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Thursday
Dec212017

« 13. How to stop feeling overwhelmed by work »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".

Low levels of emotional intelligence can contribute to making workplaces more stressful than they need to be.

In contrast, having high emotional intelligence skills can help individuals and groups cope with the pressure and stress of a busy, tense and demanding workplace, the pressure of multiple responsibilities, and the conflicting demands of high workloads.

"Stress" is an emotion. "Feeling pressured", "feeling overwhelmed", and "feeling tense" are all emotions too. Handling a high workload can be a very emotionally charged experience requiring high levels of emotional intelligence and emotional resilience.

This article will examine how we can be very busy and handle all our many responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed, and while staying content, productive and emotionally healthy.

Here are some emotional intelligence tips on how to stop feeling overwhelmed by a high workload.

Emotional intelligence tip 1: Sort the demands into areas

Stress and feeling overwhelmed can occur when we feel stretched across too many different activities, responsibilities and tasks. By separating the demands into different areas it may reduce the feelings of overwhelm.

For example, much of my life has been very full. What I have found really useful in managing this is to allocate the load into different areas that I can manage separately. I find this stops me from getting overwhelmed by how much there is to do, as I can move from one section to another instead of seeing it all in one overwhelming mass.

For example, here are the four sections I moved between at one stage of my life:

  1. Running a full time business.
  2. Being a voluntary CEO of a large not-for-profit organisation.
  3. My family responsibilities, including having a frail elderly mum.
  4. Managing a 6.5 acre property.

When I saw my workload whittled down into these four areas of responsibilities, they didn't overwhelm me. It also kept me focussed and on track.

In contrast, if I don't have these groups, I end up looking at one big, incredibly long to-do list and freak out.

I still separate my areas. I presently have my four main work areas, and a fifth minor one, written out and stuck on my computer to remind me.

What are the different areas of your life - can you split them up to make it seem more manageable? It is an essential emotional intelligence skill. Separating out demands helps many people to manage their emotions.

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Emotional intelligence tip 2: Do the priorities in each area.

Once you have your separate areas of work or responsibilities identified, your next step is to be able to identify your priority task in each one and do only the priorities.

Each day I identify the number one priority in each area and do that. I try to do the priorities first before any unimportant nice-to-do things. Although these nice-to-do things can be pleasant they don't help manage my workload. Doing the priorities stops the stress from building up.

I remember the days I used to do the nice, small things first and then feel enormous pressure as I still had the priorities to tend to. Hopefully those days are over and I now have higher levels of emotional intelligence.

Do you attend to your priorities? Are you doing your priorities? Do you even stop to ask yourself what they are? Knowing your priorities is being emotionally intelligent.

Emotional intelligence tip 3: Change priorities at any moment.

Be prepared to change priorities at any moment. Be flexible, your priorities are not set in concrete. It is impossible to always know in advance what the priorities are. I therefore decide what they are each day, (or even each hour).

  • First I decide which of the four sections is the key priority for that day.
  • Then I decide what the priority is in that section.
  • Then I do it.
  • Once done I check out and move on to one of the other three sections. This can be fun - a bit like playing hop-scotch! However, the priorities can change at any moment.

For example, you may find one of your children suddenly gets admitted to hospital and all priorities are altered. Or, an urgent request comes from your boss and you switch to that. Or, you find the media ran a negative story on your business that morning. For me, I would plan to plant trees on my property only to find the weather was too bad and I'd have to do something else. This is how life is.

  • Be prepared to change priorities at any moment.
  • A willingness to re-evaluate very often is vital.
  • Rigidity only builds stress.

How flexible are you? Are you clinging to your plan? Be prepared to change priorities at any moment. This is emotional intelligence in action.

Emotional intelligence tip 4: Be active in staying healthy.

Being healthy is so important in managing a busy life and responsibilities. It is so much harder if you have a headache or flu or backache to avoid becoming stressed. So take care of yourself: your children deserve it, your colleagues need it and you will be happier because of it.

  • Do what you need to cultivate your health. The busier you are the more important it is that you eat healthy food - no junk - all good food.
  • The busier you are the more determined you must be to fit in exercise too.
  • Also the harder you work the more you must clear your mind of the junk and stress.

For example, I make sure that I nearly always put time aside for meditation each day. When I meditate my stress levels diminish and my energy levels rise. I work more productively when I meditate and do it with a greater sense of calm and enjoyment. I have more quality in my life when I meditate. If I don't meditate the stress builds. It is hardly a waste of time then, is it?

Are you determined enough to invest in your own health? Desiring work-life balance requires you to take care of your body, mind and spirit. Are you taking enough care of your health? Emotional intelligence can be applied to all areas of your life. Just because you feel tired and can't be bothered to exercise doesn't mean you don't do it.

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Emotional intelligence tip 5: Incline towards positivity.

Incline your mind towards gratitude and positivity. Negative emotions, such as resentment, frustration and anger only add to stress - they do not help reduce it.

Ditch negativity, complaining and anger; they simply increase the stress load. Instead, on a daily basis and in all that you do, train yourself to incline towards positivity and gratitude.

For example, last night I was having to work for the government - not through choice but because the government requires all businesses, big or small, to do lots of administration for tax purposes. It was getting late and I was still slogging through it. Given it was the last day of the tax year it had to be the priority that day.

I heard myself starting to mutter about stupid red tape and complaining about tax policies and how unfair they were on small business. Then I stopped.

Why was I doing that? My complaining was going to make no difference to whether I had to do it or not. The government wasn't going to alter the taxation rules or regulations just because I complained about them. So why get negative? All it was doing was making myself agitated and more stressed. My complaining was hurting me and my husband as he was near by. Do not feed your feelings of being overwhelmed by more negative feelings. It is hardly emotionally intelligent, is it?

I laughed and appreciated that at least my business was still going strong, I did have money to bank, and I was sitting in front of a lovely log fire on a very cold night.

Even doing the tax can be a lovely thing if you let it and incline towards gratitude.

Do not feed your feelings of being overwhelmed by more negative feelings. It is typical of low emotional intelligence.

Do you incline your mind towards gratitude? It could make it much easier to manage your responsibilities, and it's a beneficial way to develop your emotional intelligence.

How high is your emotional intelligence & emotional resilience?

There is so much that you can do to develop your emotional resilience and the E.I. Institute has a number of options to help you:

Worried that you don't have enough emotional resilience and that you need to develop your emotional intelligence more? Our unique, practical, 5-star emotional intelligence coaching package is available for you and includes the opportunity to have your emotional intelligence assessed. Boost your resilience now. Find out more here.