Working moms are juggling more than ever before, and it means that we’re also all feeling more overwhelmed than ever before, too. “Overwhelm” is what happens when we’re stretched too thin from working hard, commuting, setting aside time for family events, raising children, and creating “Pinterest angst” for ourselves as we try to create beautiful appetizers for the neighborhood block party. Women, in wanting to provide the best for their family and work and children, often will push themselves into the state of feeling overwhelmed, all with the best of intentions.
As a life coach, I help clients get to the heart of what is causing them to feel overwhelmed before they hit the crispy-burnt-out-stage. The key is to define which things simply need to be done, day to day, and which things are taking up mental space and causing stress. If you take a little time and evaluate everything that you’re juggling, and hone your coping mechanisms, you can start to feel like you have some breathing room in your life.
Here are three things to try if you’re feeling the burn and would like to get a little relief:
1. Evaluate Your Mental “To Do” List
If you’re hitting the “crispy” stage, you’re probably feeling frazzled, having a hard time concentrating, and staying up late to try and cram in a few extra things after everyone else is asleep. You may feel like you’re not getting anywhere, even though you work hard and put in long hours. Simply trying to “get organized” or fit more in hasn’t worked, and you’re frustrated.
What to do instead: Take a few minutes and write down everything you have on your mental and physical to do lists. Do a full brain dump of whatever you are carrying on your shoulders. Some of these things will be specific, day to day chores (get groceries, fix broken window) and others will be goals and possibly even bucket list type things (book new clients, go to Israel for the summer). Once you have all of this on a piece of paper, give it a real, honest review, taking these questions into consideration.
- What on your list is truly a necessity? (Mark those with a star)
- What on your list is a “should”? (For example: I should learn French, I should make a wedding album for my grandmother.) Are these tied to anything that truly brings YOU joy? Are these things that you really do want to do?
Sometimes “shoulds” make the list because they are someone else’s expectations for your life (you should buy a house, you should get a master’s degree). You may not really want to do these things, and by keeping them on the list, they are lingering out there indefinitely, and taking up mental space. (Mark those with an “s.”)
- What’s on there that’s been on there for a super long time? Is it still something you want or truly need to do? How do you feel if you consider releasing it?
Sometimes things get placed on a list, and then never get taken off, even when we have changed or no longer desire to do the thing anymore. (Mark these with a question mark.)
- What would bring you joy to complete? (Mark those with a smiley face.)
After taking this look at whatever is on your list, remove what isn’t work, is a “should” or is someone else’s expectation. Keep the things that are a true necessity, things that bring you joy, and things that you want to do. If you narrow do your list to everything with a star and a smiley face (and remove the S and question marks), you’ll see you have a much simpler list to deal with.
2. Be Picky About What Remains On Your List
You may have a few things on your list that you wish you had not committed to do. If you’re already overwhelmed, it’s possible that you said “yes” when asked if you could do this task, or possibly volunteered for something only to realize that you don’t have time to do them (which just puts more stress on your time and adds to your feeling overwhelmed).
What to do instead: The next time you’re asked to take on a new role or obligation, take a breath and ask yourself if you have time, or the desire, to take on this new thing. Give yourself the full permission to say “no” to the request, and if that’s too uncomfortable, tell whomever is asking that you need to get back to them after checking your calendar. This is a great tool to give you the pause you need to check in with yourself to decide if you really 1. Want to do the thing, 2. Have time to do the thing, and 3. Are agreeing to do the thing out of obligation or because it strikes a joyful chord in your heart. Hitting pause also takes the pressure off of the moment.
3. Look For Ways To Enjoy The Journey
There are always tasks and obligations that are true necessities. If you go back to that list, there are things that can not be crossed off. If they still feel overwhelming, ask yourself if there’s a new way to approach the task. If you have perfectionist or people pleasing tendencies, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the task simply because you have a built up idea in your head on how the thing should turn out: it should be perfect. And, instead of the task feeling light or joyful, it’s hard and painful because you’re trying to meet external expectations that may or may not be attainable (and may or may not even be true).
What to do instead: Look at the things you need to do, and define for yourself how you want to do them. Is there a simpler way to complete the task, or a way that would feel easier or more fun, to you? Can you let go of other people’s expectations around what I like to call the “Martha Stewart Version” of the outcome?
It’s also possible that part of the joy that you get from doing this task is in getting it “perfect.” Give yourself permission to enjoy that aspect of it if it rings true, but also make a mental note on if it’s something you’d prefer to do in the simplest way possible. This step is about enjoying the task as you do it, and it’s up to you to define what the process looks like.
By evaluating everything that you on your mental to do list (and releasing what isn’t necessary), getting comfortable with saying no to requests (and giving yourself time to see if it’s something you do want to do), and finally, giving yourself permission to complete tasks in a way that seems enjoyable to you, you’ll start to feel less overwhelmed. If you feel the crispy-ness coming up again, start the process over and see if there have been new things added to your list (or if there are things that need to be released from your list). By being mindful of your obligations, and choosing to participate in those things that are only a necessity or truly bring you joy, you’ll feel less frazzled and a whole lot happier.
If you’d like to spend a little more time looking at how to find more balance in your life, I invite you to sign up for my five-week “Finding Balance” E-Course by clicking here.