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Feeling overwhelmed? Here are five strategies that can help

Between priorities at work, at school, with family, friends and in your personal life, feeling overwhelmed can be a constant occurrence. This is especially prevalent across the healthcare space, as hospital staff work through capacity strains and talent shortages.

A recent Harvard Business Review report pulled expert insight from Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey to help busy working professionals understand why they are overwhelmed and provide strategies to help overcome it.1

Strategy 1: Pinpoint the primary source of feeling overwhelmed

Although it may seem simple, identifying the source of feeling overwhelmed requires regular reflection into ones daily life. The report notes, “ask yourself the question, ‘What one or two things, if taken off my plate would alleviate 80 percent of the stress that I feel right now?’”

Regardless if these tasks can be taken off of your plate, you have successfully located your primary source of stress and can take the necessary steps to improve or change the situation. This could include reaching out for additional support from team members, or if it’s a larger project, break it down into smaller parts to tackle one section at a time.

Strategy 2: Set boundaries

Time management plays a critical role in setting boundaries for your workload. It also places added value to the time you provide yourself and others. Integrating calendar tools such as “time blocking” can help team members understand your availability on a day-to-day or weekly basis.

Strategy 3: Challenge your perfectionism

“Perfectionism can lead us to make tasks or projects bigger than they need to be, which can lead to procrastination and psychological distress,” notes the report. When tasks pile up, overwhelming feelings can often take over and lead to greater feelings of distress – resulting in subpar project outcomes. It is critical to understand when “good” is “good enough” – knowing that everything can’t be done perfectly.

Strategy 4: Outsource or delegate

Similar to setting boundaries, knowing when a task or project is outside of your expertise or work capacity – and outsourcing that work – can substantial help with feeling overwhelmed. As organizations grow, it is important to identify opportunities where projects can be given to other team members so that you can reorient your focus on high-priority tasks.

Strategy 5: Challenge your assumptions

If feeling overwhelmed is an ongoing struggle, it is likely that you have assumptions that are keeping you stuck in unproductive behaviors. These “Big Assumptions”, as referred to by both Kegan and Lahey, are obstacles that many professionals struggle to overcome on a daily basis. For example, one company executive noted that their big assumption was, “If I lose control, others will mess up, and the company will fail.”

Although these situations can feel real in the moment, the likelihood they are true is slim.

By identifying and debunking these beliefs over time, individuals can broaden their view of the world, in turn helping to reduce overwhelming feelings and excel both personally and professionally.

Read the full article


  1. Zucker, R. (2019, October 27). How to deal with constantly feeling overwhelmed. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from

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