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How to Reduce Anxiety About A High Workload

Jul 12, 2023

I see people struggle with anxiety related to their volume of work on almost a daily basis so if you experience this, you are not alone. Does it feel like there are many things to get done and not enough time to get to them all? Does it feel like you could literally work from the time you get out of bed until the time you go to bed, and then maybe also on the weekends? 


If so, there are some things you can do to reduce your anxiety. First off, know that you are likely experiencing anxiety because you care about doing a good job, which is a good thing. When you care about doing a good job, you can sometimes start to think of everything you have to do as being at the same level of importance. When you think like this, you may experience a sense of urgency all day long, which can result in excessive stress and anxiety. 

The reality is, there are probably some things that are more urgent than others, and some things that can take a back seat on any given day or week. However, when you are in an anxious state, the emotional side of your brain will want you to believe they are all equally important. It will also want you to continue to think of all of your tasks over and over (including when you are sleeping), so that you don’t forget anything and so that you make sure you are making the best decisions possible related to your work. The reality is that when this happens, you likely end up feeling more overwhelmed because you keep replaying your workload in your mind, overthinking things, second guessing yourself, and you may also not get enough sleep which can further trigger your anxiety and stress.


If you are experiencing overwhelm and anxiety related to your workload, try one of all of the following suggestions related to managing your tasks.


  • Write down all of the tasks you have to complete this week (or you could do this for a day, or a month).


  • Then, next to each task write down the absolute last date you have to complete it.

  • Then, on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being not important and 10 being mission critical), assign a number to each task. Your brain may want you to think that each task should be a 10, but I encourage you to challenge that and consider if a lower number should be assigned. 


  • Next, use this information to create your plan for the week (or day, or month). Start with the task with the earliest due date and the highest priority and work backwards from there. 


  • At the end of each day (the time you would ideally be stopping for the day), take five to ten minutes to review and update your list. Are there things that you need to move to another day? Are there things that you think are worth putting in a little extra time into to get them done and off your list? Are there things that changed in terms of due date or priority? Update your list accordingly.

  • Then, remind yourself that you have your list organized and ready for the following work day so that you no longer need to replay all of your “to-do’s” in your mind throughout the evening or weekend.


  • Once you have your list, work in blocks of time. Parkinson’s Law says that you will use the amount of time you think you have to get something done. This is a problem when you tell yourself you have “all day” or “into the evening” to get something done, because you are then more likely to allow the task to take longer than it needs to. Instead, project how long you think each item will take, set a timer, and tell yourself that you will complete the task before the timer goes off. This can make a significant difference in your overall productivity and efficiency.

Once you have that system in place, there are other things you can do that will help you feel better throughout your workday. These items may sound counterintuitive when you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done, however, they do have a positive impact on your stress and anxiety levels. When you are able to reduce your stress and anxiety, you are able to focus better, think clearly, and work more efficiently.


  • Take short breaks throughout the day. Even just 5 minutes away from your desk to move your body, grab some water, or step outside can help you recharge.


  • Take a mental health day. It can be hard to take time off, however, if you are feeling like you are bogged down with stress and anxiety, you may benefit greatly from a day to rest, reset, and regroup.

  • Use deep breathing. As your stress and anxiety increase, the logical side of your brain becomes more impaired. This can result in wasting time and/or in not using your time efficiently. To learn 5 breathing techniques you can use to help in managing stress and anxiety, go HERE and grab my free guide.


  • Create better boundaries. Take some time to explore where you may be able to create better boundaries. Are there meetings you attend but you don’t actually need to be there? Are there meetings that you can leave on time, even if they consistently run over the allotted time? Can you put better boundaries around when you check email and messages so that you are not constantly jumping from your tasks to responding to the needs of others. Could you move your phone away from your desk so that you are not constantly checking in throughout the day? Could you start with one night a week and no matter what, leave work on time?

  • Focus on what you accomplished each day. Take a minute at the end of the day to also reflect on what you did accomplish, rather than only focusing on what still lies ahead. This will generate positive feelings and be a reminder that you are making headway, even during busy times.


  • Stop overthinking and second guessing. This does not mean that you don’t want to think things through and pay attention to details, however, overthinking can be a waste of time and mental energy. If you can get caught up in overthinking try the following:
    • Write down what it is that you are overthinking or second guessing.
    • Ask yourself if you have thought it all the way through already. If not, what else do you need to consider?
    • Then ask yourself if there is any benefit to thinking about this further? Is it likely that you will come up with a different answer?
    • If not, tell yourself that you made the best decision with the information and experience you have and move on to the next task.

When making any of these changes, it is usually helpful to start with one thing and build from there as is needed. Making too many changes at one time can create overwhelm, stress, and even more anxiety. You’ve got this!

Live your best life! 

~ Karen 

Karen Vincent Solutions 

If you are interested in information about how to manage unhelpful thinking patterns, you can grab my free 5 Common Thought Distortions Guide HERE. 

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