21 Easy 5-Minute Fixes for Overwhelmed Workers to Regain Control

We all know that feeling of being overwhelmed—when there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. It can leave us feeling frustrated, exhausted, and unable to focus on the tasks in front of us. So, how can we relax and find a way out of the pressure when we’ve got a job to do?

The truth is, relaxation isn’t just something we should do for fun or pleasure; it’s essential for our mental well-being and, ultimately, our careers. But with our days filled with so many demands, it can be hard to make time for ourselves.

You would assume that relaxing and “doing nothing” would be easy, but it’s not.

These easy 5-minute fixes will help you regain control amidst work chaos and create a calmer work environment around you – even in times of stress!

1. Step Away

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When you are dealing with emails, and phone calls, and clients, and coworkers, and spreadsheets, and reports, and an increasing pile of work, you might force yourself to keep working. But stepping away from your desk or office is one of the most effective ways to relax when feeling overwhelmed.

It doesn’t need to be long, but it should allow you to physically and mentally step away from whatever is causing you stress. Go top off your coffee, say hi to the ladies in accounting, or even go to the washroom. Just do something that’s in a different room.

2. Grab a Snack

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Being hungry (or hangry) can exacerbate negative feelings. There’s an easy solution: eat a healthy snack. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the right nutrients can stabilize your mood and energy levels, helping you focus and tackle challenges and responsibilities. Drinking some water will also help.

3. Go Outside (If You Can)

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Spending time outdoors is another great way to unwind. A short walk in nature can do wonders for your mental health, reduce stress, and stimulate creativity. Sitting by a window can have similar effects if you don’t have access to outdoor spaces at your workplace. Plus, getting some fresh air may help clear your head and allow you to return to your tasks with renewed energy and focus.

4. Make A List

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When you’re overwhelmed, knowing where to start can be difficult. So start by listing all the things that are overwhelming you. Then, decide which ones need immediate attention and which can wait.

Making a list of priorities can help restore focus and create an action plan for completing everything efficiently. With an organized list in front of you, it’ll be easier to determine how long each task should take and when they need to be finished, giving you more control over your life when everything feels out of control!

And sometimes, seeing everything laid out in front of you can make it feel much more manageable.

5. Complete Some Quick Tasks First

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A long to-do list probably won’t reduce your anxiety very much. But quickly knocking off a few of those easy “2-minute” tasks will make you feel better. And thanks to momentum, you will likely keep working through your list. There’s just something rewarding about crossing things off your list!

6. Say No

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Take a closer look at that to-do list. Is there anything on there that someone else can do or something that’s not part of your job description? If so, getting these things off your plate will go a long way toward reducing your workload.

The key is finding the right balance between saying yes and no. When we say yes too often, we stretch ourselves beyond our limits. Saying no allows us to set boundaries and prioritize the most important things. It also helps us avoid overcommitting ourselves, often leading to exhaustion and burnout.

If you’re not sure what your priorities should be, go to your boss and ask for clarification, explaining that you feel overloaded. A good boss will do what they can to help you out.

7. Tidy Up a Little

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Nothing makes me want to clean more than feeling overwhelmed about something. And it makes sense. I can’t always control the chaos in my life, but I can control my surroundings.

Spending a few minutes cleaning off your desk, filing paperwork, or even sorting your email inbox will reduce some of those overwhelming feelings. Visually, not having clutter or piles of paperwork is also freeing.

8. Take Your Breaks

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You may feel like you need to keep pushing, but taking a moment for yourself is essential for managing stress and improving productivity. That’s why we’re given breaks at work.

Employers aren’t dumb–they realize that providing their employees with breaks benefits the company by boosting morale and ultimately increasing profitability. So stop working through your lunch and coffee breaks!

A quick walk around the building or reading a few pages of a book can help reset and relax your mind, enabling you to tackle what lies ahead with more clarity and focus.

9. Listen To Your Favorite Music

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Listening to your favorite music is a great distraction from stressors and can provide an emotional outlet. There’s something special about hearing music that brings back fond memories or motivates us to keep going. Listening to music can also be calming and therapeutic – it encourages us to take a break from our troubles and enjoy ourselves for a little while.

So, if you need an escape, put on those headphones or turn up the volume on your speakers and let yourself get lost in the melodies and rhythms of your favorite songs.

