stressor.

To get started, create a list of everything that needs to happen next. If you’re stressed about a deadline or project, prioritize. What needs to get done this month? Next week? Today?

Figure out which item on your next step list is most urgent and needs to happen first. This will likely be the biggest stressor that is causing you to feel overwhelmed. And what are you going to do about it? Whatever needs to be done! Because you’ve got this!

The emotional and mental burden of carrying too much weight on our shoulders causes us to be stressed and overwhelmed. Instead of carrying the burden yourself, create a plan and ask for help when you need it. When you examine and identify a plan of action, you’ll be using stress to your advantage in no time.

How can stress be used to your advantage?

Stress can give you the upper hand in life if you let it. Hear us out—stress isn’t always a bad thing (but it certainly can be).

Use stress to your advantage by finding an energized solution to the trigger. Then, you can begin to work toward that solution. When you identify every trigger—whether it’s deadline, project, or situation—the next steps reveal themselves. In this way, when properly handled, stress can help us form the most efficient strategies out there.

Look at the situation positively

When we’re overwhelmed and stressed out, it can feel like a crash landing. “Houston, we have a problem!”

You can view stress as a critical error…or you can choose to view it as an opportunity for innovative solutions.
By identifying where planning or execution went wrong (and therefore, where the stress came from), you can prevent it in the future! By identifying room for improvement, you turn overwhelm into a contingency plan that will keep your stress levels down long-term.

How can you manage stress at work?

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress causes roughly one million people to miss work every day. It’s a reality that we all live with, but that doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable. When stress is adequately identified, addressed, and mitigated, you’ll feel more confident in your role—and your deliverables will reap the benefits.

Stay organized

Project management is the name of the game. Things that slip through the cracks can cause us to be overwhelmed, leading to stress and, ultimately, burnout. We want you to work smarter, and not harder.

To stay on track, keep a list of the work items that pop up throughout the day. By allowing your to-do list to be a living document, cracks are harder to fall through.

Another way to keep track of shifting priorities at work is having a designated area to house all of your documents. Keeping documentation organized and accessible isn’t just a stress-reducer; it’s a massive time-saver.

If you’re managing a larger project, consider breaking it down into smaller, more digestible goals. Where do you need to be? What individual steps can you take to get there?

Being able to track each of your accountabilities is just one way to keep stress levels down at work. You’ll be doing yourself a favor—trust us.

Share. Talk. Let someone in.

Finding someone to talk to can open up doors for you in the workplace. Instead of holding the stress in, talk about it! Telling someone you need help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.
Schedule a one-on-one meeting, and get flat with your manager. Remember: if you don’t tell them you’re stressed, they have to make educated guesses about your mental state—and educated guesses aren’t always right. By sharing what’s bothering you and working on a solution, you’re taking care of yourself and your team.

Take care of yourself

In the age of technology, the line between “personal life” and “professional life” is seriously blurred. But spoiler alert: when we take care of our personal lives, we’re less likely to encounter stressors at work.

When you get enough rest, eat well and hydrate, you come to work with a fully-charged “battery.” You’re less likely to make mistakes or forget tasks, meaning fewer stressors.

 

We hope that these suggestions help reduce your stress levels at work. If you’re worried about a specific stressor—like project management, meeting organization, or long-term goals, we’re here to help.

Schedule a free trial with Bloom Growth to get projects on track and reclaim your workday with online productivity tools.

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  • Gina Richard
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