Overwhelmed by Changes at Work? Try These 4 Ways to Beat Stress
May 11, 2020
Our current work environment is proof that the only constant is change.
Whether you’ll be working from home for the foreseen future, or your company is talking about going back to the office, there’s so much that feels out of our control. And when pressure builds in our more immediate environment, it can quickly lead to overwhelm.
Now more than ever you need tools to shift your mindset and regain your footing.
1. Breathe in a rhythmic pattern
When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to hold our breath and tighten our muscles. In this state, it’s hard to make good choices.
When things feel out of control, focus on what you can control, like your breath. Simply breathing in a rhythmic pattern—in for a count of six and out for a count of six—can help you feel more relaxed.
Try doing what Hanna calls “breathing in waves.” Visualize your breath like a wave of light. Breathe in, and see the light filling your body from your toes to the top of your head. As you breathe out, see the light moving back down and out through your toes, taking with it any tension and worry.
This kind of breathing takes practice. Schedule time to breathe in this way for five to 10 minutes each morning. Then when you’re in the midst of an overwhelming situation, you can take three “recharge breaths” to help regain a sense of calm.
2. Name your “triggers” and “tamers”
Positive self-talk can shift our emotional state both in the moment and over time. But when we’re in the throes of stress, it can be difficult to access that kinder, more gentle inner voice.
To make the leap from stress to calm, try this exercise:
Create two columns on a piece of paper and write the words “Trigger” and “Tamer” at the top of each.
In the “Trigger” column, write down words or statements you think or say that make you feel overwhelmed, like “I am so busy” or “I’m buried.”
Then try to re-frame the situation with a more calming word or phrase, like “I have a lot going on right now.” List that in the “Tamer” column.
“Your words won't make the situation change,” says Hanna. “But they will give your brain a new lens through which to see them, and more flexibility and creativity to move through them without overwhelm.”
3. Schedule positivity breaks
Let’s face it: when life gets overwhelming, it’s hard to notice what’s going right. Our brains gravitate to the negative.
Break the cycle by focusing on what you’re grateful for.
Think about a person you appreciate, a place you love, or even something simple that’s easy to overlook, like a roof over your head or food to eat. Allow that feeling of gratitude to sink in. And to get even more benefit, write it down or talk about it with a trusted friend.
Schedule several positivity breaks throughout your day, and add them to your calendar to keep yourself accountable.
“These are small nudges to your neurons to start paying more attention to things around you that are positive, which will help to create more capacity and less overwhelm,” says Hanna.
4. Take one imperfect action
Have you ever been so overwhelmed that you feel stuck—that no matter how hard you try, it will never be enough?
You’re not alone. It’s a feeling that’s showing up more often in these difficult times.
But now is not the time to try to be perfect. Choose progress over perfection by taking one small step at a time. Even if it’s not directly related to solving the cause of your stress, one action can release the pressure valve so you’re more able to cope.
Hanna offers three steps to reduce overwhelm:
Download it: Write down everything that’s on your mind related to tasks and timing. Hanna uses Post-It Notes so she can move them around, combine, and put some to the side so they’re ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for the time being.
Divide it: Organize the tasks based on priorities and probabilities. What’s most important to you? And what’s most realistic to get done in the timeframe you have? Table those items that are less urgent or less realistic to accomplish, and revisit them later.
Do it: Pick one task that will give you a sense of making progress towards a goal that matters to you, and act on it. This may be checking something off your to-do list, or doing something that recharges your batteries, like taking a walk. Don’t judge it; just do it.
Get comfortable with taking imperfect action, and you’ll reduce overwhelm and gain momentum to move forward in a better direction.
Check out more courses on how to manage stress and other relevant courses to help you learn the skills to be productive from home, find a new job, and build resilience.