No matter your life situation, the inevitably of overwhelm is there. And I don’t know about you, but overwhelm and stress had pretty much always gone hand-in-hand for me. Do you ever find yourself with more on your plate than you have time for? Do you ever feel like you’re on the brink of having a freak out over the tiniest thing? More often then you’d care to admit? Are you desperate for ways to manage your overwhelm and de-stress?
I can relate.
Not only can I relate, but that basically described every day of my life. Or at least, it used to. Though I’m certainly nowhere near perfect with this, (or anything in life…) I have totally found some amazing ways to de-stress and take control of the overwhelm that absolutely work. Without fail. Every time.
Trust me when I say that these tips are actually USEFUL. I don’t mean to judge but I have found that there’s a lot of advice out there on how to de-stress that I just can’t relate to. I won’t get into those examples because who am I to say that they don’t work? Just because those ways to de-stress don’t work for me, doesn’t mean that they don’t work for anyone.
What I am going to share are ways to de-stress that will help you manage the overwhelm, get in control of the situation and feel sane* again!
*Full disclosure… I wonder if I’m actually sane about 47 times a day.
Lay it all out.
Sometimes half of the battle is the unknown. You will start to feel better by just simply writing every single thing you know you need to do. By doing this, you are eliminating the fear of the unknown. Even if your list is a thousand items long, there is comfort in knowing that “this is it.” Here it is. I see it, I understand it, I can DO THIS!
Before taking this step, you just know that you’re overwhelmed. But not by what. The first step to not feeling overwhelmed is to take control of the situation. You do this by getting everything that’s stressing you out in your head onto paper.
You need to see it. You need to see it for EXACTLY what it is. Before you did this, there’s a good chance that you thought the situation was worse than it actually is. Even if that’s not the case and your list confirms that you had every right to be stressed out, now you know exactly what your beast looks like. And there’s power in that.
At the very least, you eliminate the wonder. That alone will eliminate some of the overwhelm.
By the way, the only way I can do this is with a pen and paper but that’s just me. The best thing is whatever works for you. Pen and paper, a sophisticated app, voice memo, I don’t care. Whatever works best for you is the best way.
So now you have your list of a million things but you can’t do them all today. Maybe you can’t even do it all this week. Or month. And that’s okay.
After I’ve created my list, I like to rank them in order.
Do the things first that are causing you the most stress. It’s easy to want to get the easier things done first. Or maybe you think that it’s better to get more things done first so you want to go in order by shortest time commitment.
Don’t do that.
The goal isn’t to make your list shorter, as soon as possible. The goal is to de-stress. You need to accomplish the things that are most stressful first. The things that are going to make the biggest difference on your life.
Say you spend two hours on 6 little things that are “nice to be done.” Sure, that’s great. High-five to you for knocking 6 things off your list. That’s pretty awesome. But it’s not as awesome as FINALLY doing that one thing that you’ve been putting off that you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about and stressing out over because another day has gone by without you tending to it.
Make a plan.
So now that you know exactly what the situation is and the best order to attack these things in, we need to make a plan. We know what our mess is, we know what the priorities are… But how are we going to tackle it all?
I kid you not, planning out my week is one of the most relaxing parts of my week. Even when I’m planning weeks that I know are crazy and going to be tiring. Just splitting my once overwhelming list of things to do out between the days of the week into bite-size pieces helps.
It helps a lot.
Again, you’re taking control of all the crazy in your life by strategizing.
Here’s a tip for Future You: Do your future self a favor and be realistic. Be nice to yourself. I totally respect being super busy and productive but what I have found in my ever-busy life is that in order to manage the overwhelm, I need to get ahead of it and accept that things are going to take longer than I expect to complete. Or something more important comes up in the middle of the day. Or your kid forgot to tell you he needs 40 cupcakes tomorrow morning. Or… Or. Or. Or…. It never ends.
