Thursday, 2:25 PM — You’re working on a project that has a Friday deadline. Co-workers sent information to you later than promised, so you’re feeling a little behind. You happen to take a quick glance at your inbox. The 2 unread emails have all of a sudden turned into 86 unread emails. At the same time, your phone starts to ring, and someone from your team comes over to ask a budget question. Feeling slightly stressed yet?
When you’re pulled in multiple directions (especially unexpectedly) it can be hard to get your concentration back. Instead of just focusing on the project, you are now thinking about returning that person’s call, helping your team find the right answer, and responding to all those emails. It can be hard to place priority on what comes next when your mind is rushing — and even harder to maintain complete presence and focus on. I use the below techniques to help settle down both my mind and body, and it allows me to regain control of the situation.
- Take 3–5 really deep, slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose slowly. Feel your rib cage expand and then compress. The deep breaths will help in a few ways: it will change your focus which gives you a chance to reset, your muscles will relax, your blood pressure will go down, and you will provide more oxygen to your body — thus giving you more energy and concentration
- Scan your body. Take a few minutes (or even seconds) to notice how your body is feeling in that moment. Are you hunched over your desk? Sit up straight! Take a moment to ground yourself and realize where you are. Notice how you feet feel on the floor, and how your hand feels on the mouse. This can help bring you back to the present moment. If you have longer than a few minutes you can find a great body scan here
- Focus on your immediate task. Take a few minutes to place priority on your to-do items, and then solely focus on whats at the top of the list. Sometimes I will say to myself “ once you finish this next set of slides, you can check your email” or “call back x so you can concentrate on finishing the project” This allows me to feel more in control of both my emotions and the situation, and helps me realize that I will get everything addressed
Like meditation practice, if at any time you find your mind wandering while you are practicing the three tips, just acknowledge the fact that you’ve drifted and bring yourself back to the techniques.
In the end, the best thing to do when overwhelmed at work is to take a step back. You owe it to yourself to take a few moments to regain composure, and to remind yourself that you are more than capable to tackle the rest of this day!