What to Do When Life is Overwhelming
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.
Are you a mom who is easily 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 my young 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 for a little bit of guidance. He is a very wise and spiritual guy, and gives very good advice.
He mentioned six things to me during that conversation, 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.My journal, February 2014
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 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
Keep reading to see how you can apply these six great principles:
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 intentionally. 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 your teenager’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. I hope that these six words will help you, too.
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Thank you! This has been a very overwhelming period for me too, and it's so easy to get discouraged and beat yourself up. I think I'll go reread my patriarchal blessing now. 🙂
And I hope you don't see this until tomorrow, and that instead, you're already in dreamland!
Ok, the sleep. Totally that. Curse daylight savings time. It should be renamed "daylight insanity inducing time".
Um, this post was written for me. I can SO relate to all of this right now! Between school, kiddo activities, and hubby gone for work I am spent! I also stay up way too late and live on junk. I need to refocus and prioritize, too!
This too shall pass. It will get easier soon 🙂
Thank you and your husband Lara! Such wise words and an inspiration for all of to remember. Sometimes the biggest bully we face is ourselves 🙂 Wonderful post!
We've had to sit outside to sell cookies. The unions won't even let the little girls inside. We finally set up an EZ Up with tarps on the side to try to stay warm. It didn't help, and we were both sick by Sunday. I'm so glad cookie booths are over!
That's a good idea. I need to go back and read mine as well. Thankfully today was my first day off in a while, and I've spent it doing almost nothing. But I'd better actually get to those dishes before they take over the kitchen. Hope things get less overwhelming for you, too, Annette!
Yep! Just when I was getting into a good rhythm I'm up into the wee hours again. Oh well…the bright side (literally) is that it's lighter in the evenings, and I do enjoy that.
It's tough. And while I'm always saying I need to say no to more things, even when I do my life ends up a bit crazy. 33 more days…and then I'm becoming a beach bum for the summer. If the snow decides to melt, that is!
Good luck in your refocusing and prioritizing!
You're right, it will. I'm hanging on to that. Thanks for coming by!
Isn't it true? I really think that being merciful to ourselves is one of the hardest things we are asked to do. It's good to work towards perfection and being better, but we're still human and we all deserve a little mercy.
Yes, some of the places we've had booths won't let us inside. I was thankful this store sort of did, even if it was only the foyer! It was negative five degrees that day. I'm glad your cookie booths are over–we've still got a few to go. Hopefully they'll be a bit warmer!
I adore you, love this post, and completely identify. Moving, 7+ months pregnant, husband never home, a perfect recipe for disaster. I've been teetering on the edge all week. Thanks for the reminders, and good luck the rest of the semester!
Goodness! You, certainly, have a full plate! I need to do better at all of these, too. Great reminder and great post!
Good luck to you, too, Stacy. Moving is the worst! I always feel like you're a bit of a soul mate in understanding the crazy life I lead since yours is just as crazy, if not more. Especially since you went and added pregnancy to the mix! I'm thinking of you!
I love this list Lara! Especially perspective and sleep. I find if I get enough of those I can handle things better than when I'm short on either. Thanks for sharing! I love the name of your blog too 🙂
Lara, I thoroughly enjoyed this and can see a lot of myself in it…. especially the mercy part. Why is that so hard – I have been working on the self talk for a few months now and it is very difficult to change it during hectic and stressful times in our lives. Thank you for reminding me that I am not the only one. Cathy
Thank you! I think we all have a lot on our plates, really. Life these days is (unfortunately) fast-paced for everyone.
It's true. I'm a wreck when I don't get enough sleep, yet I forget so easily when I think I can knock out just one more thing on my list before I head to bed. I'm working on it. And yes, as per the name of my blog, this is not a new problem. 🙂
You're right, Cathy. I don't know why it's so hard to be kind to ourselves! Good for you for working on it, I am also trying to change it to something positive when I notice that I am not being kind to myself. But I don't always notice, either. Especially, as you said, when things are more hectic.
Hope you had very good night sleep!
Thank you! It's always nice when I can sleep in guilt-free.
I love you, that is all. Ok — why did you change to this comment thing? Do I need to do that? I'm staying home from church.
I am also staying home from church–Sophia has been throwing up all night.
I changed so I can reply more easily to people. Too many no-reply bloggers out there.
We use an alarm clock to get up in the morning. Have you used one to go to bed at night? only one snooze allowed and do not put it on loud. My cell phone is best as I can set the volume low and add vibrate. God bless and sleep tight.
This is actually a really excellent idea! I will have to try it. I am SUCH a night owl and always catch a second wind if I don't get myself in bed early enough.
Thank you so much for this. I have felt like crying all day because I am so overwhelmed and reading this has made me feel like I can handle life again. And not to be so hard on myself. God bless you!
I'm just happy that this post somehow helped. I completely relate
about wanting to cry from feeling overwhelmed. Do what you can and know
you did your best, and YES be merciful to yourself.
God bless you, too. 🙂
Happened upon this today, perfect timing. Looks like we all have way too much going on. Need to start taking better care of ourselves. Thanks for sharing
It's almost a requirement of today, isn't it? I'm working on learning to say no to things more easily and take better care of me and my family. Thanks for your comment. 🙂