I strive for balance, leaving work at 5 and having time for things I like. I don’t like the word busy; I try not to apply that adjective to my life. I would rather be productive, focused and efficient.

But I’m also a realist.

There are times – at work or in our personal lives – where we get busy. The worst kind of busy, where we wake up at 3am wondering how we’ll get through everything on time and stay sane.

I’ve had plenty of those nights, but I’m figuring out how to beat the feelings of stress or overwhelm when for some reason or other I’m overcommitted and overloaded.

So, when your life is just plain hectic, here are some tips and tricks to help you get through it.

Take one task at a time

I know this sounds fairly obvious. But bear with me.

You’ve already written out your to-do list (number one way to soothe anxiety, I swear) but now, looking at it, stress levels rise inordinately (we’re going backwards!).

There’s not much point sitting in a state of panic. Instead, if you’ve written the list in some semblance of priority, start from the top. Tell yourself to work on numero uno for 25 minutes. Set a timer, switch off notifications, and get working. With single-minded focus, you’ll be surprised at how much you get done. And you’ll feel great.

Ask for help

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help to get through your tasks if you need it. If you need support you should always go to your manager and explain the situation. It shows that you aren’t too stubborn or proud to lean on the people around you.

Remember you can say no

It’s also important that you can say no when you need to. If you’re already busy and your to-do list is bursting at the seams, you won’t be able to deliver on new promises. It takes a little bravery sometimes, but it can be an important conversation to have.

Keep exercise in your day

Counter-intuitive, I know, to tell you not to work on your to-do list.

But there is one thing I don’t compromise when I’m busy: exercise.

For me, the 45-minute sweat session in the gym makes me feel like a human again (usually; assuming I can walk afterwards). I genuinely believe that exercise is an investment of my time. My concentration levels through the day and my ability to get stuff down is astounding compared to the times I’ve trapped myself at my desk with barely a glimmer of the outside world.

Really can’t get to the gym? A 5-minute walk between tasks can be enough to re-energise.

It’s OK to compromise

If you have a deadline looming that means some extra hours in the office, don’t try and keep up everything. Schedule a meal delivery service, leave the laundry unfolded, or vacuum later. If it means you can stay sane, the dishes can wait.

Busy now; but not forever

One key thing that keeps me motivated and sane (some may argue the latter, though) is remembering that I only have to put in that extra effort for a short timeframe. A harsh deadline might mean a few days of intense work, but sometimes that’s the nature of it, or simply just life. I also know that the pendulum will swing the other way soon enough, and a normal workload will ensue afterwards.

Otherwise? Leave your desk at 5

When your workload is manageable and controlled, I would always encourage you to leave work at the end of your contracted hours. Doing extra hours for no reason not only looks silly, but also means you won’t have the energy to put in extra effort when it really counts.

And last, but not least, if your workload or commitments feel like they are sapping the life out of you indefinitely, you might need to consider having a chat to your manager, or think about the commitments you have outside of work and how you really want to be spending your time.

Originally published at www.herbolduniverse.com