How to Escape Workload Paralysis (And Prevent It)
Ask anyone you know if they’ve ever felt overwhelmed at work, and they’ll probably say yes. That’s known as workload paralysis.
It’s common to feel pressure at work, but often people simply complete the task or finish the project stressing them out and resume regular workflow.
Yet, for others, this is much more difficult. For some, work stress doesn’t just cause burnout — it leads to workload paralysis.
Whether you’re concerned that you’re sinking into workload paralysis or hoping to prevent it, there’s some good news:
There are ways to do both.
What is Workload Paralysis?
We’ve all had moments where we feel like we have too much to do at work. But feeling a bit stressed and pushing through to complete the work is not what workload paralysis is.
Workload paralysis is when your anxiety builds to the point that it’s debilitating. As a result, you feel entirely unable to do any work at all.
You become unmotivated.
Then you procrastinate.
You feel as though you don’t have the strength to accomplish any task, no matter how insignificant or small.
And when you don’t address workload paralysis — it only gets worse.
How to Overcome Workload Paralysis
You can typically squash work stress with a day off, a weekend without digital devices, or a vacation.
However, workload paralysis requires you to put in a bit more effort than simply taking some time off.
Here are some of the best ways to overcome workload paralysis:
Identify What’s Causing Your Sense of Dread
The best way to figure out how to fix a problem is to know what’s causing it. Once you know what’s causing that dreaded feeling, you can start improving it.
In many instances, specific personality traits cause work paralysis.
- Some people experience work paralysis because they lack confidence
- Others let workload paralysis take over if they’re overachievers who feel they’re missing critical information to accomplish a task
- Some let their anxiety build because they think they don’t have what it takes to complete several projects on their plate
- For other people, workload paralysis is simply a matter of poor time management
The good news is that all these things are fixable.
In some cases, all it takes is having a simple conversation with your boss. Let them know if you need assistance with a project, additional information, or more training.
Your boss won’t be able to help you unless you have a direct and open conversation with them about what it is you need.
If it’s poor time management skills that are causing you to feel unmotivated, add a planner and/or time tracker app to your phone or laptop. This is a great way to schedule your daily tasks and track how long you spend on each one.
Once you know how you’re spending your time, creating a more workable schedule is easier.
Now that we’ve identified a few root causes, we’ll share more ideas on how to overcome workload paralysis ahead.
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Learn to Prioritize
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by big projects that take hours or days to do. And the dread of tackling a massive project often leads to procrastination, which only helps to fuel your workload paralysis.
By prioritizing your workload and tackling one small step at a time, you can make workload paralysis a thing of the past.
Start by making a to-do list and break your large project down into small milestones. Having a long to-do list of little things is often easier to accomplish than having one big project on your plate.
If your workday consists of many little tasks you need to complete, rank them according to their importance. Do the most important tasks first, and you’ll instantly feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Knowing that you’ve accomplished something, even if it’s small, can snap you out of your paralysis and put you on a more productive path.
From incoming text messages to social media to Netflix, distractions are everywhere. And when you’re already suffering workload paralysis, it’s easy to let those distractions consume your day.
Start by identifying the things that are distracting you.
Here are common examples that may sound all too familiar:
- If you work in a crowded office, it might be chatty coworkers
- When you work from home, it might be barking dogs or the sound of children playing outside
- You might have the constant text and email notifications coming through your phone
Once you know what it is that’s distracting you, take whatever steps are necessary to block it out.
For instance, buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones or turning off text notifications may be all it takes to help you put your focus back on your work.
Learn Deep Breathing Techniques
If your workload paralysis is causing high levels of anxiety, learn some deep breathing techniques.
Deep breaths send messages to your brain that command your body to calm down and relax. This eases tension, slows down your heart rate, and brings your blood pressure levels down.
There are simple breathing techniques that you can do anytime, anywhere, for a few seconds at a time. You can also learn deep meditative techniques that can calm you down and put you in a transcendental meditative state.
Try combining deep breathing techniques with exercise by practicing either yoga or tai chi.
Stretch and Exercise
From simple stretches to intensive exercises, working out has a significant effect on how your brain functions.
When you’re stressed, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which heighten feelings of anxiety. Your body produces endorphins when you stretch and exercise. These help to combat stress hormones and stabilize your mood.
Even when you’re not suffering from work paralysis, carving out time to stretch and exercise can improve your happiness and productivity.
It can even improve your memory, which can further help you out at work.
Don’t like to run on the treadmill or get your heart pumping in cardio workouts?
You don’t have to do intensive activities to experience the benefits of exercise. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, are just as beneficial.