10. Go For a Drive

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Blasting the music while driving is my go-to de-stressor. Most of the time, just hearing that one perfect song is all it takes to calm me down. But just sitting alone in your car for a song or two can also do the trick without wasting gas.

11. Watch Cat Videos

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Laughter is the best medicine, as they say, so yes, it will help you relax a little, too. Cat videos seem to be what most people recommend (and are generally hilarious), but it doesn’t really matter what you choose. It has done its job if it makes you laugh and lightens your mood.

12. Write It Out (and Then Delete It)

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If journaling is your thing, writing about what’s going on in your life can give you some relief when you are juggling too much. Getting it out of your head can make problems seem less overwhelming.

And if journaling is not your thing, writing it out on a scrap piece of paper or blank document can also help ease the burden and clarify what needs your attention most. And then you can delete it, so don’t hold back!

13. Scroll Through Your Photos

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Depending on your job, you might spend more time with your coworkers than with your family. Hopefully that’s not the case, but nevertheless, we all spend a significant portion of our time at work.

While it would be great if you could bring your dog to work or have lunch with your spouse every day, looking at photos of them – which you probably have hundreds of on your phone – can offer a quick emotional boost.

14. Doodle

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I tend to doodle when I’m sitting in a boring work meeting, but I’ve also found it helpful when my mind is racing. I can get some things out of my head and on paper or simply just think about something else for a few minutes.

15. Stretch

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Let’s be honest – sometimes you feel like you are chained to your desk and simply cannot leave. But that’s not true! Sitting too much is bad for your body and your mind.

Humans were not designed to sit hunched over a computer for hours on end, so make an effort to get up and stretch for at least a few minutes every hour. This will relieve your wrists, shoulders, and back and prevent any long-term negative effects.

16. Exercise A Little

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Doing some light exercise or gentle yoga allows you to focus on the present moment instead of worrying about the future or ruminating on the past.

No matter what kind of exercise you choose, it doesn’t have to be an intense workout session that you try to squeeze in on your lunch break. Sometimes just taking a leisurely walk or doing some gentle stretching can be enough to clear your head and relax your body.

17. Call Someone

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Talking to someone you trust is a great stress reliever and can give you the clarity and perspective you need to work through your emotions. Talking to your partner, a friend, or a family member can help put things into perspective.

You don’t have to go into all the details; just having someone listen to your thoughts can help tremendously. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, either—a few minutes of venting can make a huge difference. The important thing is that you are able to express yourself and get it off your chest. Depending on who you talk to, they might even offer some helpful advice or solutions for how you can manage your stress going forward.

18. Read Something You Enjoy

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Reading takes your mind off whatever is stressing you out and allows you to focus on something else.

Immersing yourself in an interesting story or article can ease and expand your mind. It is a great way to learn something new, which can unlock even more opportunities in your future.

It might take some trial and error before you find the perfect book, but once you do, it can relieve life’s worries.

19. Meditate or Try Deep Breathing

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Although there are various forms of meditation, they essentially focus on your breathing and block out any external or internal distractions. These practices can be done anywhere, anytime—even at work or during a commute—and don’t require any special equipment or environment.

20. Count to 10

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One of the quickest ways to shift your focus is to start counting. You can take 10 deep breaths, count backward from 100, or count something around you, such as finding everything red around you. This can anchor your attention and quiet all the noise in your head.

21. Try an App

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There’s an app for everything. Download a relaxation app and follow a guided meditation, or play brain games. These little activities can help you quickly calm down when you feel overwhelmed.

Tackle Overwhelm in Minutes

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Taking care of yourself is just as important as tackling the tasks at hand. If you don’t give yourself time for rest and relaxation, you could eventually burn out.

It’s important to remember that these methods won’t solve all your problems but offer temporary relief from overwhelming feelings. They can provide a much-needed distraction from everything that’s going on around you and give you an emotional outlet for any pent-up feelings of anxiety or stress.

Find what works best for you – whether it’s physical activity or something more creative – and carve out regular ‘me-time’ each workday!

How to Be Happy At Work

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It’s easy to be happy at work if you like your job, get paid well, and have a healthy balance between your personal and professional life. Here are 11 easy tips for things you need to stop doing if you want to be happy at work.

Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.

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