Do you feel overwhelmed by your workload?
Overwhelm is a warning sign that you must take notice of, for your own health and wellbeing. No job, in my mind, is worth your mental and emotional health and wellbeing. However, I think that overwhelm is something that each one of us will face and move through during our work lives.
Overwhelm and dealing with it early on is an opportunity for you to strengthen your boundary skills, communicate effectively with your Boss and other colleagues and set appropriate priorities.
What causes you to feel overwhelmed by your workload?
In my experience, overwhelm is triggered by many and various things, including but not limited to:
- Volume of work;
- Tight deadlines;
- Un-cooperative, undermining colleagues;
- Managers and Bosses who choose not to listen when you ask for help;
- A work culture that punishes you for making mistakes or saying 'no';
- Difficulties at home;
- Loss of a loved one;
- Domestic Violence;
- A rocky relationship;
- General anxiety;
- plus many more causes.
It can be tough to face the fact that you're not able to deal with everything in front of you and it can erode your self-confidence. This can lead to depression, further anxiety and sometimes it can result in total burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout happens when you mentally and emotionally can no longer take on another thing and your 'bucket' is full. These are the times when fatigue shows up, depression, tears fall before you know what is happening, you lack motivation, you get sick for no reason, you find yourself sitting there looking at all that you have to do and being unable to make a start on even the simplest tasks plus other signs such as feeling deep resentment and anger towards anyone who asks you to take on even the smallest task.
Beware - if you do not heed the warning signs of burn out, you risk paying a heavy price.
Burnout is a very serious health and safety risk!
Do not take these signs lightly.
Let me tell you what happened to me...
A number of years ago, I was working in a role that had an extremely heavy workload and even though I went to my Supervisor repeatedly to advise that there was just too much for me to get done in a day, I was met with a response that more or less told me to "stop being silly, you can handle it. What are you talking about?" I felt lost for support and it was a situation that went from bad to worse despite my repeated attempts to ask for more support and help with managing the workload.
In an effort to get more done by the deadlines, I started coming in early, leaving late and working through my lunchtimes - I rarely allowed myself to have the luxury of lunch. I worked my butt off for that role.
After some time and a few difficult situations with other people, I began to fatigue. My body, my brain, everything decided to check out on me.
I remember one day I was asked for some statistics about something that would have been easily recalled for anyone who was fresh, however, I had a total blank. I couldn't think, it was like my brain said, "it's too much. Sorry, we're closed now."
I floundered in the meeting and thankfully someone else was able to answer for me. I was mortified at the time.
During the months that I had been telling people that the workload was overwhelming, I began to write down and track exactly the work I was doing by the hour. I was so glad I had done that, because when the day came and my brain froze and I could no longer recall two minutes previous, this tracking became vital to substantiating the stress I was under on a daily basis. I ended up at the Doctor and I was a mess. I do remember taking some kind of questionnaire but I cannot tell you want it was as it is still vague in my mind.
My Doctor put me on immediate stress-leave which resulted in a Work-Cover claim as I was clearly unable to function. In fact, I ended up in counselling and was unable to clear the fog in my mind for over a week after that event.
This lead to a formal investigation of the role and it was decided that it was too dangerous for me to return to that role. This is a very serious Health and Safety issue and should not be taken lightly.
I eventually returned to the office environment in a new role, however, the fall out was that I had to deal with the perceptions of people and feeling a sense of failing in my own professionalism.
What this situation taught me...
I learned how important it is to listen to the warning signs that you are experiencing overwhelm in your role. I also learned that placing effective boundaries in the workplace is vital for your mental and emotional health and that your Supervisor has a duty of care to listen to what you are saying and assist you to manage the workload appropriately.
If you are experiencing overwhelm in your role, I encourage you to discuss the matter with your Supervisor/Manager as soon as possible and work towards a positive solutions together.
Once management are aware of the excessive workload they are in a better position to address the situation by considering employing more staff.
Stay safe in the workplace!