5 Simple Ways to Not Be Overwhelmed and Drained by Your Work

by Henrik Edberg


Image by TheeErin (license).

.“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
Bertrand Russell

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
John Lubbock

Maintaining a balance in life is perhaps harder today than ever. Demands in school or at work can push down on you. Information is flooding like a never-ending river into life. The opportunities to explore different things have never been so abundant.

If you don’t set limits and work in a balanced way you can become drained, overworked and in the end even burn out for quite some time.

So what can you do about this serious challenge? Well, I do not have all the answers.

But I have some. I have found a couple of things that work well for me. If I do not do them regularly I tend to become cranky, feel drained and my thoughts tend to become more pessimistic. But when I stick with these habits – which is fortunately most of the time by now – I can maintain a balance that allows me to do good work and feel good.

1. Set your clear boundaries for the day.

This is extremely important, at least for me. I have to have limits to properly balance work with relaxation.

So I do not work after 7 o clock in the evenings. I do not work before 8 o clock in the morning.

I also recommend finding a balance within the work hours. Take breaks during your day to stay sharp and to have energy for the evenings and weekends too. I usually work for about 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break per hour. During that break I get away from the computer and do something different like going out for fresh air, eating something or watching half an episode of the Simpsons.

I could work more each day. But working without breaks except for lunch tends to make the quality of my work to suffer pretty quickly. You may not able to take breaks like that at your job, but take the breaks you can where you are.

Since I work from home it can in its own way be hard to keep away from working further into the evening. There is no office or school to leave.

Since I have the fortune to have two computers I use the one I am writing on right now for work. It is powered down by 7 o clock or earlier. And then it stays shut off until the next morning. This way I draw a boundary that helps me to stick to my work schedule for about 95% of the time.

2. Do not work on weekends.

I try to stay away from the usual impressions and routines during the weekend. I usually take one media- and internet free day. I rarely check my emails on Saturdays or Sundays.

Instead I spend time with my girlfriend, friends, family, a good book or movie or I do some other fun activity.

This relaxes and recharges me. By having strict limits like I have described so far in this article and by doing different activates during the rest periods compared to the work periods I am being kind to myself and so I can most often avoid the grey zone.

When you are in the grey zone you are basically thinking and worrying about work when you are at home or you having a day off. Or you think about your home life and challenges there when you are at work.

Avoid the grey zone. It sucks the life out of you.

3. Handle the 3 fundamentals of energy in a good way.

If you have read any of my books you have probably heard about these 3 fundamentals. They are quite obvious but if you manage them well then life and work become a lot easier and lighter to handle.

The three fundamentals are: getting enough sleep, eating well and getting enough exercise.

If I do not eat well or get enough exercise in week I tend to become more tense and worried. I have less energy. I find it harder to make decisions and to take action.

If I do not get enough sleep I feel more stressed, thinking clearly becomes harder and negative thoughts tend to pop up more frequently in my head.

Sticking with the two first tips in this article can help you to get more sleep because it is easier to get sleep well when you are not stuck in the grey zone. Getting your regular exercise – walks to and from work or school is a simple way to get more movement and fresh air into your life – does in my experience also help with getting quality sleep.

So be honest with yourself and take a look at how you are managing your own three fundamentals. If you find something you want to improve then take a small action to get that ball rolling today.

4. Listen to yourself.

When you become more irritable, start to feel drained, tired and creativity plummets listen to that. Do not plod on straight into the brick wall.

Instead, schedule more time to take care of yourself. Instead of running off with your regular routine after school or work, take the time you have for yourself and spend much of it on yourself. Just stay in bed with a book for the evening. Or go out for quiet walk in nature. Do something you know relaxes and recharges you.

No one will reward you for running into that wall and feeling even worse or even becoming burned out. Be kind to yourself, take care of yourself and prioritize your health to be able to continue to give value to your world in the way you do at work and in your personal relationships.

5. Ask yourself questions that bring clarity to your work.

Regularly reevaluate how you are working.

One good way to do so is to ask yourself questions that bring you clarity, help you focus on the most important things and perhaps to find a new and healthier perspective. Questions that snap you out of busy work, checking your email for the tenth time today and that make you pause for a second and look at how you spend your life.

  • Will doing this matter 5 years from now? Or 5 months from now? Or even 5 weeks from now?
  • Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • What are my top 4 priorities in life? How am I balancing them in my life right now? What is one thing I can do to find a healthier balance in how I spend my time and energy?

As always, you do not have do any of these things perfectly. I don’t. But by taking small steps, by increasing the percentage of time when you do the right thing or take the more positive action your life will change for the better.

If you found this article helpful, then please share it with someone else by using the buttons below. Thank you! =)



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{ 22 comments }

Glynis March 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

As simple as they are, your clarity questions can really make me thing when I’m floundering in my daily routine. Excellent!

