The days when people were expected to just get on with it instead of worrying about their mental health are thankfully mostly behind us, but that doesn’t mean that the amount of stress and pressure we have to deal with on a daily basis has reduced at all. Much of this comes from the jobs we need to keep to be able to pay our mortgages and support ourselves and our families, and sometimes this can become overwhelming and too much to deal with.
There are ways to cope in these circumstances though. When negative thoughts start to spiral, that is when you can feel overwhelmed, but these can be stopped using the power of your own mind, using positive thoughts to put a stop to those negative ones. If that sounds unscientific, there’s a study by Professor Darren Good that shows that such thought-control techniques can enhance your focus and quieten anxious thoughts by bringing you back to the present.
One such technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 method, which works by focusing your mind on what is around you. If you want to try it the next time you are feeling stressed, see if you can find:
- 5 things you can see around you
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
When you have completed this, your mind will be focused on the present moment rather than worrying about things that may happen in the future. Another way to get some clarity in your mind is to reduce the clutter, and this can take the form of clearing away physical clutter in your workspace. The Harvard Business Review found that a messy work environment can lead to increased stress, anxiety and emotional exhaustion, so now may be the time to tidy that desk.
The other kind of clutter in our lives is the digital kind that comes from the seemingly endless stream of notifications that our computers and phones deliver to us throughout the day. A study at Stanford found that multitasking, like paying attention to these notifications while working, causes stress and reduces focus. Why not try blocking out time where you mute your notifications and give your brain the chance to just do one thing at a time?
Your brain also needs a break from time to time. Too many of us are often willing to sacrifice a lunch break when we have a lot of work to do, but a study by the University of Michigan found that small talk with colleagues – for example, over a shared lunch – actually reduces your stress levels because it helps to improve your efficiency, planning, prioritization, and organization. Remember that the next time a co-worker gives you a dirty look as you head off for a coffee.
Listening to music while working is something many office workers do if they are allowed, which has the benefit of not only blocking out the workplace chatter but can also improve the brain’s ability to organize new information. At least it does that if the music is from the Baroque era, according to a Stanford University study. Listening to Lizzo might not have the same effect, but there’s no reason not to try it and find out.
Our sedentary office lives might also be contributing to feeling overwhelmed, so any exercise you can work into your day will be a benefit. This could take the form of a run or a brisk walk on your break, but even low-intensity exercise like stretching at your desk can help to fight fatigue and exhaustion when you’re having to push yourself to complete a difficult task or meet a tight deadline.
According to a Gallup study, 44% of full-time workers have felt burned out by their jobs from time to time, so if this is you right now, you shouldn’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong or are failing somehow. Why not ask a colleague for help if you need it? They may well know the feeling and will want to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. You can always pay them back the next time they are the ones with an impossible task list.
These tips should help you cope the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, so make sure you bookmark this page so you know what to try the next time stress and anxiety is starting to build up at work.
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