Life, even just dealing with day-to-day responsibilities, can be challenging enough. Add additional stress or fatigue due to work or studying to the pot, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.
Becoming overwhelmed can be caused by a number of factors – whether it’s that you are pushing yourself too hard (perfectionism), impending deadlines or demands (stress and anxiety) or emotional drainage through life events. Sometimes the stress can just get too much and lead to burnout, sometimes, however, you won’t even realise you’re overwhelmed.
Here are the signs that something’s not quite right…
- Persistent fatigue that hangs around even when you’re well rested.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Feeling alienated from the people around you and lacking engagement with your work/studies.
- A feeling of inadequacy and inefficiency when it comes to your role.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, there’s a good chance you’re being overwhelmed by work or studying. Fortunately, there are things you can do to recharge. Here are the best ways to unplug, rewire and get refocused on your life…
Create time limits
One of the main causes of feeling overwhelmed is the sense that a task is too big to tackle. You can end up staring at your screen for hours, without being productive. Instead, try to dedicate blocks of time to your tasks and stick to them. For example, setting yourself hour-long chunks to study in your spare time will be more effective than sitting in front of your laptop all evening alternating between studying and Netflix.
At work, you can experiment with the Pomodoro technique, which involves 25 minutes of focused work, then 5 minutes of rest to let the brain wander and relax. Repeat this in blocks and see your productivity fly.
Take a cold shower (or a hot bath)
If you’re burnout or feeling overwhelmed, a quick and easy way to blast the brain back into concentration mode is a cold shower. Cold exposure can increase the levels of noradrenaline (responsible for alertness) and reduces the level of serotonin in brain regions other than the brainstem, which reduces sleepiness.
If you’re ve been experiencing burnt-out longer term, a hot bath with 200-400g of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) can help reduce your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and when it gets built up in your body it makes it difficult to switch the brain off and stop anxiety. Cortisol levels can also impact sleep, which then has a run-on effect on your wellbeing.
Don’t try and be the office hero. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Likewise, with studying, you can always contact people on similar courses to you and get assistance. People are generally happy to help – and by suffering in isolation you may be making things worse.
Go off grid
Technology makes it easy to burnout. By reminding us of our commitments, showing us all of our friends and colleague’s social lives and generally moving at a million kilometers an hour, technology itself can be overwhelming. When you get home from work, or when you’ve finished your allotted study time, try to completely unplug from technology for a while. That means phones and laptops – but you can still allow yourself to watch TV.
Do something you really enjoy
Whether it’s reading a book, going for a swim, painting or cooking, performing a task you enjoy gives your brain room to recover. Allow your thoughts to drift and enjoy the task you’re doing rather than thinking about other things. Unfortunately, it can be hard to allow your brain to switch off – which is why we’d recommend doing a task that requires physical activity. Getting physically active forces your brain to focus on what you’re doing in order to perform.
Take a break
If things are getting too much, there’s no harm in using a few of your annual leave days as recovery. Even if you don’t book a trip, you can simply spend time doing the things you love and be around people you care about. There’s no harm in completely unwinding at times. Even if you’re studying hard for a deadline, a short holiday may be more beneficial than trying to force yourself through and not achieving anything.
Whether it’s work or study, go away, unwind and return with a renewed focus.