How to Admit You’re Overwhelmed at Work

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Feeling stressed at work is the worst, but it happens to the best of us. Though you may worry about looking incompetent in front of your boss or disappointing your colleagues, it’s better for your sanity — and your career — to fess up in order to get some help. Here are eight ways to actually let someone know you’re overwhelmed at work, instead of pretending to be “fine,” so you can bounce back like the productive, confident person you already are.


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1. Don’t play the “I’m so busy!” game.

Admit it: there’s a weird sense of satisfaction in claiming to be “sooooo busy.” It makes you feel important and needed; however, it’s completely unsustainable. Falling into the busy trap will not only make you sick, tired, irritable, and less productive, but also doesn’t allow you to figure out a solution to feeling overwhelmed at work.

Instead, think through your daily to-dos and fess up some honest answers to important questions: are your priorities straight?  What never seems to get checked off your list (and do you even need to accomplish it)? What should be delegated to a team member? Taking an assessment of how you’re truly spending your time is a helpful first step is deciphering what actions will affect change.


2. Admit what you don’t know.

In my first job out of college, I remember spending hours on a project, filled with dread. Why? I had said yes to the assignment, but wasn’t entirely sure how to do the work itself. I wanted to be the type of employee who could breezily problem-solve on my own, and I also hoped to appear more than proficient (aka, impress my team).

Don’t do this. It’s okay to admit what you don’t know! I mean, there’s a huge difference between shrugging at your manager in a “not my problem, man” kind of way and saying, “I’ve never done this before, but I’m excited to try! Can you help me get started?” Asking for more knowledge is a good thing, and owning up to where you could benefit from reinforcements saves you time and energy in the long run.


3. Vent to a trusted colleague.

When you’re freaking out at work, sometimes it helps to just get it out of your system with someone you trust, and then move on. In fact, almost every time I pause from a panic session to grab a coworker and say, “I need five minutes to vent!” I end up feeling better, and more clear-minded afterwards.

It’s also nice to ground yourself in reality. Talking through a problem, even if you’re not looking for a solution, can allow you to stop jumping from task to task. If anything, literally show your schedule to someone and say, “I’m stressed and need to spend less time in meetings to meet that deadline. Is there anything I could pass on this week?”


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4. Get feedback from someone you don’t normally work with.

Whenever I get stuck on a project, I ask somebody outside of my team (or industry, or even company, if possible) for input. It is easy to spend SO much time on a creative endeavor, and then realize you can’t even see where you’re trying to go anymore.

Besides, there’s no reason to try to be an isolated genius. All the best work usually involves multiple rounds of edits and full team insights before going to print or production. So cut yourself some slack, and stop assuming you have to be the hero at work and solve every single dilemma or master every single assignment.


5. Stop saying yes to more.

Once, a boss of mine told me, “It’s great that you can turnaround work so quickly when people ask. But make sure you’re doing the right work first.” Yikes. He wasn’t wrong, though. I used to think it was optimal to be the go-to person, always willing to help or step in. Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing, but can easily set you up for failure, because if you’re the person who can be relied on “to help” all the time… you’ll be the person relied on to help all the time.

More isn’t better — it’s just more, and that can easily be the source of your stress at work. If you’re overwhelmed, you need to refine, not add on. So for every well-meaning coworker who is like, “Hey, do you have 5 minutes to…” give yourself permission to politely decline. Say, “I’d love to help, but I need to focus on XYZ. Did you ask so-and-so?” Ask yourself if somebody else can do that same work, or if you’re the right person to help at that given moment. Or just flat-out learn how to say no: “That’s not going to line up with my priorities this month, but let’s talk about how we can get the work done.”


6. Figure out what’s temporary and what’s not.

A friend of mine is a news anchor, and a few times a year, she knows her schedule will be absolutely bananas due to ratings months. Because she can anticipate the overload, she can mentally prep, and since it’s that way for her entire team, it feels much more doable to survive. She also knows it’s just the industry, and not her fault, which helps her keep a cool head.

