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Learn 5 Ways To Manage Feeling Overwhelmed At Work

Feeling overwhelmed with work?

The truth is, overwhelm will likely happen in your life no matter what you do.

There will be a time that things feel like too much, whether it is in the workplace or at home.

Anxiety or compounded stress can cause overwhelm to occur more frequently.

Even though you may feel stuck when overwhelmed, don’t worry, there are ways out.

According to Brene Brown, there are terms in the service industry that can help you identify the difference between stress and overwhelm.

Stress in the service industry is categorized as in the weeds, which means that you can still function and you need support. A coworker or manager might bring drinks to one of your tables to help you out.

Overwhelm is identified as being blown, which means that you can longer function. You can’t work your tables. You need to go outside, get fresh air, breathe, and regroup altogether.

Both chronic stress and overwhelm can impact your mental health long-term.

When your stress level rises, you can still make decisions and recognize the next right thing for you.

Image of a White female pondering. Read More:  “What to Know About Therapy and If Therapy Is Right For You.”

Overwhelm can cause you to shut down.

You may have trouble making decisions, and the only next right thing in that moment may be to take a pause and a breath.

Often, overwhelm is the result of long-term stress and not managing stress as it arises. It can feel as though it happens in a moment if you feel activated in a stressful situation.

Overwhelm can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially if you are a busy person who doesn’t want to slow down.

When you are forced to slow down, feelings can come into your body and flood you. Instead of resisting these emotions, lean into them. Let yourself feel even when it causes discomfort.

While you don’t have to stay with every emotion, it is helpful in dealing with emotions and overwhelm when you are able to acknowledge what comes up for you.

In the moment, overwhelm can come across as an outburst or a meltdown. This can impact your work situation negatively. Instead of enduring long-term stress, acknowledge how you can help yourself through the situation for a positive outcome.

Not every space will be safe to explore your emotions. You get to decide what feels most comfortable to you. At work, you may need to excuse yourself from the room or take a breath outside before you apply logic to a situation.

You may have to practice bravery through a hard conversation, regulating your emotions, and trying grounding exercises that can help stabilize you again.

Though dealing with overwhelm and anxiety can be difficult, it is not impossible.

Overwhelm at work will happen, and there are ways to lessen the impact of it in your life.

Here are 5 ways to help yourself through overwhelm at work:

1. Pause.
If you are able, you may need to exit the space. Go outside, to the bathroom, a different area, or even close your eyes to help you visualize a place outside of where you are physically located.

Image of a smiling woman with long curly hair smelling and enjoying a cappuccino in a street cafe. Read More: How Mindfulness Helps With Anxiety

Offhand remarks, snapping at coworkers, being reactionary toward your boss can all result in negative consequences.

A pause opens space for a quick breathing exercise or even deep breathing if that feels comfortable to you. It takes only one moment to go in a new direction.

Help yourself through that transition by pausing.

2. Ask Yourself About The Next Right Thing.
A sign of overwhelm is that decision making is very difficult.

If you ask yourself about the next right thing and you are unable to answer, breathe.

When you come back to yourself, you may be able to see things more clearly.

Overwhelm may only last a moment, however, the effects of it can last a lifetime.

Sometimes, the next right thing can be noticing how you are feeling and assessing the situation, setting healthy boundaries, and calming down a stress response.

Often, the next right thing has nothing to do with the moment you are in when you feel the overwhelm.

3. Engage Your 5 Senses.
Overwhelm at work can happen in an instant, so your job in the moment is to find and stay calm. Stressful events will occur, and negative emotions are unavoidable.

A way to find and keep calm is to re-direct your focus on the overwhelming moment and engage your 5 senses. Ask yourself what you taste, smell, see, feel, and hear.

Engaging your 5 senses can be a mini version of a guided meditation. It can help you ground yourself again before you react. This small break shifts a reaction into a response and allows you to have more control over your response rather than letting your emotion and reaction control you.

4. Learn to Regulate Your Emotions.
A large part of resiliency is emotion regulation. Learning to regulate your emotions can help you lessen overwhelm in your life.

Image of a Black man with his head down on his work desk, stressed. Read More: “Are You Experiencing Burnout? Catch It Before It Takes Over”

Building emotion regulation skills starts with first identifying when you are feeling emotions.

Often we feel emotions in our body with tension, tearing up, feeling heat rise in our body so these are clues we are feeling something.

Once you notice the emotion, naming the emotion helps you to identify and know what you need to regulate or manage that emotion.

Finally, take action to regulate your emotions so you are able to respond in the way you want to that best aligns with the person you want to be.

Emotions are not bad. Feeling emotions is not bad.

Letting our emotions control us, can cause more harm and more overwhelm when we are trying to do the opposite. Learning to identify our emotions, gives us freedom from our emotions.

5. Be Preventative.
Mitigating overwhelm can be as easy as the slogan in al-anon of HALT. If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and/or Tired; chances are that you will have a much more difficult time lessening overwhelm in your life.

If you are in the habit of avoiding tasks because it makes you anxious in the moment only to feel overwhelmed in the future, take steps to manage your anxiety about the tasks so that you are able to complete them.

Take care of your basic needs so that you can show up as a loving person toward yourself.

Learn to identify what foods you like when you are activated, practice techniques that help keep you calm, relieve outbursts with strategies that help, and when you feel disconnected, reach out.

Taking care of your future self sets you up for being your best advocate. Your future self will thank you.

Feeling overwhelmed, especially at work, can be difficult in the moment. The trick is not to let a moment impact your entire future. You deserve to take a break and reroute your impulses so that you can feel settled in the situation again.

This can also help your personal growth. When you feel overwhelmed, the best first step is to pause and breathe. That can help slow down the circumstance when it is feeling fast.

No matter what, there is help available. If you struggle to identify your emotions, have difficulty calming yourself or unsure of how to be better prepared when you are overwhelmed, a therapist can help.

Our therapists in Denver have provided support for hundreds of people seeking help for feeling overwhelmed. You are not alone.

Learn More About Denver Metro Counseling

Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC

Denver Metro Counseling is a group of Denver therapists who provide teen therapy, young adult therapy, adult therapy, family therapy and other counseling and therapy in Denver and throughout Colorado. We specialize in relationships, codependency, communication and boundaries and provide supportive therapy for people struggling with life transitions,  trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, negative body image, and more
Denver Metro Counseling

Our Clinician’s Bios:
Jessica Wright, MS, LPC, LPCC
Audrey Bristol, LSW
Molly Ward, LCSW
Karan Steuart, LCSW, LAC
Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACC, ACS

Follow Denver Metro Counseling on Facebook: Denver Metro Counseling and Instagram: @denvermetrocounseling for other helpful information.