Suffering from stress and overwhelm at work? Here are three things you can do

Are you battling stress and overwhelm at work? Soma Ghosh, the Career Happiness Mentor shares three things you can do to help.

Stress is a recurring theme in the work I do as a career counsellor. Many of the women who come to me feel burnt out and overwhelmed with their working and personal lives, and the stress of juggling their many responsibilities.

I am seeing an ongoing pattern with this in relation to work and women enjoying what they do. According to Forth with Life, 85% of UK adults are experiencing some form of stress, and particularly women. The most common causes of stress are money, work and health.

Untreated stress can lead to health problems

When you feel stressed and overwhelmed through work, you have less time for key relationships, such as spending time with your children, partner, family members and friends.

Worrying about money and health can also stop you from giving your full attention to work, due to unrealistic workloads and deadlines. And when you don’t deal with stress, this can manifest into anxiety and other health problems. 

Some of the most common patterns I see with the women I work with are:

  1. Lack of sleep.
  2. Physical and mental ill health.
  3. Worrying about financial stability.
  4. Suffering from anxiety and depression.

Untreated, ongoing stress can even contribute to health issues such as heart disease and strokes, and the coping behaviours some people use for stress (such as drinking) can impact your risk for cancer.

Three tips to help you cope with stress

So, if you are currently working excessively but feel under-appreciated or are always worrying about bills, how can you move forward? 

There are always strategies to help you cope with work-related stress, even if you are a busy working mum. Here are three things you can do to help.

1) Understand what’s causing your stress

To begin, try to think about what could be causing your stress. This where I want to share an exercise that could help you uncover the root of it.

Write down three or four feelings you feel when you are overwhelmed or stressed. Some of the things that come up for me are: I feel tired, cry or get angry or stressed and take it out on others.

Your emotions could be different so just think about what you feel like in those moments. 

Then think about any events that may have changed at work that may be causing you to feel this way. Some of the common things I see can are linked to:

  • Redundancy.
  • Change in management or structural changes.
  • Promotion or pay rise.
  • Coming back to work after having a child.
  • Going on maternity leave.
  • A loved one being ill or recently dying. 
  • Your own health problems. 
  • Being bullied at work. 

If you feel you can’t quite get to the root of what is causing you to feel stressed and overwhelmed, the second tip will help you uncover this. Just remember though, it’s okay for you to be going through this – it’s about being aware that you can get past this. 

2) Get the right support 

It’s key to get support to help manage and recover from a stressful time or situation. Many of us feel we need to be superwoman, but it’s important you are getting support in the right way. 

If you are overwhelmed at work, you may have too much to do. It’s piling up and this may filter into your personal and home life.

An example could be that a projects has overrun, gone wrong, or be more involved than you thought, and you’re working longer hours trying to manage everything. Then, when you come home you are doing the same thing managing your household duties. This could be making you feel tired and exhausted, especially if children and others are relying on you. 

Your workplace should be an environment in which you feel safe, not burnt out. There are an increasing number of reasons why stress has increased, and access to technology, with the addition of work laptops and phones adds to this.

Also, many people may secretly be suffering from bullying or difficult work colleagues, and are too ashamed to admit it. So they may channel all their energy into the work in an attempt to please others, and they don’t stop to get any support. This could be because they already feel alone and isolated. 

If you feel overwhelmed by work and feel comfortable doing so, talk to your manager and explain why. This goes back to the first tip. Once you know what’s causing the stress, perhaps you can get some additional support to help you through it.

If you feel your manager or company won’t support you, you need to think about outside support mechanisms that will. 

Other ways you can get support are by going to see your GP. They may be able to help ease some of the stress, especially if they think you need further support like talk therapy or CBT, and can refer you to someone.

If you feel your GP isn’t approachable, and this is something that you can’t wait for, perhaps consider hiring a private counsellor if you are going through anxiety and depression. Check the counselling directory to find a counsellor locally to you. This may be also advisable if you feel your family and friends aren’t emotionally supporting you or your situation. 

You don’t have to be alone in this, so try to surround yourself with others who understand you. Don’t ignore symptoms of depression and anxiety if you have them. Talk to someone impartial who won’t judge you. Some people may not get it, so it’s important you talk to people who really understand you.

Anger can come up as a result of depression, so be compassionate to others in this situation, not judgemental. And seek out people who make you feel better, not worse. 

3) Moving past stress 

Some of the ways you can move forward through this include managing your time more effectively.  

If you feel you can’t give it your all at home as a working mum, there’s no shame in hiring a cleaner, childminder or assistant to help you manage your home life, especially if you work long hours and can financially afford to do this. 

Be compassionate to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan. If you manage to get up and do what you can, this will help you remember you can move forward.

When there is a lot to do in your working and professional life just remember that it’s okay for you to have an awareness that today will be a busy day, but you can get through it.

It all goes back to getting support. Once you have the right support in place, you can be kinder to yourself and stop feeling you need to do it all. 

To help you get away from the stress, why not write a list of things you enjoy doing in your spare time? This is something you can do on your days off or when your children have school holidays, so that you can do things together as a family.

If you stay focused on the stress you don’t look forward, so it’s important to remember this. Also think about doing things for yourself, like having a date night or going out with a friend for dinner, a spa day etc. Give yourself permission to say you deserve time out too. 

Planning can also help you with stress and overwhelm. As the saying goes: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Planning your working life as much as possible will help you to stay on top of things and allow you identify any available for other things in your life. This will alleviate stress and prevent you from feeling so overwhelmed.

Meditation and exercise can help you relax and feel less overwhelmed. I like to refer to mediation as a ‘mind spa’ because it helps you stay present and give you inner peace.  

Apps like Headspace and Calmer can give you 3-5 minutes of mediation every day. Mindfulness in general is meant to help you stay more focused, especially if you have a busy day ahead.

Exercise is also a fantastic way of releasing stress as it produces endorphins, the ‘happiness’ hormone, which help us feel happier, less depressed and calmer in general.

Don’t let stress stop you enjoying your life

Stress doesn’t need to stop you from enjoying the happy working life you deserve as a woman and a mum. These tips should help uncover what may cause your stress, how you can get support and what you can do to move past it to the live the life you deserve.

If you’d like more advice on anxiety and stress, you may also find these articles helpful:

Soma Ghosh is the Career Happiness Mentor. You can listen to her podcast here.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz