Moms have busy lives, and sometimes it can get very overwhelming. Remember these six things to help you avoid burnout and find more balance when you are feeling overwhelmed.
I am a mom who is easily overwhelmed.
But the longer I do this whole mom gig, I realize that I am not alone.
Motherhood is overwhelming no matter who you are.
While some moms may be more naturally equipped to handle the overwhelm, all moms experience it sometimes, whether they work or stay at home.
I think back to a time in my life that was particularly overwhelming—I was teaching close to full time at the university, I was playing the lead in an opera, and there were still all of my other mom duties with the kids and the house.
I knew that semester wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it was going to be insane. I knew I was going to have to be strong and stick it out. I knew I would struggle.
Because I knew all of this, I asked my husband to give me a Priesthood Blessing at the beginning of the semester for guidance.
In his blessing, he mentioned six things, and I’ve kept them close to my heart—along with my word for that year (PEACE)—and they became a touchstone of sorts when things got particularly difficult.
Here’s something I wrote during that crazy semester:
I just “finished” one of the more difficult weeks of the semester, and I’m so exhausted I just want to cry. On Tuesday night, I didn’t have rehearsal and I was so looking forward to just catching up on the dishes that night. Instead my teenager dropped a regional science fair in my lap and sent me running around to help her get set up for that.
After the two hours it took to get her all squared away, I ended up sitting in the parking lot of McDonald’s for about 45 minutes just so I could have some alone time. (And a Shamrock Shake, because that’s the only real reason to bother going to McDonald’s.) Consequently, the dishes didn’t get done, and I felt defeated.
The next day—yesterday—was a 14 hour marathon which included 6 hours at work, Girl Scouts, Bria’s orchestra concert, and opera rehearsal. I was home for a whopping 3 minutes during that time in which I got to use the bathroom, say hello to my dog, and grab a snack before dashing right back out.
Today was somewhat better, but I was so tired during rehearsal that I lacked any sort of energy, made all sorts of stupid mistakes that I don’t usually make, and may or may not have fallen asleep during the director’s notes at the end.
It’s been a hard week. One of the hardest. And while I have been trying really hard to notice little blessings and happinesses throughout my days, I just felt super downtrodden this week.
Does any of this look or feel familiar to you?
While the things that overwhelm you may look different than the ones that overwhelm me, the things that will help every mom to get through her unique stressors are the same.
The six little words that were given to me in the blessing I received have really helped me. They helped me that semester, and they have continued to help me since.
I am confident that they will also help you.
What to do when your life is overwhelming
I suppose this one is really obvious, and is the principle that should guide your decisions in the other five areas, as well.
When I am overwhelmed, I am not very wise in my food choices. I don’t know why, but it is really difficult for me to eat right when I have a lot on my plate (heh). I feel like making wise food choices can be a full time job for me, and when I am otherwise occupied, I live on junk. Shamrock Shakes, anyone?
Be wise in your food choices and when you choose to go to sleep. Be wise about saying no when you can’t take on another thing.
When you have so many things to choose from, there is simply no way to do them all. I often make a list of the things I need to do and then feel so completely overwhelmed that I’m almost paralyzed.
I’ve been trying to be better about choosing my priorities intenionally. Family is absolutely first. I have to go to work and fulfill other similar commitments. My health is important. Prayer, scripture study, marriage, exercise…the list of priorities is long!
Most of the things on my list—like the dishes—just have to wait. Just like the dishes eventually get done, so will the less important things on your list.
And one of the most magical things I have learned when I am more intentional about my priorities is that once the big things are done, the less important stuff is easier to do.
Leaving the big, important things undone creates more overwhelm. So identify what they are and get them done!
Together with Wisdom and Priorities, it reminds me a bit of the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Discernment is the child of wisdom + priorities. You have to wisely discern what is important right now. What will help alleviate the overwhelm the very most right now?
Sometimes that means figuring out if I should get to work on my long list, or if I should just sit and talk to one of my daughters. Sometimes it means knowing that I need to take a nap before I attempt to do anything else. Sometimes it means not giving in to the temptation to go buy a Shamrock Shake.
Remembering why you are doing the things that overwhelm you is a great way to find perspective. And if you are dealing with something difficult that is out of the ordinary, the gift of perspective helps you to remember that it won’t last forever.
That semester was just a small part of my life. Yes, I definitely bit off more than I could chew, but I am so blessed. How lucky I am to have a job I love. I mean, it really doesn’t get much better than getting paid to make music all day, does it? My job really does bring me joy. My children bring me GREAT joy. My husband is amazing and is so understanding and helpful.
And hello? I got to sing the lead in a Menotti opera. I adore Menotti, I adore opera, and I adore performing. As hard as it was to learn the opera and go to rehearsals, I would never trade that experience for anything.
Yes, I have a lot going on, but I really do have an incredible life. It’s good to step back and appreciate that every once in a while.
Giving yourself mercy for your shortcomings is so important. Most of the time they aren’t really that bad, especially if we can remember all the things we are doing well.
I think this is one of the most difficult things for me. I am so very hard on myself. You didn’t do the dishes? What a terrible homemaker. You didn’t know about Bria’s Science Fair? Terrible mother! You ate another Shamrock Shake? What is wrong with you? You’re going to gain 100 pounds!
This is not okay. I would never think anyone else was a terrible person for not doing the dishes. I have a lot more mercy for others than I do for myself.
I actually sat down the other day and calculated how many hours I am working, rehearsing, driving, sleeping, etc. I didn’t really have many hours leftover to get much else done—and most of those hours were going to be at midnight anyway.
Only SuperWoman could do all the things I want to do each day! And, alas, I have no superpowers.
Go easy on yourself—especially when life is overwhelming you. I promise you are doing much better than you are giving yourself credit for.
Some people actually don’t need this advice. But I do, and maybe you do, too.
Don’t deprive yourself of sleep just to get a few more things done. You will be less effective and even more overwhelmed in the morning because you aren’t well rested.
I have had periods where I do very well with this, and periods where I don’t. I can honestly say that a well-rested me is so much better at dealing with the overwhelming things life throws at me than a sleep-deprived me.
Go to bed when you’re tired. And don’t feel guilty if you need to lie down and take a power nap after work some afternoons.
I am working on this. How can I possibly expect to be the mother that my children need when I am completely drained? I can’t. Sleeping is necessary.
Sleep! Mercy! Priorities! Discernment! Wisdom! Perspective!
Remembering these words when I start feeling like I just can’t go on anymore has helped me more than anything else. Stepping back and realizing I’ve let my priorities get out of whack and am running on 4 hours of sleep is usually enough to find balance again.
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