1. Section Editor(s): Raso, Rosanne MS, RN, NEA-BC

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I'm sure most of us, at one time or another, have felt overwhelmed at work. Think about those days when new information and issues are coming at you every minute, and there isn't enough time or cognitive ability to deal with all of it. Maybe that's often, and you may not be alone. Can you visualize drinking from a fire hose? It's a metaphor that seems to perfectly describe this inundated feeling.

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It may happen when you get a new boss, or your boss gets a new boss, or you start in a new position. Even if everything is the same, sometimes organizational crises occur, ranging from natural disasters to sentinel events. Conditions may change in your work responsibilities. Does this sound familiar? "Can you take on this additional unit(s)/department(s) temporarily while we're looking for a new leader?" Or maybe you've gone back to school and/or added family obligations while trying to maintain equilibrium at work. There are probably a thousand more scenarios both professional and personal that you can describe.


So what do you do when you're overwhelmed? Often easier said than done, try to assuage the situation. Remember that you control your feelings. You can convert a barrage of data into useful information. First and foremost, what's really important? This definition can change based on context-what's important to you, your organization, and your staff isn't always well aligned. Your initial call to action may be to figure out how to prioritize these goals. Avoid using precious time and attention on what isn't valuable to you, which includes mindless chatter. And make sure what you've determined to be important is coordinated with what your boss thinks; otherwise, it may be a career-limiting gesture to sidestep the wrong things.


Ask good questions to figure out the answers to what's relevant. If you can learn how to turn the deluge into what's important to you and/or within your scope of immediate responsibilities, then you may be able to eliminate a fair amount of extraneous noise. Requesting help with filtering through and organizing your thoughts is a reasonable, but often neglected, step. As is delegating and receiving support. You'll want to gather your resources before you feel like you're drowning to be ready and armed for the fire hose.


Our colleagues who are passionate about mindfulness must be clamoring for attention by now. Being truly present in the moment and having self-awareness are sometimes elusive skills that clearly contribute to being at peace with whatever is thrown your way. I'm not an expert, but who can argue with using positive energy to focus on the here and now without judgment, leaving past regrets and future worries elsewhere? Be good to yourself, calm your mind, and give yourself a break.


Drinking from the fire hose may conjure up silly images, but it's an uncomfortable state of mind. We are at our best when we're focused on what we believe in, what our organization wants, and what our staff members need-hopefully fully aligned. Take a gulp and then switch to a straw as soon as you can. No drowning allowed!



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