Ways to deal with an anxious brain

There’s a deadline looming, and as a substitute of being fueled by the point crunch as standard, I’m looking at a clean Google Doc. I can’t formulate the phrases for a subject I used to be enthusiastic about only a few days prior. My chest hurts, and all I can take into consideration is altering all 231 of my passwords as a result of if I don’t, one thing dangerous will occur.

I’m conscious of the irony. I write articles on how to use Zapier to automate work and enhance your productiveness. I experiment and check out lots of the options I like to recommend. However I’ve additionally had anxiousness and despair for 13 years, so I do know after I’m within the sunken place, only a few methods assist me get by.

All of the productiveness methods on the earth can’t assist when your brain is combating your greatest instincts. As an alternative of combating your brain, listed here are some ideas you possibly can strive to be kinder to your self and get no less than one factor carried out.


1. Do much less

There are all kinds of techniques for prioritizing your work. Nonetheless, the variety of duties you possibly can juggle decreases considerably once you’re burned out, depressed, or careworn. How do you combat this?

You don’t. You do less.

Or on the very least, you commit to much less. At any time when we do quarterly planning at Zapier, our managers emphasize committing to fewer issues if it means we’ll accomplish extra of what we set out to do. In case you consider it from a percentages perspective, finishing two of 10 duties is a 20 % completion fee. However knocking out two out of three duties is a 66 % completion fee.

In fact, generally you received’t even get these two issues carried out. That’s okay. For me, I’m fortunate if I handle to bathe, eat one thing, and present up at work when my anxiousness is excessive or despair slows me down. In order that’s what I do: I bathe. I eat. I present up at work. All the pieces else I would like to do is non-compulsory, even when it means the dishes will pile up.

2. Simplify your priorities

In the identical vein, how do you prioritize the duties you’ve selected when your brain is combating your self? Preserve it easy. You don’t want a sophisticated prioritization technique.

Personally, I exploit a prioritization framework from the e book Making Ideas Happen. The e book particularly targets creatives who generate nice concepts however are a sizzling mess after they strive to execute. I’m a sizzling mess, so I determine it might work for me.


Primarily, you kind your duties into three buckets:

  • Motion steps are the duties you may have to do to transfer one thing ahead. In case you don’t do these, you’re holding issues up.

  • Again-burner gadgets are these to-dos which can be essential however don’t essentially block the work you’re doing.

  • References are supplementary stuff that may inform your duties, similar to challenge paperwork, inside blogs, or something that requires you to take time to learn.

On a great day, motion steps are tackled first, then you definately undergo the backburner gadgets if in case you have time, and you may principally ignore the references except you resolve to block out time as soon as every week to learn them.

After I’m anxious or depressed, I solely give attention to motion steps with a deadline. If there’s no due date, it will probably wait. I’ve discovered this technique useful for me as a result of my anxiousness brain typically can’t prioritize something that’s not explicitly outlined. I also have a filter in my to-do app referred to as “issues I would like to get carried out proper meow” so I can preserve observe.

In case you’re feeling burned out, now’s not the time to get ahead. It’s higher to underpromise and overdeliver when your brain has checked out.

3. Restrict the variety of apps you test

We like to assume we’re good at multitasking, however we’re not. And from private expertise, my means to context-switch from a dialog in my workforce chat app to writing an article is abysmal when my brain is fried.

It’s seemingly that you simply use multiple app in your day job, similar to a challenge administration system for duties, workforce chat with your coworkers, or e mail for individuals exterior your group. When you can’t simply stop utilizing these apps, you possibly can route a number of that data into one place, so that you don’t have to bear in mind to test every little thing.

You should utilize a Zap—what we name the automated workflows you create with Zapier—to streamline your duties into your app of alternative. For instance, I ship all of my weblog article assignments to my to-do app. If one thing isn’t there, I don’t do it.

Zapier permits you to robotically ship data from one app to one other, serving to you cut back guide duties. Study extra about how Zapier works, or try 5 ways to automate your to-do list.

4. Turn things off

Information overload is real in normal circumstances. (See the notifications on your phone.) When you’re not feeling your best mentally, you can’t process the same amount of information as you’ll usually.

One time, my partner was giving me a number of choices to select from relating to our weekend plans with his household. I couldn’t give attention to the fundamental data he was giving me as a result of my anxiousness was clouding my brain.

When there’s a firehose of data coming your means, you want to flip down the tap to a trickle. Flip off as many distractions as you possibly can so as to focus.


I do know that’s simpler mentioned than carried out. I’ve no self-control, so I exploit an app referred to as Focus (one in every of many apps to block distractions). After I flip it on, it’ll shut all of my distracting apps on my laptop, similar to Slack, so I can give attention to the duty at hand. And Android and Apple smartphones have focus modes that enable you to management alerts and notifications for particular apps, so that you solely see those you deem essential.

If there’s tech that’s stressing you out needlessly, shut it off. Discover the factor that may calm you down, so you possibly can give attention to one job at a time.

5. Ask for assist

What’s worse than feeling like crap? Feeling like crap and having to act like every little thing is ok. So don’t.

Your first intuition could also be to disguise the way you’re feeling since you’re not coughing sick, or chances are you’ll not need individuals to assume you possibly can’t deal with issues. I used to faux sick as a substitute of admitting I wanted a psychological well being day. But when your supervisor and coworkers don’t know what’s occurring, they haven’t any context in your decreased productiveness and temper.

Faking it till you make additionally it is harmful once you’re in a low place since you’ll find yourself on the quick observe to a nervous breakdown. I communicate from expertise.

People are extra understanding about private or psychological well being points than we predict. So inform your supervisor what’s occurring. They might help you reprioritize your work to give attention to fewer duties, supply help once you want it, and even recommend break day.

I do know that is exhausting. Nobody likes admitting after they need assistance. But it surely’s not an indication of weak point. As an alternative, consider it as giving your supervisor a pleasant heads-up that you simply’re not at your greatest proper now. It’s higher that they hear it from you than discover out via a missed deadline.

In case you’re snug and have a trusted relationship with a number of coworkers, allow them to know too. They might help you once you’re feeling overwhelmed, whether or not it’s pitching in or simply lending an encouraging ear. For instance, my pals Justin and Hannah assist me consider how to phrase concepts after I can’t write.

Don’t simply ask for assist at work both. Ask your family members for assist at residence. Search skilled assist from docs too, if it will get to that place.

6. Know when to stroll away

However what if work isn’t accommodating? If it’s an excessive amount of, contemplate whether or not you want to keep in your present place or stroll away.

I understand that it’s a privilege not everybody has. I’m fortunate to be in a spot the place I could be trustworthy with my managers. And personally, I’ve by no means been in a spot the place I might simply depart a job with out worrying concerning the monetary influence. I fully empathize with anybody in that place.

Nonetheless, I’ve made the error many instances in my profession of prioritizing work over my very own psychological well being. I hid in rest room stalls in earlier jobs to wait out my anxiousness assaults. By way of a number of traumatic work experiences, I’ve realized that the one one who can and will deal with me is me—and my psychological well being workforce.

Be form to your self

In the end, when you’re feeling burned out, anxious, or struggling with your psychological well being, give your self slightly kindness. We’re all attempting to do our greatest, however we can’t be productive all the time—and that’s not the point. You solely have one brain, and no job is extra helpful than your psychological wellness.

This article initially appeared on Zapier’s blog and is reprinted with permission.