Updated: Jul 26
It’s no secret that the state of the world has affected people’s mental capacity to thrive at work. If you’re feeling less energetic in your professional life, you’re not alone.
What I’ve noticed is that during these episodes of life, I tend to procrastinate more. I can get so focused on being overwhelmed that I will become completely stuck and will simply do nothing. I know that having seemingly insurmountable problems can quickly consume you and, in turn, affect your professional work.
The great news is I've also learned five steps that, in the past, have taken me from breakdown to breakthrough. Here's how you can use them, too, and combat those moments you're feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated.
1. Create a problem list.
A few years ago, I felt overwhelmed with life, and my overall energy was noticeably lower. After a few weeks of this getting worse and worse, I was afraid it was becoming a more serious problem. It was beginning to affect my ability to work, and I was in a constant state of guilt and worry. I felt like I was in a hole.
That’s when I decided to make a list of everything that was bothering me. The moment I began labeling and naming what was going on in my life, I began to feel the shift. Why? It all comes down to neuroscience.
In a study titled "Putting Feelings into Words," researchers found that just the act of labeling negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and anxiety decreased participants’ negative responses. Making this list was powerful because it felt like someone had tossed me a flashlight, and though I was still in the hole, now, at least I could see.
2. Forgive yourself.
As I looked at the list of things troubling me, I had an epiphany: Anyone would be overwhelmed with this list of trials going on in their life at one time. For example, one of the issues was a large, unexpected expense, equivalent to one year’s salary. I was devastated about it. And at the exact time of my unexpected expense, I also lost a significant amount of money on a bad investment. These were just two of the items on my list.
As terrible as that list was, it helped me understand that my feelings were normal, which was a major turning point that led to having some self-compassion and feeling a little bit better than before.
This simple activity, which can help promote a positive state of mind, worked for me because there is a neurobiological link between love and compassion.
What this means is that you are now adding oxytocin and vasopressin (known as "bonding hormones") to the mix. This results in stimulation in the brain’s motivation and reward circuits, which are highly effective in stress reduction and enhancing feelings of security and well-being.
3. Separate fact from fiction.
Now that you have a flashlight and the ability to look at all of your issues in one place, it is time to separate fact from fiction. I did this by looking at each problem and asking, “Is this an event that took place, or is it an emotion?” For example, in the events list, I wrote that a long-term employee resigned, and on the emotions list was my fear of more employees leaving.
I recommend creating two lists, one with actual events and one with emotions triggered by the events. This step was important for me because I could instantly cut my list in half, and I could see how much my catastrophizing was feeding my despair. I could see what needed action, and I could see what needed emotional processing. It felt like someone had tossed a ladder into the hole I was in.
4. Celebrate past wins.
The next step is to set the lists aside and remind yourself of all of your past wins. Celebrating my past triumphs, like rebounding my business, helped me see that I had beaten the odds time and time again, and there was no reason to believe that I wouldn’t continue to persevere through this as well.
This step can help you give more rewards to your brain. Whenever you remember a past event, your body can begin to relive the feelings it had when the memory occurred. So, by remembering a past win, you may find you're beginning to feel all the same celebratory, feel-great hormones.
5. Make a plan.
Now that you have actual historical evidence that you can conquer your issues, it's time to take action. I suggest writing out a plan for how you're going to complete every item on your list. Just writing down your plan can exponentially increase the likelihood of your success.
And in my experience, as you keep making progress, you'll start to feel better and better.
You’re probably thinking, "There’s no way it can be this easy," but I've found that it can be. Will you still encounter moments when you feel overwhelmed? Definitely. But now you have a solid plan to help you combat them successfully.
To see the post as it was originally written, visit Forbes.com.
While you're here, check out my new customer service course, The Communication Code for Customer Service. This course breaks down communication to explain human fears, feelings, and needs, and it provides a streamlined strategy to handle difficult conversations with customers.