We are too busy. There’s no other way of saying this. Mums these days just have way too much on. No matter what we do for a living, how many children we have, or where we live, we just have too much to do. And we can often feel like we’re running around like headless chickens because of it. So how exactly do we get ourselves out of this state when we feel overwhelmed?
First, you stop!
1.Take a break
It may sound really counter-productive actually, but sometimes the best thing to do when you feel overwhelmed is to take a step back from the situation, close your eyes (you’re not driving, are you?), take a deeeeep breath, and stop. Back off. Stop all operations. Have an early night. Do whatever you need to do to gain some perspective. Sometimes you just need to distance yourself to see things more clearly.
I know a lot of people who successfully resort to mindfulness meditation or other forms of meditation when things get tough. And again, you may think that sitting in stillness, focusing your full awareness on your breath, when you’re already panicking about the enormous amount of things you have to do, is the last thing that could help you.
But it works. It really is possible to find time in your day to meditate. And it’s possible to squeeze mindfulness meditation in between your other activities. Try it, and let us know how it works for you. Feeling overwhelmed is your response to a situation. Through the regular practice of mindfulness meditation, you can fine-tune your response to something that works better for you.
3. Go outside
Have you ever come across the term ‘forest bathing’? It’s translated from the Japanese phrase shinrin-yoku, which refers to a practice that became really popular in the early 80s. All it means is being in the presence of trees. You don’t need to be doing anything, just being there. Being immersed in nature has proven benefits, including:
- Lowering your heart rate.
- Lowering your blood pressure.
- Reducing stress hormone production.
- Boosting the immune system.
- And improving overall feelings of well-being.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the huge amount of things on your to-do list, it’s time to really stop and take stock. If you can, step outside. Sit on a bench in a park. Or get a picnic blanket and go sit under a tree. You’ll feel better for it.
Once you get breathing again, and you’re over that horrible feeling of overwhelm, you can start dealing with the tasks on hand, so you don’t have to feel like that again. You want to solve the problem you’re faced with right now and not fall into the same trap again.
When you’re ready, start again.
4. Put pen to paper – make a list
If you don’t make lists already, the fact that you’re often feeling overwhelmed is a sign that you probably need to try it out. And if you’re a pro list-maker, maybe it’s time to change things up a bit. Perhaps it was the very act of looking at your to-do list that made you start hyperventilating in the first place.
So here a few things you can try if you haven’t already:
- Journaling – have you come across bullet journals yet?
- Creating a family planner.
- Breaking things down and assigning them a date – put those things in your physical diary or your phone.
There’s no doubt that writing things down will help you get clarity. Have you ever come across the quote “I don’t know what I think until I write it down?” As the sense of clarity increases, your sense of overwhelm reduces. If you need to, jot down even the smallest, most mundane tasks that you’re unlikely to forget anyway, like ‘take the rubbish out’. Because maybe all you need is to offload your mental load (offload it from your head and onto paper, that is). It’s a variation of ‘a problem shared is a problem solved’. And just by writing things down you may already feel more in control, less stressed, and less panicky.
5. Pick something easy and quick to do and just do it!
Now that you have your list (or new list, or old list in a new format) in front of you, it’s a lot easier for you to prioritise. So look through it and pick something that you can do here and now. The quickest the better. Why? Because you can start taking action. And once you see things crossed out and gone, you get an immediate sense of achievement and satisfaction. You can’t be feeling overwhelmed and proud, efficient, and confident at the same time. I bet you’re already wondering what made you so stressed in the first place. No, not yet? Let’s keep going then.
6. Eliminate unnecessary tasks
Why do you have so much to do? I know it’s life, and everyone’s busy. True. But could you perhaps have too much to do because you always tend to over commit? Maybe you say yes to anything and everything?
Truth is, if there aren’t enough hours in the day, and the days aren’t about to get any longer, you just have to come to term with the idea that you have to do less. And it’s not easy at all. Believe me, in the last year, I’ve done my very best to strip life down and to eliminate what didn’t need to be on our schedules. In reality, a lot of it stays – it has to. You still want the children to be fed, washed and sent to school (among other things!), the house to not turn into a complete pigsty, and your life to just continue to function. Whatever your ‘bare minimum’ looks like for you, ask yourself:
- Do I really need to be doing this now/today/this week?
- Is this really necessary? What difference will it make if I do this or don’t?
- Will it add value to my life right now or can I let it go for good? Or just postpone until tomorrow/later/when I have some time?
