As employees do their best to keep up in our increasingly technological society, overwhelming work environments are becoming common. Technology is making things easier and more difficult at the same time — and it can be hard to make sense of it all, as the world moves faster than we have mental space for.
It’s getting so prevalent that the World Health Organization even categorized “burnout” as an occupational syndrome.
Between meetings (both virtual and in-person), stressful upcoming deadlines, co-workers that get on your nerves, shifts that seem to go on forever, a fun-less environment, and an ever-growing pile of work that needs to get done, it’s no surprise that many employees are finding their work environments overwhelming.
However, not all hope is lost. There are plenty of ways you can deal with the stress that follows you around both in and out of the office, so let’s dive right into some tips and tricks that will have you feeling more at peace at work and at home.
What is an Overwhelming Work Environment?
Although it’s common to deal with overwhelming feelings in the workplace, especially if it’s a job that keeps you on your toes, it’s important to note the differences between normal work stress and a toxic work environment.
When it comes to the latter, not much can be done unless the work culture, co-workers, and superiors do a 180; the only way out of a work environment is a strong change in the way management deals with matters and treats their employees. When it comes to these types of work environments, the best thing to do is just nip them in the bud — no job is worth risking your mental stability for.
On the other hand, if what you’re dealing with is simply the overwhelming pressure of a high-paced environment, there’s plenty you can do to make life seem a little less stressful.
Between trying to meet unrealistic expectations, inconveniences and issues from personal and professional life, co-workers that are hard to deal with, or superiors you just can’t seem to get on the same page with, you can easily find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of strain and stress in an overwhelming work environment.
Maybe you have too many tasks to finish in too little time, are having trouble meeting deadlines, missing resources to properly finish your responsibilities, have questions surrounding assignments, or are even just feeling unsure about the quality of your work performance in comparison to your peers.
These stressors can affect your productivity, inspiration, creativity, time management, motivation, and health (both mental and physical). Here’s the million-dollar question: what can you do to deal with an overwhelming work environment?
Ask For Help
While society might’ve geared us up to think that asking for help is the same as admitting weakness, the reality is quite the opposite. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by a workload or confused about a certain assignment, your best bet is to ask for help.
Maybe you need some more guidance from a supervisor, so don’t be afraid to ask. Perhaps a co-worker with a few free minutes can help you organize your tasks. You can even get feedback from other people working in the same field with similar projects.
Rather than admitting weakness, asking for help shows that you are responsible enough to raise your voice when things get overwhelming, ultimately helping you deliver higher-quality work and keep the bar high. When you feel confident in your tasks, the quality will surely show it.
A Healthy Work/Life Balance is Key
Here’s the thing: we should be working to live, not living to work. Although work can be an incredibly fulfilling part of your life, especially if you’re in an industry you’re passionate about, there’s time for work and there certainly should be time for play. When an overwhelming work environment takes over all of your time, it’s a sign to prioritize your personal life a bit.
Make time for friends, family, outings, adventures, movie marathons, and hobbies. It’s never a bad idea to grab a beer at a local bar and talk it out with a friend, visit family to get back to your roots, take a stroll down the city center, go for a weekend hike, binge-watch Star Wars, or take up knitting as an after-work activity.
The Pomodoro Technique
For those struggling with time management and motivation, the Pomodoro technique is a great way to get excited about work. It basically consists of attentive work sessions with periodic yet brief breaks that help you maintain concentration and give your mind a break.
Here’s how it works: set a timer for 25 minutes and work every second until the alarm goes off. Once your 25-minute work session is done, take 5 minutes to rest, walk around, check your socials, meditate, grab a coffee, or whatever else will help ease your mind.
If you’re easily distracted, tend to overwork yourself, get yourself in over your head with assignments, or just enjoy Pavloving yourself, the Pomodoro technique is a great way to deal with an overwhelming work environment.
Keep Your Mental Health in Check
An overwhelming work environment can affect your mental health, no doubt about it. While working can help keep your mind busy and also promote better mental health, when it becomes overwhelming or stressful, your mind might be on the receiving end of some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
To help promote better mental health in the workplace, it’s important for both the company and the individual to do their part when it comes to taking care of the body and the mind.
First, companies need to implement workplace wellness programs that aid in identifying people at risk, helping reduce the high rates of mental illness in American workers, and supporting through stressful situations. Additionally, communication, social support systems, and incentives to support healthy work conduct are key to any organization.
As an employee, you can encourage your superiors to provide programs that focus on mental health, help destigmatize mental health issues by sharing personal experiences, invest in valuable therapy, offer peer support, and adopt behaviors that promote better mental health.
This includes eating healthy meals, socializing and connecting with people, finding exercise that motivates you, and getting enough sleep (no more scrolling through Instagram into the late hours of the night).
One more thing: there’s no shame in the medicine game. If your doctor or psychiatrist suggests medication to help mediate mental health symptoms, go for it.
Do One Thing At a Time
Oftentimes, people tend to put more on their plates than they can deal with. When it comes to over-working, it might seem impossible to finish everything on time. When these kinds of things happen, there’s only one thing you can do: take it step by step.
Unless you have an extra set of hands and feet, you can only do one thing at a time. Instead of jumping from assignment to assignment, adding a few things here, and changing a few things there, it’s more recommendable to focus on one task at a time.
Not only will you feel more accomplished, gifting you motivation to keep going, but it also helps with the general workflow, especially if you tend to work as a team.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Deep down inside, a lot of us are people-pleasers. This can translate into your job, leading to an overwhelming work environment where you’ve committed to doing more than you’re able to within a certain amount of time.
There’s a reason why they say “quality over quantity”: it’s okay to take your time and do one thing at a time to ensure high quality and keep the bars high.
When it comes to your workload, be honest with your supervisors. Saying something like: “Sorry, I’d be happy to help but I have other tasks taking up my time at the moment. I would gladly collaborate after finishing my remaining tasks” is a great way to set boundaries with your superiors and with yourself.
If you’re in a healthy work environment, most will understand where you’re coming from and will appreciate your honesty, also noticing the fact that the work you finish is up to their standards.
We’re living in a world where work seems to be at the center of everything we do. Although it’s important to be responsible, reliable, dedicated, and passionate about your line of work, it’s also important to maintain healthy boundaries and standards that allow you to live your life.
If you’re currently in an overwhelming work environment, take some time to plan what you can do to balance your professional and personal life, as well as being an optimal employee without experiencing burnout at every twist and turn. No one deserves to go to sleep with endless thoughts of work-related stress on their mind.
Finally, don’t feel ashamed to admit that you’re overwhelmed. It happens to the best of us, and all you can do is implement healthy changes that will not only better your productivity, motivation, and health, but also help you become a more efficient and happier employee.