How to overcome overwhelm: beating my burn-out battle

Jul 4, 2019

I assist high-achieving professionals, who are ambitious and successful in their careers. They’ve worked hard to get where they are. Often, sacrificing their personal lives, physical or mental health in pursuit of their professions.

Stress, overwhelm and burn-out are prevalent.

And I get it. I’ve been there too.

As a high-achieving Type A personality, these were constant challenges I faced running my own business and throughout my corporate career.

This week’s blog is inspired by a recent LinkedIn post I wrote about overcoming overwhelm. This topic strongly resonated with my audience.

Many clients revealed overwhelm is a big issue they’ve experienced. Or one they continue to struggle with in their professional careers.

So today, I’ve decided to get real and share my own personal battle with burn-out. I outline the exact methods I used to overcome overwhelm and finally beat burn-out once and for all.

Read on to learn 6 practical strategies to reduce stress and overcome overwhelm at work.

TIP #1 GOAL SETTING & PLANNING

Organisation is one of my key strengths. However, because I love variety in my work, I tend to multi-task. Balancing several tasks requiring different skills or energy levels is inefficient. And being ‘busy’ doesn’t mean effective. In fact, working in an unstructured way is a guaranteed fast-track to overwhelm.

Feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list? It’s likely you’re lacking a clear focus on what tasks to prioritise and where to start.

The first step to overcoming overwhelm is to do a brain dump. Write everything down. Get all of those ideas and to-do’s out of your head and onto paper.

Next, separate goals, projects and tasks. Get clear on your overall goals and the specific projects you’ll need to complete to reach those goals. Then, outline the separate steps involved at each stage of a project.

Finally, plan ahead. Establish 1-2 key goals per quarter. Prioritise your projects and tasks by focusing on a few projects each week and 3-5 tasks per day. Batch similar tasks to work for efficiently. And concentrate on one task at a time to stop multi-tasking!

TIP #2 PRIORITISE SELF-CARE

2 years ago, I reached another cycle of complete burn-out after years of working 60+ hour weeks, late nights and weekends. I was physically and mentally exhausted and needed a break.

After recognising the pattern of working myself into burn-out, I decided to make significant changes.

I started by making the extreme and completely out of character decision to close my business for 2 months. To do – absolutely nothing. This ultimately led to me overhauling my lifestyle, transitioning my career and business model.

So, instead of waiting until you hit the point of burn-out, what can you do now to overcome and prevent overwhelm?

First off, if you’re already overwhelmed, the immediate priority is to take a break or some time out. Disconnect from work and switch off technology for the weekend. Take regular breaks throughout your working day. Get some fresh air and make some time to be still, present and breathe. Move your body regularly to burn-off any stress. If it’s available or needed, book a holiday and take some extended time off.

You’ll be amazed how rejuvenated and energised you’ll feel just by stopping for a while.

The one change I made that’s had the most significant impact on breaking my ongoing battle with burn-out? Committing to and scheduling time for regular self-care.

Longer term, you need to prioritise and plan self-care to manage stress and avoid overwhelm. For me, self-care means a regular morning routine of exercise and meditation, eating and sleeping well, putting limits on my working hours and making time for fun.

What does self-care look like to you? And how often are you prioritising those activities right now?

TIP #3 SET BOUNDARIES

Often, my clients express frustration at ‘having to’ complete projects they don’t want to do. Or, they dread attending events they’ve already said yes to and wonder why they accepted in the first place.

These tasks or commitments drain your energy. You struggle to get motivated enough to complete them. Saying yes out of obligation or prioritising other people’s agenda’s over your own needs creates stress and overwhelm. And it takes time away from the important work you really want to do.

Setting boundaries, respecting your own time and energy and honouring what’s important to you are crucial to avoiding overwhelm.

How do you do this? By saying NO.

Read this article to learn how to effectively say no and set boundaries.

TIP #4 LET GO OF CONTROL

Over a decade ago in my corporate consulting career, I was promoted to my first management role in my mid-20’s. At that stage, I hadn’t developed the leadership skills required to effectively lead others. As a high-achieving perfectionist, I held high expectations for myself and my team. And I was a micro-manager, believing no-one could complete tasks to my standards.

As a result, I found it difficult to let go and delegate. My workload increased, my development stagnated and my team became frustrated. Eventually, I worked myself into burn-out.

Shortly after launching my first business, I found I was working longer hours than I ever had in the corporate world. Yet I refused to hire help and continued to do everything myself! My pursuit for perfection and inability to let go led to significant stress, ongoing overwhelm and eventually, a repeating cycle of burn-out.

You must learn how to let go of control, ask for help and delegate if you want to improve time management, maintain a sustainable workload and avoid overwhelm.

Read this article to find out exactly how to let go of control at work.

TIP #5 BEING VS DOING

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in my battle with burn-out is the importance of balancing the ‘being’ and ‘doing’.

I’m naturally a doer. Someone who always takes action, works hard and follows through on my goals. However, until I reached the point of exhaustion 2 years ago, I’d never actually stopped and taken the time to contemplate life before.

And this is what happens when you’re a high-achieving action-taker. You become so focused on the ‘doing’ (planning, working, checking items off a to-do list, achieving goals) that you forget to take the time to enjoy the present moment. To just BE.

To start, ‘being’ is about being present. Taking time out to rest, celebrate your achievements and reflect on your successes and learnings. What’s happening right now.

Additionally, ‘being’ means connecting to your purpose and who you are. Understanding your ‘why’ behind each goal. Knowing what’s truly important and making decisions based on your needs.

Finally, as well as focusing on the actions you take to reach the end goal, pay attention to who you are being. The person you’re growing into and who you are becoming on the path to achieving your desires.

Balancing the ‘being’ and ‘doing’ creates a greater sense of fulfillment in your life and work. And it reduces overwhelm and prevents burn-out.

TIP #6 POWER OF CHOICE

Lately, I’ve been feeling completely overwhelmed. I’m balancing a growing business, part-time studies and planned my wedding in less than 8 weeks. Add to that the emotional toll of a parent battling a serious illness and other challenges you can’t prepare for. Life quickly becomes overwhelming.

Recently, it all became too much. I was overwhelmed by everything I had to do.

After giving myself the time and space to reflect on this, here’s what I realised. All this overwhelm is coming from ME. The pressure I’m putting on myself.

And whilst I can’t always control the challenges life throws at me, I have the power to choose how I react to these circumstances.

I can choose to get stressed and overwhelmed. Or to come from a place of fun, ease and lightness. I can choose to worry about checking items off a to-do list. Or, to let go of my need to control and let things happen. I can choose to concentrate so much on future focused outcomes that I miss out on the joy of the present moment. Or, enjoy what’s happening right now.

After all, life’s about the journey, not the destination.

Overcoming overwhelm is about reframing your thoughts. And the power of choice. What do you choose?

Final thoughts…

These strategies helped me manage stress, overcome overwhelm at work and finally beat my battle with burn-out. And they’ve helped my clients and I successfully create better balance in our personal and professional lives.

I hope by sharing my story, I can show you it’s entirely possible to shift your mindset, ingrained behaviours and old patterns of working. And inspire you to make changes in your career too.

 

Need help overcoming overwhelm at work or to navigate your professional career? Click HERE to book a free 30 minute consult and find out how coaching with me can help you!

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.