How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work: Understand Stress and Burnout
These days feeling overwhelmed at work also means feeling overwhelmed at home. Many of us are still working remotely and feeling higher levels of work stress and burnout. Emotional and mental health is affected due to the quarantine and pandemic. Now we are bracing for a new wave as the Coronavirus variant spreads.
Companies struggled during the pandemic and employees rallied by giving incremental efforts. People may be physically drained from working longer hours or taking on additional work after co-workers were furloughed or laid off. That’s not sustainable for the long run and we need to manage and understand stress, burnout, and anxiety.
A quick internet search on “how to manage stress” will give you tips like:
- Drink a cup of tea
- Go for a walk
- Get more sleep
- Use daily positive affirmations
Those are helpful tips, but individually they are more of a band-aid than a solution to the problem. Combining all of them together with a deeper understanding of stress will create a more effective plan for managing stress.
HR and training professionals are stretched thin as well with their normal responsibilities. A lot of the communication and management around the pandemic came through the HR function. HR had to execute on some of the hard decisions that some companies had to make like layoffs, furloughs, and in some cases, even closures. And now as businesses are starting to operate again, HR needs to determine mask mandates, proof of vaccines, employee safety, and now this crazy recruiting landscape.
Training resources were also stretched thin. In some organizations training is seen as an expense, often cut in dire times. Trying to train new employees and get them up to speed, trying to cross train employees to take on the responsibilities of those who were gone, or training on new job functions as some organizations switched gears due to the pandemic.
Some people may think an overwhelmed employee just has to just has to deal with it because it’s part of their job, and that everyone experiences stress at work. Some people think employees need to talk to their managers and figure out where the stress is coming from and why they’re feeling so overwhelmed. But who is talking to HR and Training? Why would HR or training professionals get involved? Well, burnout may be the main reason so many people are quitting their jobs.
If you adopt the whole person approach to employee training, you will view your employees as human beings and think beyond training solely on job-related skills. If employees are experiencing stress and burnout, they are not going to be as productive as you need them to be. It’s in the company’s best interest to help managers and employees understand and manage stress and avoid job burnout.
When you work with a company like HSI, you have access to a full library of off-the-shelf content. You can easily curate a curriculum on stress management when the need arises. The following courses are all available in our Business Skills library. If you don’t have access to a full training library, these are topics you can research on your own to figure out a solution for you and your team.
How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work
The good news is that if you are feeling stressed at work, you are not alone. “80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their co-workers need such help.” Stress can harm your physical and emotional health as well as personal and work relationships.
1. Stress Management
Before you approach your boss about feeling overwhelmed, spend a little time trying to understand your situation and find your own solution. Our five-part series can help.
- Understanding stress. Before you can manage stress, you must understand it. Stress is defined by a person's mental health state It’s when anxiety disturbs the body’s normal state of functioning. There are two different kinds of stress, acute and chronic. Work stress is external chronic stress.
- Avoidable stress. Stress is part of life, but some stress can be avoided. There are four common sources of workplace stress: role, heavy workload, responsibilities, and conflict. There are steps you can take to avoid stress in each and it starts with your attitude.
- Unavoidable stress. Some stress is unavoidable but there are ways to deal with it. The first step is to acknowledge the stress is present. Next, you need to make time to deal with the stress. Ideally, find social support to overcome chronic stress. Learn what strategies help you destress and practice these regularly.
- Handling stress. There are four different levels of stress: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. Learn the different ways of dealing with them.
- Managing stress. There are four simple steps to take when managing stress. Engage in positive self-talk, find emergency stress stoppers, find pleasure or something that makes you happy, and do some form of relaxation like yoga or meditation.
2. Understanding Stress and Burnout
Once you’ve done the deep dive on workplace stress management, you will see how job burnout is a special kind of stress. It’s a state of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and value of your work. You can have job stress with no burnout, but you can’t have burnout without the job stress. With burnout, you feel empty.
When you have a better understanding of the contributing work-related issues, you can figure out the best strategy to address them. They can include:
- Lack of control
- Unclear expectations
- Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
- Mismatch in values
- Work-life balance
3. Art of Saying No
Now that you have assessed and understand your situation, you can address the specific triggers, issues, and challenges. A common cause of getting overwhelmed at work is having too heavy workload and not being able to say “no”. Is the task or project outside the scope of your normal job? Is the request urgent and important? Is the requestor your supervisor, co-worker, or client?
You need to understand that saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person or less of a team player. Your time is just as valuable as others. And if you are feeling stress and burnout, saying “no”, might be one of the solutions.
4. Digital Stress and Addiction
Digital addictions to things like video games, social media, smartphones, and other technology are becoming increasingly common. A 2019 study found that the average person picked up his or her smartphone 96 times each day.
Since we were all saying safe at home the past year, a lot of us turned to digital aids for entertainment in place of movies, concerts, trips to the museums, etc. If you are an overwhelmed employee, picking up your phone 96 times a day isn’t going to help.
5. Professional Productivity
If you find that some of the reasons you are feeling overwhelmed are due to struggles keeping up with your work, you may look at training to improve your productivity and skills in things like:
- Project Management
- Time Management
- Breaking Bad Habits
- Critical Observation
- Assertive Communications
- Improving Memory
6. Manage Work-Life Balance to Avoid Burnout
Employees working from home should try to set clear boundaries on work hours and everything else. This includes the physical location of where the work occurs. This is especially difficult if your desk is in your bedroom or the family room. When does work end? Managers and senior leaders can set the work-life balance culture.
Do they consider all time zones when scheduling calls? Are they emailing at all hours of the day and do they expect an immediate response? Managers need to be more aware of potential burnout and employees need to feel comfortable speaking up.