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5 Tips for When You Feel Overwhelmed at Work

The finance and accounting sector is driven by deadlines and accuracy. There is pressure to produce quality work in a limited time frame and maintain relationships with other departments, as well as internal and external stakeholders. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, taking a toll on your mental and physical well-being.

What are the signs you're overwhelmed at work and what are some practical tips that will reduce stress levels and help you start feeling less trapped?

Spotting the Signs:

  • Feeling Stressed: Work stress can feel like anxiety in the pit of your stomach. You might be feeling trapped, or unable to handle multiple tasks at once.

  • Decision Fatigue: Mental strain can cause difficulty in making decisions.

  • Unable to Focus: It may be difficult to concentrate on complex projects and even to focus on smaller tasks. If you don't feel engaged, this is a sign you are working at full capacity and feeling overworked.

  • Physical Strain: Headaches, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns can be due to workplace stress.

  • Reduced Productivity: If you're working longer hours, it could be reduced productivity affecting the quality of your work and forcing you to put in more hours.

It isn't a sign of your hard work if you're feeling overwhelmed at work. It signifies a clashing work and personal life. If you're experiencing these signs of overwhelm, it's time to step back and implement strategies to help reduce stress.

5 Strategies for Managing Stress and Relieving Overwhelm:

1. Tame the To-Do List:

  • Prioritise: Ask a colleague or manager to help you prioritise your workload. An outside opinion will help you determine which tasks must be completed first.

  • You can say "No": Learn to feel more confident in politely declining additional work if you're already managing a heavy workload.

  • Break Down Big Tasks: Large projects can feel intimidating and worsen that overwhelming feeling. Break them down into manageable steps and complete one task at a time.

  • Leverage Technology: Utilise project management tools, AI, and calendars to visualise your workload and prevent forgetfulness.

Advice for Managers: Encourage a culture of open communication within your team. Nurture an environment where team members can comfortably discuss challenges they are facing without judgment. This shows you're doing everything you can to help colleagues who feel overwhelmed by work, but also preventing it. 

2. Master Your Time Management:

  • Time Blocking: A great way to feel less overwhelmed is to block out time slots for specific tasks. This creates focused work sessions that avoid multitasking and ensure tasks do not absorb all your time.  

  • Check Emails Intermittently: Schedule designated times to check emails such as the morning, midday, and last thing. We often feel we have to respond straight away, but avoiding all-day notifications will help you focus on what truly matters and avoid disruption. 

  • Delegate: If your colleagues are available, ask for help or delegate your workload. Emphasize that you're dealing with stress and feelings of overwhelm at work and need some help.

 A common cause of feeling overwhelmed is bottling your emotions. Don't be afraid to have a conversation with your manager about your workload. They can help you formulate a plan to help you deal with work-related overwhelm, remind you that you're not alone, and that they're available to help when you need it. 

Seek help from your manager

3. Say "No" to Overtime: 

  • Respect Work-Life Balance: It's common to feel like you must do overtime, but consistently prolonged hours could cause you to feel overwhelmed, developing burnout in the long term. 

  • Schedule Annual Leave: Reserve time in your calendar for holidays to ensure you're taking regular breaks throughout the year. Paid holiday leave is designed to prevent overwhelm and stress.

  • Fully Disconnect When You Leave: Avoid checking work emails or taking calls outside work hours. This allows you to take a step back from your responsibilities so you're feeling refreshed for the next day. 

Pro Tip for Managers: Encourage your team to go home on time and respect their personal boundaries. Create a work environment that champions a healthy work life. 

4. Prioritise Your Well-being:

  • Get Active: Regular exercise is effective if you're experiencing stress and feeling overwhelmed. Take a moment to get away from your desk at least once a day. Go for a walk or attend a short yoga class to reset. 

  • Don't Skip Meals: A balanced diet helps fuel your productivity. Avoid eating processed foods and sugary snacks that can contribute to energy crashes.

  • Sleep: In a study by Mental Health UK, 9 out of 10 workers report feeling extreme stress or burnout. Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Instead of feeling tired at work, you'll have increased focus and resilience. 

  • Mindfulness: Activities such as meditation or deep breathing can help you manage stress levels.

5. Ask for Support:

  • Confide in a Trusted Colleague: Discuss the feeling of being overwhelmed with a colleague you trust; it can help you gain a new perspective and release tension.

  • Professional Help: If you feel like you're struggling to cope with work-related stress and don't want to confide in a colleague, seek help from a therapist who can help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. 

  • Ask For Help: Discuss your workload with your manager and explore potential solutions together.

Pro Tip for Managers: Become a mental health ambassador for your team. Organise workshops on stress management or create an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide confidential support to your team members.

Feeling overwhelmed at work isn't an uncommon experience, particularly at key points in the year for finance and accounting teams. Implementing these tips will help you relieve stress and manage your workload during times like month-end and year-end. 

Remember that work doesn't control your personal life. Take regular breaks, switch off, and seek help during moments of stress or overwhelm. Leadership teams can play a vital role in promoting open communication and eradicating fear of judgment. Managers should put together strategies for managing workplace stress and supporting overwhelmed employees.