Feeling Overwhelmed and Anxious? Try These five Resilience Skills

Imagine a workday where confidence soars, stress fades, and optimism flourishes. Now, contrast that with the all-too-familiar feeling of being overwhelmed, on the brink of burnout. In today's relentless world, we often find ourselves trapped in the latter scenario. But fear not, this article unveils five essential resilience skills that can transform your daily grind into a realm of confidence and optimism. Say goodbye to burnout and hello to a renewed sense of control and wellbbeing at work.

For some of us, feeling overwhelmed at work is part of our daily lives

Our brains are a muddle of priorities, pressures and demands that lead us to total exhaustion and a lack of confidence that seeps into all areas of our lives. Some of us can remember a time when we were confident, happy and productive. We didn’t feel judged, anxious or on edge and weren’t easily annoyed or irritable at the smallest of things. It’s a distant memory for some, but can you remember being able to stop worrying and that feeling of being totally relaxed?

If this resonates with you, I’m not a mind-reader. I’ve just been in that space of feeling totally overwhelmed at work.

Our instinct is to just disconnect and make compromises to get on and just survive. Yet, we do all this whilst putting on a positive front – the mask we show the rest of the world.

Feeling overwhelmed at work is a common experience that many of us face and it often leaves us wondering how to regain our confidence and peace of mind. There are innumerable articles that provide tips to combat this issue, but they predominantly focus on becoming more organized. However, the reality is that being organized and capable may not be the ultimate solution for everyone. Instead, it is about creating a sense of security and consistency in a constantly changing world with numerous demands.

As someone who has always been organised, it was challenging for me to acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed could be a problem for me too. I used to believe it was inherent in my DNA, but starting my own resilience training and coaching company taught me that it is possible to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

However, it’s not an easy or quick fix. When work pressures increase, it’s easy to let worries take over, blame external factors for the situation, or disconnect entirely. Acknowledging that you are feeling overwhelmed is a crucial step in the right direction towards getting back to feeling like your old self.

Let’s explore five simple resilience skills that will help you take back control and avoid feeling overwhelmed at work:

Skill 1 – Take a Tactical Breath to combat feeling overwhelmed

Stress can often result in short and shallow breathing into the top of the lungs. This not only makes you feel even more anxious, but it also activates your fight-or-flight response, which can lead to further stress. Luckily, there is a technique called tactical breathing that can help. Tactical breathing is a quick and effective way to switch off your fight-or-flight response and promote calmness and relaxation. By taking long and deep breaths into the pit of your stomach, you can quickly and easily quiet your mind. This technique is especially useful for those struggling to fall asleep at night. 

∙ Simply inhale deeply through your nose for four seconds, 

∙ hold for seven seconds, and 

∙ exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. 

Repeat this process three to four times until you achieve a deep exhale that is twice as long as the inhale. If you find it difficult to hold your breath for seven seconds, simply adjust the timing to suit your needs.

Skill 2 – Perspective

At times, it can be difficult to keep up the appearance of being in control, especially when dealing with stress and pressure. Oftentimes, these trying situations can lead to negative thoughts and even the worst possible scenario may start to feel like a reality. However, it is important to take control of these negative thoughts to avoid them taking over. 

This means considering all possible outcomes and preparing for them accordingly. There are a few key steps to take to help combat this negative thought process, starting with 

1. asking yourself what the worst outcome could be. 

2. From there, ask yourself what the best possible outcome may be and then 

3. consider what the most likely outcome is. 

By exaggerating your answers, you can come up with the most extreme scenario. With this knowledge, you can then start to plan for the most likely outcome, helping you to feel more prepared and in control.

Skill 3 – 3Cs. Focus on what you can control

It’s understandable to feel a lack of control during these extraordinary times, and it’s simply not possible to influence and control everything. The 3C’s skill will enable you to put your energy into proactive and practical action. Grab a pen and paper and create three columns:

  1. In the first column list your concerns.
  2. In the 2nd column, write down what you can influence or control about one or all of the concerns in the first column.
  3. In the third column, write down one thing you are going to commit to doing and take action!

Example 1: a concern might be the pandemic. We can’t influence it globally but what we can do is influence it individually through social distancing/self-isolation. A proactive stance might be to research on-line delivery outlets for foodstuff and making an inventory of food as and when orders need to be made.

Example 2: you might have concerns that your boss isn’t as supportive as possible. A way to proactively influence it might be to tell them how you are being affected and what you need.

Skill 4 – Focus on the good and remain positive

Biologically, our brains are wired for the negative and all this exposure to bad news and uncertainty means it can be even more challenging to focus on the good things that we are grateful for. We have to work hard to beat our natural negativity bias and grab the good. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Spend some time once a day, reflecting on the positive things or experiences that you are grateful for.
  2. Write down three things you are grateful for or that have gone well today.
  3. Write down why you are grateful for it.
  4. Focus on HOW you can get more of this good stuff in your life.

Although at first this can be tough and feel very unnatural, it’s worth persevering with.

Ways to use it:

  • After a stressful meeting or event, switch off your stress response by focusing on finding three good things about that meeting, because they will be there!
  • At the end of the working day, stop stress creeping into your personal life by thinking of 3 good things that have happened that day or three things that you are grateful for. No matter how trivial, they will be there!
  • Start remote team meetings off by ”grabbing the good”.
  • Try opening your next meeting by spending a few moments focusing on the good things that have happened that week.

Skill 5 – Stability zones

Stability Zones are the places, people, ideas, groups or things you have around you that make you feel safe, secure and confident. It’s helpful to think of them as buffers to stress against the outside world. Identify your Stability Zones, nurture them and appreciate them as they are an effective way to manage pressure and stress.

Part 1. Identify your Stability Zones. Think about the people, pets, places, things and groups you have around you. Try to think broadly and be honest. If one of your things is your favourite teddy and you’re 45, that’s ok. Stability zones are personal to you.

Part 2: Now, work out which ones you should nurture. The danger here is that you invest your time in your temporary stability zones, and you rely on something that is not always going to be there.

Finding it hard?
Stability Zones can be your “saving grace” when the pressure is on. The irony is that they are the first thing we put aside when we feel stressed.

Final thoughts

In the end, we all have bad days and feel overwhelmed, but what matters is how we deal with it. Be proactive and use the skills to challenge your thinking, remain optimistic and maintain your mood.

The strength to manage your responses during these difficult times will dramatically increase your capacity for resilience and good mental health, now and into the future. Remember:

  • Bad days will happen. Allow yourself time to see the situation objectively. Then you can respond with healthy choices that lead to better days ahead.
  • When things aren’t going to plan, it can quickly put you in a bad mood. However, it’s important to remember that it’s only temporary and you can beat it.

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