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.
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Mental health and Omicron
The COVID-19 Omicron variant has caused many employees to continue working from home while sick or caring for someone who is sick. While symptoms are milder compared to previous variants, those who are living with children, the elderly, or with co-morbidities have to deal with uncertainties and inconveniences that can take a toll on their mental health.
“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,” says relationship coach Aileen Santos. “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. “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,” shares Aileen.
- Take the load off. A person can only perform their best if they are not overloaded, 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. 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.
- 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.