If you’re in that boat, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone; in fact, you may be relieved to know you’re not the only person feeling overwhelmed. But if you ask around, and that’s not the case, it might be time to have a conversation with your supervisor.


7. Take real breaks — and explain why.

I know you want to look cool as a cucumber no matter what, but this  attitude can be to your detriment. For example, if your coworkers know you as someone who responds to email in 0.1 seconds flat, tell them you’re now batch-checking email at set times. If you can’t seem to make progress on a singular project, devote a day to it and go one hundred percent (okay, 95%) off the grid: shut off your phone, put on a cheery out of office response, and get in the zone. If you’re always waking up early, or staying late, or working weekends, see if you can cut back just a little bit.

When people see you practicing self-care, they’ll (hopefully!) recognize what a good work-life balance looks like. When you’re intentional and outspoken about your own boundaries and need for breaks, you will be less likely to burn out, and you’ll manage your own energy much better.


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8. Propose a solution to your boss.

If you can’t find a way to ease up on your own, you’ll eventually need to talk to your boss — which can be terrifying, because you want him or her to see you as a valuable asset who can consistently deliver and add value. The good news is that you can be all of those things and still need clarity or guidance.

Instead of showing up unannounced and saying, “Hi, I’m drowning in work, help,” take a moment to think through some potential solutions with an attitude of fixing the problem. Look at your job description and consider where you’re outperforming versus falling behind. Ask yourself what seems daunting, where you struggle, what feels completely unmanageable — and the type of help that would make a difference, like more education, less responsibility, or better support. If it is clear you’ve thought through what needs to happen, with tangible examples, it’s likely the conversation will go more smoothly.

Finally, keep a calm, positive, professional tone. You’re not weak to ask for help, and your boss may not have even realized you needed it. Focus on the fact that you care about your career growth, and remain committed to finding a solution that works for both of you.


A Dermatologist Upgraded My Summer Skincare Routine

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If you’re like me and haven’t switched up your skincare routine in years, this message is for you: Just like your wardrobe, your skincare should change with the seasons. The body needs different things from season to season (and I’m not just talking about craving iced coffee over a pumpkin spice latte), and your skin is no exception. Because I overuse heavy facial oils year-round and haven’t made too many upgrades to my routine since my mom bought me a line of Clinique products 12 years ago, I knew it was time to go to the experts. 


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Enter Dr. Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD, a board-certified general, medical, and cosmetic dermatologist and NOW Wellness Expert. She’s cooler than your average MD (just check out her Instagram) and understands that while it would be ideal to spend 24/7 out of the sun, it’s just not plausible—or enjoyable—come summertime.

As for why you need to change your skincare routine when Memorial Day comes around? “Updating your skincare as the seasons change is very important to keep your skin balanced,” she explained. “With seasonal changes come changes in humidity, which could mean an increase in oiliness and breakouts in acne-prone patients. Overall, the steps of your core routine do not need to change season to season, but the products that you use within your routine should.” Read on for Dr. Robinson’s tips on changing up your skincare routine for the summer skin of your dreams. 


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Switch to lighter moisturizers

I love a heavy cream and thick oil as much as the next girl, but according to Dr. Robinson, they should mostly be reserved for dry winter months; during the summer, switch to lighter formulas that won’t clog pores or feel heavy on the skin. But FYI, just because you’re lightening up your routine does not mean you should skip moisturizer altogether.

“The tendency in the summer is to skip moisturizer. However, keeping our skin moisturized is one of the most important steps to control oil,” Dr. Robinson explained. “I recommend that my patients swap their heavier winter moisturizers for a lightweight one for summer. Gel moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or other humectants are a great choice because they are able to attract water to the skin in a weightless way.” Bottom line: Pick a moisturizer that feels lightweight on your skin instead of heavy creams and oils. 


