6 Ways to Reduce Stress and Overwhelm and regain Control and Focus

The work lives of Australian employees are becoming more demanding and more challenging at a never-ending pace. And when personal and family needs are taken into consideration too, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. 

Typically, employees work harder and put in long hours as they cope up with the ever-growing workloads. They buy into the corporate culture that views “being busy” as a badge of honour. This is evident in a study conducted by Deloitte researchers, as 65% of executives rated “the overwhelmed employee” as an “urgent” or “important” trend.

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“Information overload and the always-connected 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement”, concluded Deloitte researchers. [1]

A report has found Australian workplaces are amongst the worst in the world regarding employee engagement. 71% of employees are not engaged, and 15% are actively disengaged. Moreover, the actively disengaged employees cost the country around $54.8 billion (AU) per year. [3]

“In Australia and around the world, our inability to create psychologically safe workplaces means we are effectively stuck in the Dark Ages of employee engagement,” said Dr Marc White, CEO and President of Canada’s Work Wellness and Disability Prevention Institute, in his speech at the 2018 Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association (ARPA) national conference in Sydney. [2]

Psychologically safe workplaces are vital to employees health and business success. How many of the following signs are showing up in your team?

  • people watch out for each other and can ask someone if they’re ok

  • managers and teams understand mental health and openly talk about it

  • people know about things they can do to build resilience for challenging times at work and home

  • staff with mental health concerns seek help early

  • team with mental health issues are supported in their recovery

These are just some signs that indicate your workplace is psychologically healthy [4]. How did you do?

Sometimes it can be challenging to remove increased workload. However, when our team feels stressed and overwhelmed, their minds become fogging, and negative talk can grow. Resulting in reduced effectiveness and productivity and adding to the pressure and overwhelm.

If you see anyone struggling with overwhelm or stress, here are some tips that can help them regain control and become more engaged.

Three things that you can do INSIDE the office

1. Get it out of your head


Ask yourself the question: “What one or two things, if taken off my plate, would alleviate 80% of the stress that I feel right now?” This question can help you pinpoint the primary reason why you are overwhelmed. You will still have the accountability of these tasks, but you are just going to break it down into more manageable pieces. 

In our previous article, we discussed few more techniques on how to regain control and clarity.

This includes:

  • brain dump using spider diagram

  • strategic to-do list using Eisenhower Matrix

  • the secret sauce in creating a routine

Read more here

2. Get up and move

Now that you have gotten it out of your head, it’s time to move! Put in a 5-minute break every 1.5 work hours. Getting up and moving around for a bit makes a significant difference. You can get a glass of water or stretch your legs. This will allow your mind to recover a bit before you start using it again.

Our brain is a muscle. If we work without giving it time to recover or breathe, we will become mentally exhausted by the end of the day. We have to build our mental stamina too so we can perform at our highest. (A bit like reps at the gym!)

3. The secret breathing technique

Scientific studies have shown that controlling your breath can help to manage stress and stress-related conditions. Many people use their breathing to help promote relaxation and reduce stress.[5] Here’s a simple technique that the Navy uses to reduce the stress impact on your nervous system, it’s also a way to slow down a racing mind:

  1. Breathe in for four seconds (big belly breathes)

  2. Hold for four seconds

  3. Then, breathe out for four seconds

  4. Hold for four seconds

  5. Repeat at least four times


It’s easy to remember, right? Four - Four – Four - Four - then Four Times. Check how you feel before and after using this technique. Is your mind a lot calmer now? 


Three things that you can do OUTSIDE the office

An overwhelmed team member may take their job home without realising it. They feel like they have too much to do with so little time. They are consistently worrying.

Work may be stressful, but when employees are supposed to be relaxing—from the minute they walk out of the office until the following day when they come back—they often let job stress seep in instead of making the most of their non-work lives. There are many reasons they do this, but there are more important reasons why they can and should learn to stop. 

Take a moment to do something creative, engaging, unusual, or fun. Here are some ways in which you can do that:

1. Art therapy through adult colouring books

Ground-breaking research in 2005 proved anxiety levels dropped when an adult is colouring books. It has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus and bring more mindfulness. [6]

“Just like meditation, colouring also allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate free-floating anxiety. It can be particularly effective for people who aren’t comfortable with more creatively expressive forms of art,” said Marygrace Berberian, a certified art therapist and the Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at NYU.[7]

#NationalColoringBookDay

2. Pick up a book

According to a study from the University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress by as much as 68% in 6 minutes, and it works faster than other relaxation methods.[8]

When we read, not only are we improving memory and empathy, but research has shown that it makes us feel better and more positive too. Science has shown that reading has some excellent health benefits, including helping with depression, cutting stress, and more.[9]

National Book Lovers Day #NationalBookLoversDay

3. What do you do to relax?

Relaxation is a state where you feel calm and can manage your stress or anxiety.

Relaxation reduces stress and the symptoms of mental health conditions. It also has other related health benefits, including:

  • lowering your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate

  • reducing muscle tension and chronic pain

  • improving concentration and mood

  • reducing fatigue

  • reducing anger and frustration

  • boosting confidence to handle problems

There are many relaxation techniques that you can incorporate into your day to day life, such as: 

  • muscle relaxation or breathing

  • visualisation, where you create a mental image of a calming place for you

  • deep breathing, where you refocus your attention on your breathing

  • hypnosis

  • meditation

  • mindfulness

  • exercise

What do you do to relax? Find a relaxation technique that works for you and make it part of your daily routine, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes a day. [10]

National Relaxation Day #NationalRelaxationDay

So that’s six ways to deal with overwhelm. It may be difficult to start trying each until they become new habits. Try it out for a few weeks, and you’ll begin to notice a change in how you feel. The sense of overwhelm will fade and, hopefully, disappear.

Learn more about creating a psychologically safe workplace here.  Don’t forget to follow us on our social media pages.  Sources

  1. https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/human-capital/articles/overwhelmed-employee-simplify-environment.html

  2. https://www.kochiesbusinessbuilders.com.au/gallup-report-finds-australian-employees-stressed-and-disengaged/

  3. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/166355/helping-australia-stressed-workers.aspx

  4. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/wellbeing/workplace-wellbeing/

  5. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breathing-to-reduce-stress

  6. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-relieve-job-stress-after-work-4144874

  7. https://www.60plusclub.com.au/colouring-books/5-health-benefits-linked-adult-colouring-books/

  8. https://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/womens-health/the-surprising-activity-that-reduces-stress-by-68-in-six-minutes/news-story/0b9a5c20cebeb150cfca8569171f209b

  9. https://www.businessinsider.com/14-reasons-why-reading-is-good-for-your-health-2016-12

  10. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/relaxation

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