At the end of October, I was able to check something off from my bucket list – a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. I’ve been reading or researching the Negro Leagues for 30 years and always wanted to go to K.C., which is where the Kansas City Monarchs played.

The reason I was able to go, though, was because I was attending the 1 Million Cups Organizer Summit.

If you haven’t heard of 1MC, it’s a program from the K.C.-based Kauffman Foundation. Kauffman’s major missions are to improve entrepreneurship and health care. Several years ago, a staffer essentially said if Kauffman wanted to know entrepreneurs better, they should invite them in. So the foundation began inviting entrepreneurs in once a week for coffee and a chance to tell the foundation about their businesses and struggles.

It worked so well in K.C., they essentially franchised the concept. There are now more than 180 1MC chapters in the United States. Rockford’s has been around for more than two years. Thinker became the main sponsor in October of 2017, and it’s been more than a year of recruiting attendees and finding interesting and relevant speakers to keep the crowds engaged.

As much as I enjoyed the trip to K.C., I also had a lot of time to think and wonder why I wasn’t enjoying it even more.

That sinking feeling

I was feeling overwhelmed. Thinker is like any small company looking to do its best for its clients while staying on budget. That means stretching yourself. I came in as Thinker’s “word guy,” a role I still hold, but over time I’ve branched a bit into video, podcasting and business development – along with trying to build the 1MC community.

These are necessary things to learn, but it also causes me to sometimes yearn for the days of working in a large corporation with a very narrow, defined role.

Fortunately, this is not a feeling unique to me. We just posted a podcast with Caroline Ziv, who runs a video production company in Chicago called Big Red Bike Media. Caroline built her career as a TV producer for major Chicago productions, including The Oprah Winfrey Show. When she broke out onto her own, she too felt overwhelmed at times.

If you Google “how to stop feeling overwhelmed at work” you’ll find lots of good tips and tricks. One of the best was outside the business world, coming from Psychologytoday.com.

Alice Boyles, a Ph.D. listed these six strategies.

  1. Finish something you started but didn’t complete
  2. Give your mind a chance to wander
  3. Do some work-related continuing education
  4. Make a brief list of what you’re going to work on
  5. Do whatever is important but anxiety-provoking, and then allow yourself to take a break
  6. Do the minimum necessary to get a task done

The goal with these tips is to feel a sense of momentum. Finishing something that you left unfinished gets the ball rolling. Continuing education helps you expand your mind and alleviates that “trapped” feeling. Working on short task lists and not over-complicating projects keeps you from feeling bogged down. Giving yourself time for breaks and to think of other things re-charges your creativity.

So next time you get that sinking feeling – which is quite common, according to the American Institute of Stress, 40 percent of workers feel their job is extremely stressful and 26 percent reported feeling burned out – see if these strategies can get you back on track.