This is something I have spent years learning and honestly have yet to master on a consistent basis. Not much good comes from pushing yourself to the limit.
Too many weeks have gone by where I plan 10 things a day and only physically have enough time for 6. Do the math on how many uncompleted tasks I’m left with at the end of the week. Do you think that helps manage my stress or the overwhelm in my life?
It’s a terrible feeling.
Something I like to do is leave some buffer room. Even if I know I could probably fit another hour or two of tasks into a day, I give myself a buffer. The most amazing thing is that if everything goes according to plan, I can get ahead! Usually what I do in this case is start in on my Saturday tasks. Less Saturday tasks = more fun.
Ask for help.
This too has taken longer than I care to admit to learn. My guy is amazing and never turns down my requests for help and yet it’s so hard for me.
Part of it is knowing that a lot of what I want to accomplish aren’t “must-dos” so I don’t feel right asking him to reorganize and clean the top of the dryer when I know he has just as little free time.
But if I’m being REALLY honest… A part of me likes to do it all. A big part. I like to manage our household and make it the home it is. I like to think that it would completely fall apart if I stopped doing what I do to manage it. There are two things to note here: 1) no it wouldn’t and 2) if there’s any truth to that, it’s because I’ve made it that way.
I started making a point to ask for help on the things that need to get done that he is more than willing to help out with and it’s been amazing. He even told me to give him a cleaning list once a week for him to tackle. I’m the luckiest!
And would you believe that he cleans the floors better than me and gets the fitted sheet way tighter than I ever have?!
Give yourself grace
When you over-plan and set yourself up for failure, or you procrastinate and just let your list grow as you watch Real Housewives for 3 hours, or you HIDE from the ever-growing to do list in your head because you’re afraid to face the truth… Know that it’s okay. Your kids ate dinner. Your husband has clean underwear (and if not, he knows where the laundry soap is). You did a good job at work today. You don’t smell. You’re doing okay.
You’re doing great.
You’re a human. You’re a woman. You’re keeping yourself and your family alive. Sometimes, that’s enough. Sometimes that HAS to be enough.
This is a really, really tough issue for me that kind of hits me at my core. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist because I feel like that’s a bit of an extreme. What I am is a chronic overachiever. This is NOT a humble brag. It’s one of my least attractive qualities, I think.
My definition of overachiever might be different from yours.
I don’t mean that I shoot for the stars and I get them and I come out of it an absolute rock star.
What I mean is that if I’m not careful and intentional, I shoot TOO high. Higher than there is literally time for in a day. And I fail. Over and over and over again, if I’m not intentional with my planning.
And I wonder why this sort of thing yields stress and overwhelm in my life?
Listen to me, girl. If you’re like me and WANT to achieve great things-and a bunch of things-that’s great! I am so supportive of that! But you need to come up with a realistic plan for achieving those goals that doesn’t set you up for failure.
I have spent so much time-WAY too much time-being upset and disappointed in myself because I planned 60 hours worth of dream-chasing in 20 free hours in a week.
Now, I keep on using the word ‘dream’ but let me be clear. FINALLY washing your make up brushes can be a dream. Getting around to making that chore chart for your kids can be a dream. Reorganizing your closet so you’re not forced to wear the same 3 shirts every day is a dream.
A dream is any damn thing you want it to be. I’m just speaking large-scale here for affect.
I think it’s very easy to end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. In fact, I think it’s even easier to swing from one end to the other. End to end, over and over, CRAVING balance. Living a life full of overwhelm and stress.
Managing the overwhelm and stress takes intention.
This is how you’re going to it.
- Lay it all out.
- Make a plan.
- Ask for help.
- Give yourself grace.
Follow these steps and smash your to-do list. When you ‘mess up,’ get over it and get back to it. It’s that easy. It has to be. We need to do as much as we can to simplify our lives. And though this isn’t really an efficiency or simplify-your-life post, I’m talking about simplifying the overwhelm in your head.
You got this. You SO got this!!