5 Ways to Combat Overwhelm at Work

by Anniki Sommerville, 22nd September 2022

More than three-quarters (79%) of UK workers have experienced burnout, (this is from a study by Ceridian’s annual 2022 Pulse of talent report) and that’s not great. Burn out is something we need to avoid. Quiet quitting is something that’s come up in response to people feeling burnt out and it’s just one response, but what else can we do when we are feeling disenfranchised with work? How can we navigate it without feeling overwhelmed in the first place? Here’s just a few things that I’ve found have helped me on my journey to reducing overwhelm, and taking control of how I view work in my life…

Ignore what you see on social media 

Let’s face it. It’s bollocks. That woman you see who is constantly hustling and is the CEO of her own business and only twenty-five. She’s only showing you one dimension of her life. You aren’t seeing the compromises that are being made. The fact that she hasn’t got any friends. Or her bathroom has giant cobwebs where the self-care bubble bath lives because she’s no time to look after herself. It’s not helpful to have these comparisons thrown in our faces all the time. 

Mute the people that are showing off or just unfollow them. We need to see more realistic narratives around work. And you can lead the charge by eliminating the false narratives around how easy it is to be successful and how you can have it all. 

Decide whether you want to QUIT or trial the ‘quiet quitting’ approach

If you are in a job that sucks ass then it might be time to make a decision. Don’t be the horse, be the cowgirl. Is there scope for you to move now i.e. do you have the money to tide you over or do you need to go directly into a new job. If you need to stick around whilst you look for new roles, why not trial the idea of ‘quiet quitting’ and set some boundaries?

Even the simple boundaries can have a big difference like not going on Slack on weekends, taking your lunch break, stopping work when you’re meant to or  not replying to emails on your non-working days. These are the first steps. Then be clear when someone tries to overload you with more stuff. Try open communication, like telling them that you’re happy to do X but you don’t have the capacity to do Y. If you start with what you can do then it feels more positive than leading with what you can’t. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that in this time of flux and change, the time when you hate your job, it’s important to notice & nurture the potentially heavy emotions that can arise.  You may feel scared. You may have initiated the fight or flight response and be all over the place. You may be sleep deprived. This is the time to look after yourself and also prioitise you where you can. 

Make a list of what you like about your current job and what you hate. 

Try writing a list of the things that you do enjoy about your current job. There may not be loads, and that’s ok, but seeing the things that do feel good can give you some hope. Is there scope to build more of the things you like into your role? Is there a way you can improve things by talking to your boss or someone from HR? Or can you even start looking for roles that include more of what you enjoy, and less of what you don't? 

If you only have a long list of ‘hates’ then things are more pressing and it could help to start networking. Contact your friends, reach out to ex-colleagues. Start researching your next move. 

In the meantime see if you can invest less of yourself emotionally in your current role. 

Be like a boxer

Have you ever watched a boxing match? Do you see the fighters walking up to the ring with their shoulders hunched over and muttering to themselves about how they’re going to ‘screw up the fight’? 

No, they do the opposite. They shout about how great they are. They punch the air. They remind themselves of their physical and mental agility. This is what we need to do more of when we hit a wall at work. So if you receive negative feedback then take that feedback, listen to it and if it’s useful and constructive take it on board and see where you can improve. If it’s not useful then kick it to the curb and move on. You’re good. You’re more than good. You are enough.

Prioritise your confidence and use any tools that you can to get back on top. Being confident is not about being an asshole. It is about believing in your abilities and having enough self-worth to navigate feedback. Keep a sticky note on your computer with your top 5 achievements and remind yourself of them. 

Quiet quitting is fine for a while, but not forever
Let’s face it there are some jobs where you are just treading water and that’s fine. Maybe you’re about to go on maternity leave, maybe you hate your boss and will never get along, maybe the role isn’t right for you. It’s okay to not inject 100% of yourself into work. But it’s not motivating if you do this forever. 

Take agency over your work life and start planning your next move. If you stay too long in a role that isn’t working for you, and you’re continually having to compromise, you’ll ultimately lose your work mojo. 

I hate the phrase ‘You’ve got this,’ but the thing is, you have. YOU HAVE GOT THIS. Remember work is important but it should never be the only thing in your life. Be like a boxing cowgirl and shape your work destiny. 

Anniki Sommerville is the authour of The Big Quit: How to ditch the job you hate and find work you love. 





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