Can we normalise saying, “I feel overwhelmed?”
Image by Matthew Waring on Unsplash
Twice in the last month, members of my team have said to me, some version of, “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed – can we talk about it, please?”
Why am I writing a blog about this? Because I think it’s amazing. Not that people feel overwhelmed – but that they are able to talk to me about it. I think that’s pretty great, for two reasons.
Firstly, I have never worked anywhere where I would have felt comfortable having that conversation with my boss. There was always a sense that you should just be coping, otherwise perhaps you don’t quite have what it takes for agency life. It makes me happy that we have created an office culture (with a team we really trust) where we’re able to have those conversations and it’s not even a big deal.
Secondly, it just makes sense on every level to be able to say, “Thanks for flagging that, I’m sorry you’re feeling that way. What do you need in practical terms?”
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to produce your best work, so being able to shift out a deadline or bring in other team members to help, means that it’s a win for the work.
And, perhaps most obviously, it’s a win for the person who feels overwhelmed if we’re able to create a little breathing room together. I always find it so interesting – even for myself in moments when I’m the overwhelmee – how just being able to say aloud to another person, “I feel a bit swamped/I’m struggling to get through things/I’m having a hard day,” immediately de-escalates the feeling. When you feel seen, things somehow feel more manageable.
Workloads will always ebb and flow, and some days are more hectic than others. Life things will come and go too, and that will have an impact on how you’re feeling. But when that door to conversation is open, it also makes it easier for us to get a sense of when something needs to change, if overwhelm starts becoming a constant – and being plugged in like that is a win too.
So I’m writing about it because I think we should normalise saying, “I feel overwhelmed.” We should normalise meeting that statement with, “Thanks for telling me – what do you need?” It might not always be possible to meet all those needs, but, after 10 years of running Pomegranite, I can tell you one thing for sure: having that conversation will always lead to a better outcome than a silent struggle.