7 Way to Manage Workplace Overwhelm

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Mom in a green hoodie working on her computer with a hand on her baby who is laying on a mat next to her.

Work has changed. The pandemic has made things harder in the workplace where a lot more is being expected, including longer working hours than may have been typical before the pandemic. This is creating increased workplace overwhelm and anxiety, especially for people juggling childcare and work.

Here are a few suggestions that may help in managing the overwhelm that has taken over.

Look at what are the top three tasks that need to get done and if it is feasible to get them done in one day.

Of course the answer will be “The 15 tasks that are on my list,” but take a good look at what actually needs to be done and what can wait. Choosing 3 things you know you can get done sets you up for success, feeling accomplished by the end of the day rather than constantly feeling like you are never going to get everything done. Remember, there is always something else to do and it won’t all get done in one day.

Create and maintain boundaries.

This may mean only checking your email 3 times a day rather than 20 or putting an away notice on Slack for a specific amount of time. You may need to block social media from your computer until the end of the day. You might try blocking time off your calendar so you have uninterrupted time to work, holding this boundary with those who may try to interrupt it.

Planning at the end of the day what the priorities are for the next day.

Doing this may help to decrease with overwhelm of going into the next day with a long list of things to do. It will let you be strategic about the day to help you feel more prepared. Make sure to set a time limit on this planning (again healthy boundaries).

Have small chunks in the week where you can “catch up” on things that may have been interrupted by a meeting or a new priority that came up last minute.

Prioritize your work self-care.

This may mean going outside for 5 minutes two times during the day, downloading a positive affirmation app that will send you notifications throughout the day (I really like the “I AM” app), taking short breaks to check in with yourself and remembering to breathe. Speaking of breathing, quick transitions that suddenly come up can be difficult for many people, take a moment to breathe before moving on to the unexpected new priority.

Make restful sleep a priority.

Without restful sleep, you will feel compounded stress. Sleep helps restore our body. When there isn’t enough or it is frequently interrupted there is a higher chance that we will be able to tolerate less and feel a higher level of stress.

Don’t forget to eat.

Food is energy. Energy keeps us going. If you feel you can’t possibly take time for lunch (see #2), make sure you have plenty of nutritious snacks to help get you through the day.

Being in a place of constant overwhelm can lead to health problems, since physical and emotional health are connected.

If you are having regular panic attacks, burnout, resentment, and these don’t subside with time off of work or creating new systems that work for you, it may be time to seek therapy to explore about whether or not your current job is the right place for you and gain some new skills to manage the stress.


Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional.