When You’re So Overwhelmed You’re Flirting with Resignation

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A case study on prioritising your needs.

Ed’s note: This guest post was written by Camilla Thompson, managing director of Select Wellness.

Meet Jack, a creative genius and senior leader for one of Australia’s top media companies. He’s a valued employee, brand ambassador and all-round awesome guy.

Jack is a father of two young kids; his oldest has behavioural issues and barely slept for the first five years of his life. Sleep deprivation can lead to many serious mental health issues and Jack and his wife are living proof of this.

Jack’s wife suffered severe postnatal depression after the birth of her first son and this, coupled with little sleep, meant she was run ragged and unable to cope at times. She sought out help and counselling through their local hospital, which definitely supported her, but didn’t fix the depression.

During this time Jack had to work and provide for the family and he felt guilty that his wife was at home struggling to get them through the day. She would go through bouts of really bad depression and then come through it; it was a rollercoaster for them both.

Jack did his best to be strong and support her, but he would then crash himself, burn himself out at work and end up having to take sick leave. He would then go through his own bouts of depression, but hid it well from his wife. He spoke to nobody and felt very alone. They had no family or help, so it was just them fighting to stay on top of it all.

He was living in a state of constant overwhelm at work and at home, feeling powerless and out of control. Jack had no time for himself; he would get up early with the kids to let his wife have the break and the same at night, straight home from work to take them off her hands and the same all weekend.

Jack loved his job and had been with the company for eight years, he was a key player and valued talent within the organisation. He had a team of people and worked in the most innovative area of the business as a creative designer and strategist.

As Jack became more overwhelmed with what was going on at home, he began to become overwhelmed with his job, and couldn’t see a way through it all.

He felt his only option was to resign, stay at home and help his wife whilst looking for another job. This is when we met Jack.

Why do people want to resign from a job they once loved?

Overwhelm had got the better of him and the lines blurred as to where the overwhelm was coming from. He blamed the job and his workload for the way he was feeling.

External circumstances had altered his once-positive mindset and he had resigned himself to the fact that this was it, he was stuck and was fixated on the negatives. He had lost control as well as his passion for work and life.

“If I leave my job, everything will be all right, I won’t feel overwhelmed anymore,” he thought.

But maybe not, the one steady secure thing in his life was his work and he loved it. He had just forgotten that he did. We worked with Jack to help him re-engage with his role as a leader, when he told us stories of his role and the company, his face lit up, he was a creative and he loved his craft.

Jack was an inspiring leader and he had lost sight of this too, when we talked to him about his team, he spoke of how much they valued his leadership style and the support he showed them.

He was very respected within the organisation, by his peers and his team. This gave him a really strong sense of meaning and purpose, and he just had to connect with that again.

Ultimately, Jack just needed to take some time out; some extended leave and have some downtime with his family.

So he did; he took six weeks off work, helped his wife with the kids and they got some support in the form of a nanny for when he returned to work.

The key contributor to improving his wellbeing and beating the overwhelm was when he began to take time for himself. He started exercising and eating healthily to help combat his lows; he practised meditation to help him cope with everything going on around him. He filled his cup with inspiring podcasts and TED talks, read books and motivating articles.

He put some much-needed time into himself; he put his oxygen mask on first so he could be the best version of himself for everyone around him. Jack was back!

How to beat overwhelm…

Plan ahead

If possible, plan ahead before you have a big project, a new role or a life-changing situation coming up, make sure you have flexibility around your plans so when things change, as they probably will, it doesn’t send you into a state of overwhelm.

Stay connected to people

Connect with people, openly communicate about how you feel, a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are feeling overwhelmed, tell someone. Get support.

Be gentle on yourself

Practice self-compassion; we’re all doing the best we can, no-one is perfect and sometimes things are out of control and we need to be accepting of this and not let it overwhelm us. Try to stop beating yourself up.

Prioritise work and life admin

Don’t try to do everything and be everything to everyone. Prioritise what’s important and what’s not. Delegate where you can at work and allow yourself time to relax and restore when possible. You will be far more productive in all areas of your life when you do this.

Meditate

It helps beat overwhelm, just don’t get yourself in a state about doing it religiously and increase your sense of overwhelm; instead, do it when you can. It’s like a pill you can take every day that helps beat overwhelm. Focus on the good and practice gratitude.

Say no

If you can’t do something or don’t want to do it, say no. This will help alleviate some of the overwhelm.

Relax, restore and take downtime

Make sure you take the time to relax when you can, make it a priority when you can. At work, take time to check in with yourself, take a pause, take a breath and take breaks. We are not machines and should not be functioning like them. Taking breaks and downtime is imperative to our wellbeing, performance and mental health.

We would love to hear your thoughts