Top tips to deal with feeling overwhelmed at work; a guest post

By Joy Burnford, founder of My Confidence Matters

In this piece I’d like to draw on the experiences of a lady called Matilda in order to talk about the very real issue of feeling overwhelmed at work. We all feel it at some stage or another, but it’s how you deal with it that really matters.

So let me introduce you to Matilda. Matilda is a busy mum juggling two young kids and a husband. She works full-time as head of department for a global financial services organisation and has the added stress of no support network nearby.

Matilda had a mid-year performance review when she was just on the verge of achieving a big project in her role and had been through hell and back to get there. She was looking forward to having recognition for all the hard work she’d done and was hoping to talk about how she could potentially get some more balance back in to her life, now that the project was over. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Rather the finish line was moved that much further away from her. Instead she was just asked ‘so how do you think you will achieve a rating above expectations this year?’

She was left feeling totally overwhelmed and spent the next few months in a really stressful place.

During a break from work on holiday, she had time to reflect on her life and what she could do to change things so that she wasn’t constantly in a struggle managing family life and a full-time job and feeling like she couldn’t be her best doing either.

After her holiday, she went back to work and handed in her resignation, much to her boss’s surprise. She had had enough and realised that she just couldn’t continue like this. She was very honest with her feedback and her boss was understanding, but shocked to hear some of the things she was saying. They valued her so much that they didn’t accept her resignation and instead gave her the opportunity to go away and design a part-time role that she would be comfortable doing.  She has now done this and feels better about the prospect of some real change happening.

She now realises, however, that a better approach might have been to sit down and have an honest conversation on a more regular basis with her boss, rather than taking extreme measures in the form of her resignation letter.

With Matilda in mind, here are some top tips for grounding yourself when everything feels simply overwhelming.

Top tips for dealing with overwhelm

  1. Don’t bottle it up, speak up! Have a regular face-to-face catch up where possible with your boss, so that small problems don’t escalate.
  2. Be clear about what your priorities are and communicate this to your team so there is a clear understanding at all levels about what you are working on. Be aware of your work style and that of your colleagues, so that you can communicate in the best way possible.
  3. If there is someone else that can do the work, always delegate it – upwards or downwards.
  4. Keep communication channels open at all times and take responsibility for this.
  5. Seek external coaching to come up with specific strategies to deal with confidence issues.
  6. Don’t be afraid to challenge others and say no (nicely!)
  7. Be honest about what you like about your job and what you don’t like. If things aren’t working, how could you change that. Think of the solutions rather than presenting the problems.
  8. Don’t let work creep into your family time. Ask yourself, does this piece of work really need to be done for the next day? Does that email need answering right now? Understanding that there are clear boundaries between work and home life will really help.

Matilda’s situation isn’t unusual. We all feel overwhelmed at work, and sometimes it gets the better of us. Take a step back, breath and just consider your options before you do something life changing.

Joy is a business leader, entrepreneur and mentor. Her leadership development company, My Confidence Matters, supports organisations to inspire, support and motivate women to speak up, thereby allowing their careers to flourish. Joy and her team bring together a range of specialist coaches and trainers to inspire and encourage women to create the transformation they require to achieve success.

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