When you’re suffering from workload paralysis, the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up over the fact that you’re not getting anything done.
To get you back in the right mindset, do a small task and give yourself a little reward.
Positive reinforcement can inspire you to move on to the next task, then the next, and so on. Rewards are motivators, so find little things that you enjoy that will inspire you to want to get more work done.
For example, take a break to enjoy a hot cup of tea. Listen to the newest episode of your favorite podcast while taking a mid-afternoon walk.
Ways to Prevent Workload Paralysis
Rather than combatting workload paralysis, there are steps you can take to prevent it before it even happens.
Here are some simple and effective things you can do that will prevent workload paralysis (and help to improve all other aspects of your life):
The concept that a clean area leads to an uncluttered mind isn’t abstract — it’s actual science.
Psychology studies prove that people who live and work in clean, organized spaces have lower levels of stress.
And the lower your stress level, the more productive you will be.
Carve out some time to organize your workspace. The neater and more organized your workspace, the easier it will be to find the things you need to get your job done.
This will free up more time to focus on work and prevent workload paralysis from consuming you again.
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Adopt Healthier Eating Habits
The better your eating habits, the better you’ll feel both mentally and physically, and the more productive you will be.
Replacing salty, sugary, processed foods with natural superfoods can:
- Enhance brain function
- Improve the way your body functions
- Give you the energy to work out
And all of the above can lead to increased productivity!
Skip the drive-through and say bye-bye to chips and cookies as your mid-afternoon snacks.
These superfoods are delicious and offer a variety of physical and mental health benefits:
- Eat salmon to improve memory
- Snack on berries to boost productivity
- Snack on nuts to increase brain performance
- Eat brown rice to relieve stress
- Drink more water to keep your body and brain adequately hydrated
And when you’re in the mood for chocolate, choose dark. Dark chocolate relieves stress and helps to improve focus.
Improve Your Sleep Habits
Experts say that adults over the age of 18 need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep is necessary for both cognitive and behavioral functions.
Sleeping restores both your brain and body, for instance:
- It reduces your risk for certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease
- Sleeping restores tissues throughout the body and boosts your immune system
- It also helps you feel awake, restored, and more alert and productive when you wake up
Improving your sleep habits should be at the top of your to-do list if you’re not getting enough rest.
Here are some easy ways to do so:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night
- Eliminate noise and reduce your exposure to light before bedtime
- Buy new pillows or bedding to make your bed as cool and comfortable as can be
- Let go of stimulants, such as alcohol and large meals, before bedtime
No matter what type of work you do or how stressful your job may be, good sleep habits can improve all aspects of your life.
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Make Time for Self-Care
Making time for self-care is one of the keys to good mental health.
While your instinct may be to push through your workload to get as much done as possible, it’s better to carve out some downtime and enjoy a break.
Self-care doesn’t refer to one specific behavior or activity. It can be anything that makes you feel good and gives you a chance to focus solely on yourself, your health, and your well-being.
Here are some simple self-care examples:
- Make time to pursue hobbies and interests that aren’t work-related
- Take a bubble bath at the end of a long day
- Pamper yourself with a massage or facial
- Carve out time to cook and eat a healthy meal
Spending time on things that make you feel good can make you happier overall and more productive during work hours.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Some people experience workload paralysis because of their lack of confidence or low self-esteem.
Practicing self-talk is an easy and effective way to:
- Increase your confidence
- Build your self-esteem
- Go to work every day knowing that you’re perfectly capable of doing the job at hand
Positive self-talk is all about affirmations and learning how to turn a negative thought into a positive one. You can turn your inner critic into your biggest cheerleader by practicing positive self-talk.
Selfgood Health and Wellness Benefits Can Help
Workload paralysis can be physically and mentally exhausting. If it seems insurmountable, it may be time to see a mental health professional.
For gig workers and freelancers seeking affordable mental healthcare, an Alliance of Gig Workers membership can help.
Selfgood member benefits help you save up to 80% on prescriptions and allow you to make Teladoc visits with no copays.
With Selfgood health and wellness benefits, you can meet with mental health professionals from the comfort of home to discuss:
- Work pressures
- Pandemic life
- And a host of other mental health concerns
As difficult as it may seem to overcome workload paralysis, there are some simple steps to reduce it and ways to prevent it from occurring in the future.
And if you can’t battle it on your own, don’t worry.
There are plenty of mental health professionals available that can give you tools to combat the stress, pressures, and anxiety caused by work.
Whether you want to learn preventative wellness measures or think it’s time to seek the help of a pro, contact Selfgood now. You can learn more about accessing Teladoc physicians and saving money on the cost of healthcare and medications.