If someone is feeling overwhelmed, it means that something is too much, or almost too much, for them to manage. While it’s possible to be overwhelmed by good things (i.e. love or gratitude), it is just as easily possible to be overwhelmed by tasks, chores, and problems.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people feeling overwhelmed because work-from-home has become the new norm and so the lines between work and personal lives are no longer clearly delineated,” says relationship coach Aileen Santos. “From my personal experience, people can cope with any amount of stressful work — as long as work is the only thing that is stressing them out. But when personal issues get added to the mix, that is when they buckle.”
This is why when someone says they are feeling overwhelmed, we should not ignore or minimize their pronouncement. “Don’t just look at a team member’s workload, because we don’t know what they are going through behind the scenes,” says Aileen. “We don’t see the triggered traumas, stress, or fatigue that they are experiencing; the workload could just be the last straw.”
Aileen Santos, Relationship Coach
“When a team member starts verbalizing that something is happening at home, you need to pay close attention because that could lead them to becoming overwhelmed.”
Implications of being overwhelmed
When someone is feeling overwhelmed, it can affect their physical and mental health, along with their productivity. They feel physically ill or fatigued without knowing why, start withdrawing from friends and family, have trouble focusing or completing even simple tasks, and might even start to develop mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. All these might just compel affected employees to leave the company, which will end up costing the business even more money. “Millennial and Gen Z employees are now prioritizing their well-being and work-life balance above everything else, even salary, and they are willing to quit their jobs if they feel it is bad for their health,” Aileen reminds.
For those in personal relationships, not addressing signs of overwhelm can make the bonds even more strained and fractured.
What to do
It’s important that team leaders and loved ones take steps to support someone who is feeling overwhelmed to avoid bigger physical and mental health problems later on. If someone you love or work with are showing signs of struggling to cope, here are some things you can do:
- Listen. “All companies are struggling during the pandemic, so you might have already gotten used to hearing about work stress,” shares Aileen. “But when a team member starts verbalizing that something is happening at home, you need to pay close attention because that could lead them to becoming overwhelmed.”
- Take the load off. A person can only perform their best if they are not overloaded with work, so team leaders and supervisors need to constantly be aware of what each member is doing and redistribute the load when they feel it is becoming too much.
To step in, start by bringing up observable behavior, then explain that you are redistributing work because you care for the employee’s well-being and not because you do not think they can no longer do the work well. An example would be :“I notice that you have been missing a lot of deadlines already, and there are more coming up. I am concerned that you are taking on too much and it will affect your health, so I’m going to reassign this and that to ease your load.”
For partners and spouses, make sure your relationship at home is a partnership. “Share the load at home — don’t expect your partner to be a breadwinner and at the same time manage the household, while you just focus on your work,” Aileen explains. “Both of you have to support and take care of each other.”
- If the person refuses help, put your foot down. It is not uncommon for a person who is struggling to be in denial about their situation. “There are people whose sense of identity is based on helping others, so they do not recognize that they are the ones who need help,” Aileen points out. “They are more attuned to the feelings of others than to their own.” If this is the case for your loved one, it might be time for some tough love. “Encourage them to rest, even if it means resorting to tactics such as paying for a hotel staycation even before they agree to it,” Aileen suggests.
- Get the help of a mental health professional. Psychologists and Wellbeing Coaches can help overwhelmed people address past trauma or teach them ways to cope with stress. Or they can just offer an unbiased and listening ear to someone who needs to express struggles.
“The companies that are doing well during the pandemic are ones who are prioritizing their employees’ well-being, such as hiring the services of a mental health care provider or even training and reassigning personable team leaders to become in-house mental health champions,” Aileen shares.
On the other hand, if a loved one is resistant to the idea of seeking professional help, or does not have the time for a session, take it upon yourself to learn what you can do for them. ““There are so many resources available now, from hotlines to teletherapy, so take advantage of those,” Aileen instructs. “If you are seeing signs that your partner is feeling overwhelmed, take the initiative to research or call a hotline to find out what ways you can help them.”
- Lastly, look after yourself. You cannot help someone who is feeling overwhelmed if you yourself are facing struggles of your own. “Self-care is self-preservation,” Aileen says.
So look after your own well-being, such as taking mental health days, eating right, sleeping well, exercising, and finding ways to destress; being calm and relaxed will make you more able to help someone else.
The MindNation Care Now Plan is customized to support an employee’s holistic health. Services include access to 24/7 teletherapy sessions with psychologists and WellBeing Coaches, Group Support Sessions, free audio and downloadable mental health resources, and so much more. Partner with us to build happier, healthier, and more productive teams. Visit http://www.mindnation.com to learn more about our services.