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:36 am

I’m glad that they are working well for you too! :)

Jaky Astik March 9, 2012 at 3:09 am

Overwhelmed is a kind of thing that happens when you mind doesn’t focus on the work and looks for reasons and distractions. We’ve seen inventors and writers and more working tirelessly towards completing their stuff and yet being the most productivite people on planet. It works the other way around for energy. Have. Do. Be. That’s one good key to not get overwhelmed by work :)

Great post Henrick! As always!

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:36 am

Thank you very much!

TheHappyOne March 9, 2012 at 6:14 am

Dear Henrik,
Thanks for reminding me that I need to give time to myself, as I tend to get sucked in and charged by the work that excites me, to the extent of draining myself. And the first Quote sums up the stress levels quite well.
Thanks

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

You’re very welcome! And yes, that quote summed up being overworked in a way that I recognized in myself too.

Justlife March 9, 2012 at 10:39 am

I think we often feel overwhelmed because we want to finish ALL the work at once. But we have only a pair of hands, a brain, limited energy and time. Sometimes it’s important to admit that we just can’t do it all. Recognize that taking rest is a must. And as you mentioned, it affects the quality of our work too. Thank you so much for the great practical tips :)

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:40 am

That is very true. But we must let things take time and let ourselves rest to be able to do quality work month after month.

Dominica Applegate March 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Hey there! I love to read how others have come to the same conclusion as me: work is important, but oftentimes overrated. Balance is key. For years I spent so much time “not” working and my financed suffered. I finally had to change my “shoulds” to “musts” and have learned the value of hard work the past few years. I used to wonder how successful people were successful. Now I know it is because they set goals, created plans, and took action. They worked hard but they also had boundries. I’m still learning. I love your blog. Thank you so much for posting positive things!

Warmly,

Dominica Applegate

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

Thank you very much for those enthusiastic and kind words! :)

Noch Noch | be me. be natural. March 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

indeed – I keep my computer off on sundays :)
Noch Noch

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

Smart choice. :)

Camilla March 11, 2012 at 8:20 am

We definitely need to give time to ourselves, to our passions we have and to the possibility of discovering new passions.

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:42 am

Absolutely. When one is overworked there is little to no time or energy left over for new things or for the non-work things we love.

Peter Turley March 12, 2012 at 12:15 am

Great Post Henrik! I can’t agree more; particularly with your comments on the importance of exercise and healthy eating with regard to your energy levels. It’s amazing how vitalized you feel when you engage in regular moderate exercise. Thanks for the wisdom!
Peter.

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

Thank you! Yes, those two basic things do make a huge difference.

Helen Graves March 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Thanks for your reminders, Henrik.

I’ve found that once I sit down at the computer, I can get sucked in and forget to take a breath.

So as part of setting boundaries, it’s important for me to engage in spiritual practice first thing. It keeps me grounded in my true Source of happiness and prosperity, and fortifies me to face the day ahead with grace.

Agatha Tefora March 15, 2012 at 5:25 am

I am trying not to turn my computer on as soon as I arrive home from work. I noticed, I sleep late because of this and it does not do any good on my productivity.

Niki March 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm

This is very useful. Those 3 fundamentals are very important! they keep you healthy… and never forget about you! Always make time for you and what you love and enjoy!

melanie March 18, 2012 at 1:08 am

This is a life saver for me. I’m extremely burned out. For years I overworked myself, never took vacations, worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week. I can go on and on. And then I ran blogs that had to do with my same field of work after my regular work hours. I have been trying to cut back over the last year and especially since maybe last Sept, but I just can’t get back my mojo. I am irritable, tired, feel depressed and extremely burned out while at the same time deep inside I love my work. I need to work harder on boundaries. I also need to take the breaks-I just get into the groove while I am work, get lost in my work that I love, and then I notice that I haven’t eaten. It’s so hard when you really love your job, so you become a workaholic. I just wonder how long it will be until I will start to feel better because I feel such a physical and mental exhaustion that I can’t overcome. I will try to be more strict with boundaries and have some off time, sleep better, etc. I’m just afraid that I will never get over the burnout.

Archie March 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Dear Henrik,
I have been reading your posts for sometime now and I find them really useful. Ofcourse, the best results can be achieved when we act on it and I have been trying to take a few advice at a time and make a change :) . I would like to mention that the best part about your posts is the quotes. I have always been in love with what people say about some situations and you seem to base your writing on them.Love it!

Huy March 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm

So true about taking breaks during your work. Especially when you’re in flow or you’re in a determined mindset. You don’t want to take a break. You could work forever and wouldn’t stop. That’s a good mindset to have when you want to accomplish something but without balance, it could take a toll on your physically. This would lead to things like not enough sleep, skipping meals, not getting enough water which is very unhealthy. If you know how to manage your energy and time with a determined mindset, productivity will go off the roof. Good post Henrik:)

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