Squalane & Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

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Clarifying Water Gel

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Paula’s Choice

Water-Infusing Electrolyte Moisturizer

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Opt for multitasking products

While we’re on the subject of lighter formulas, Dr. Robinson believes that you can (and should) simplify your skincare routine in the summer without foregoing all the ingredients that keep your skin looking healthy. “I recommend looking for multitasking products or products with more than one function,” she suggested. “This allows you to decrease the layers of product applied to the skin.” Fewer layers mean less weight (and way less time spent on your morning routine), so look for products that have more than one purpose. For example, try a sunscreen that functions as a moisturizer or primer and also contains antioxidants (Dr. Robinson likes Revision Skincare Intelleshade Clear), so that you’re getting sun protection, hydration, and glow benefits from just one product rather than three. 


7-Ingredient Cleansing Oil

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Antioxidant Body Mist SPF 50

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Youth To The People

Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser

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Reapply SPF

So you already know that SPF is a crucial part of your skincare routine year-round, but did you know that just patting it on as the last step in your morning routine isn’t enough? I always feel proud of myself for consistently applying an SPF moisturizer after my serum and toner, but I’m also guilty of not thinking about sunscreen again all day long. “During the summer months, we spend more time outdoors, and it’s so important to reapply sunscreen every two hours,” Dr. Robinson recommended. That’s right: Reapplying sunscreen is not just for beach days. Keep a travel-sized SPF in your car, at your desk, or in your purse so you can easily reapply it every couple of hours, whether it’s before you take a short walk on your lunch break or spend the entire day in the sun. 


Facial Sunscreen with Aloe Vera SPF 30

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Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen

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Sunvisor: Serum, Oil, Moisturizer, and Sunscreen. All In One

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Add ingredients that boost glow

Ah, summer: the season of no-makeup makeup, un-styled hair, and a flawless (faux) tan. We all want to have that lit-from-within glow that is as synonymous with summer as watermelons and frozen margaritas. As someone who struggles with dullness and hyperpigmentation, you know I grilled Dr. Robinson on which ingredients I should add to my routine to get that summer glow (no makeup necessary). “Retinol (a vitamin-A derived active), is great for regulating skin cell turnover, improving texture, and unclogging pores.” Win, win, win!

However, some people can be sensitive to retinol. Talk to your dermatologist before using it if you have sensitive skin or start with a small amount for one night to see how your skin reacts. Dr. Robinson also recommended Bakuchiol if retinol is too harsh for you, as it’s a plant-based ingredient that can have many of the same benefits as retinol but without the irritation (she likes this one). Another summer skin standout ingredient: vitamin C. Dr. Robinson recommended incorporating vitamin C into your morning skincare routine because it’s a potent antioxidant that helps even skin (goodbye, hyperpigmentation!) and improves overall radiance (she recommends this one).


Retinol Serum with Hyaluronic Acid

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Super Glow Serum

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Gentle Retinol Serum

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Exfoliate weekly

Since I experience redness, dryness, and irritation in the winter months, I focus less on exfoliation and more on soothing from the start of November until the end of February (colloidal oatmeal is my winter BFF). But with less sensitivity and more exposure to clogged pores (read: sweat, being outside, and more sunscreen), exfoliation during the summer season is crucial.

“To prevent sweat, oil, dirt, and debris from clogging pores and causing unnecessary breakouts, I recommend exfoliating once a week,” Dr. Robinson said. But before you reach for the apricot scrubs of exfoliation past, know that the process doesn’t look like what it did in middle school. Instead of overly harsh scrubs that strip the skin, opt for chemical exfoliants with alpha or beta hydroxy acids. If you’re looking for a physical exfoliant (I have to admit, they’re pretty satisfying), Dr. Robinson recommends a gentle formula with dissolvable particles. If you have sensitive skin, a mild alpha hydroxy acid face wash can get the job done without irritating the skin. 


Radiance Face Scrub with Rosehip Oil

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Saturday Skin

Rub-A-Dub Refining Peel Gel

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Exfoliating Skin Perfector

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