Did you find anything that could go? I’ll give an example of something I know can go for me – the endless, mindless scrolling through my Facebook feed! Digital detox anyone?
7. Stop overbooking yourself
It’s the fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO. Thanks to the digital era, we often get notified of things happening or people going places. What about us? Why aren’t we there? Should we go? Should we take our children? What are we missing out on? We need to go and find out!
Our schedules are already jam-packed with activities, and if you ever feel overwhelmed for it, listen to your body – to your emotions and feelings. Maybe you don’t have to make sure your child attends ALL the birthday parties they’re invited to, especially if they’re on at the same time but half an hour away from each other. Maybe it’s not a bad thing to introduce our children to the concept of making choices and living life at an acceptable pace, from an early age?
If you honestly look at your schedule (your personal one or your family one), and it just looks too busy, it probably is. Just accept that cramming less in may be the simplest answer. Yes, it does require making choices, saying no and facing your FOMO. But try to just say yes to the important stuff and say no to the rest.
8. Stop multitasking and work out better ways of doing things
Time management and productivity tips aren’t just useful when you’re at work or running your business. In fact, if you look at your day as a whole, it’s made of one task after the next! And the number of things we do is pretty insane – if you had to list every single activity you do every single day as a mum, you’ll be exhausted by 10am! (Oh wait, we kind of are, aren’t we?!)
The thing is that when we continuously switch our attention between tasks, we effectively waste time. You know how they say that women are so good at multitasking? Well, it’s not a good thing. Multitasking is only possible when one of the tasks doesn’t require our full focus and attention. So we can walk and talk for example, but try to read and type a text at the same time. Focus on one thing at the time. Start it and finish it, if you can. I know that you have children and 99.9% of the time this isn’t possible, but we can always try, right?
Ask yourself this: could I be doing this (whatever ‘it’ is) while the children are in bed/at school/or busy? If it takes you half of the time to do something without them around, wouldn’t it be worth it? It may mean trying a few things out and moving some around, but imagine how good it’d feel if you found something that worked for you?
9. Clear your physical space
As much as we don’t like the sound of it, feeling overwhelmed has a lot to do with losing control over things we’re trying to control. Over your to-do list, your time management efforts, and even your physical space. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, before I can actually start doing anything, I need to clear the space around me. When I feel that the space is clear, my mind feels lighter already – I feel more in control, and I’m able to take the next step.
Decluttering and re-organising your home is a massive task though – not something that you can do in a few minutes. But start thinking about it. Ask yourself:
- Is your house organised in a way that ‘serves you’? Are things where they should be? Or do you spend ages looking for something when you need it or moving things around?
- Do you have things that you no longer need/want/like? Do they need to be kept? And if so, can you keep them elsewhere, maybe out of sight?
- Do you feel that your home is cluttered? Do you look around and see ‘things to do’? I.e. rooms to tidy, chores to do etc.
All these factors can contribute to you feeling overwhelmed, even if you don’t consciously realise this. If your environment is cluttered, the mental load that comes with busy lives as mums becomes harder to deal with. If you would like some help or inspiration around this, try these posts:
10. Get more sleep
Another counter-intuitive one, right? But I know you know what I mean here – when you haven’t had enough sleep, everything is harder, and it’s a lot easier to start feeling overwhelmed over the smallest things. You tend to be snappier, lose your patience a lot quicker, and it’s harder to keep a positive mind and attitude. If you feel that way (ever), you’re not alone, because our bodies are naturally encoded to respond to light and sleeping with the rhythms of Mother Nature. Sleep cycles were governed by patterns of light and darkness for thousands of years, meaning that for much of history, humanity has enjoyed nine or more hours of sleep per night. And we no longer do that. Not. Even. Close.
So try. Give it a go. Try and go to bed earlier, when you feel tired. Switch your phone off, and go to sleep. And if you want some more help, maybe try a guided meditation through an app. Meditation can indeed help you sleep better!
Related post: A review of the Aware meditation app – download it now!
11. Work with a coach
And last but not least, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed very often and over small things that didn’t use to overwhelm you, perhaps something is out of balance. Maybe you’re not giving enough attention to certain aspects of your life – your mental and emotional health is under a lot of pressure, and you may need to make some small tweaks to your life. Nothing drastic, perhaps, but if you feel like you’d like things to change, and you can’t quite work out what, working with Life Coach could be an amazing first step. To give you an idea of what they do or how they can help, you can have a look at these interviews:
Do you have anything more to add? Do you ever feel overwhelmed? What helps you when you do?