Do you ever feel so overwhelmed on so many levels that when something really minor occurs small things are fully blown out of proportion? Maybe when someone takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t start a new fresh pot? Or how about when you finally get a chance to relax and settle in to catch up on a favorite show to find the last five minutes of the suspenseful program aren’t available?
Once you get home from a long day at work, your child announces they have an important project due tomorrow at school, which said child hasn’t yet begun or assembled supplies for. Oh, and don’t forget the brownies for snack time at the scout meeting. By the way, a couple of the scouts have food allergies so make sure to plan for that too.
All of these are just enough to set you over the edge if you are already overwhelmed with regularly occurring events in your daily life.
Many of us are concerned about aging or ill parents…raising our own children…focusing on our own personal relationships, health, dreams, interests, and fulfilling-yet-demanding careers. There’s so much to do, in what feels like so little time. How do you find the balance and find some peace in it all?
It’s OK to just be ‘whelmed’.
Feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious usually point to feelings of loss of control over burdening aspects of your life — home and work responsibilities, relationships, changes in your life that impact your precious personal time and energy. All these can bring around feelings of stress and resentment because you feel you can’t accomplish everything that everyone expects of you.
There are ways to fight back against the overwhelm and prevent it from creeping back in. Let’s talk about a few of those.
1. Take a step back, prioritize to regain control.
Make a list of everything you ultimately feel responsible for. Your home to-do list, projects at work, professionally, personally, and don’t forget about social plans for yourself and your family. Each day make five minutes to calibrate your priorities, even on the weekends. Focus on the appointments, things to be accomplished that day, and stick to it.
As the day goes on, check your list, are you sticking to your priorities? Take note of when, why, and which priorities may distract you or seem to naturally sink to the bottom of the list. Ask yourself, do they yield little value? Does it really need to be done? What would happen if I didn’t do it? Your responses might surprise you, often times we just assume “we have to”, when we really don’t. Free yourself from assumptions. Listen to your head and your heart.
2. Recruit help at home and at work, then delegate.
Be realistic about how much you can do. You are only one person, you can only do so much, there are only so many hours in a day.
On the home front, have a family discussion to find ways for everyone to pitch in to help with daily survival type chores. Just like you would do on the job, have a planner of what is expected of each family member each day. Have goals, rewards, and consequences for a chore not done. Keep it fun—when everyone chips in and there’s a fair division of labor, you can relax together more often—a win-win for the home team. Meaning more free time for family bike rides, a walk with your partner, family game and movie nights.
At work many of us take on duties and responsibilities that other people can and should be doing. Be honest, sometimes there’s a particular one that we like to doing because it’s fun. Or we’re very familiar with it or particular about the results—so we don’t want to let it go.
Maybe the time has come for someone else to do it, especially if it’s part of their job description—look for the kinds of tasks that overburden you and can be handed off. Ask yourself the next week at work…is this something I should be doing? Is it part of my core duties? Who can I train and trust to take this on? Do we need to think about hiring someone else to assist with the increased work? Not only are you lightening your workload when you delegate the right jobs to the right people, but you are increasing a co-worker’s opportunity and value to the company.
3. It’s okay to say “no.”
Saying ‘no’, is a complete sentence in and of itself. You shouldn’t feel the need to offer a diplomatic explanation of the why. You are the only person who is most affected by the decisions you make. Only you know what your threshold is for being overwhelmed.
Be willing to set reasonable boundaries for yourself. When requested to take a new deliverable on, consider it with all the other commitments you’ve made. Your happiness comes from the choices you make. If a ‘yes’ makes you uncomfortable because deep in your heart you know you will be miserable, let the requestor know with a respectful ‘no’. If it’s hard for you to limit yourself to a one word negative response, offer them some a couple suggestions of other ways to complete the task (without signing yourself up to actively assist) or say “it would be really hard for me right now given my current commitments.”
4. Take a mental health day (or 15-minute break) when you need it.
Recently in the news, a web developer messaged her team she was taking a mental health day and was applauded for it publicly by the company’s CEO.
When our brains are overloaded, our creativity is stifled. When we are distracted and relaxed, we get snapshots of new solutions and fresh ideas.
If you can’t carve out time for an entire mental health day, seek and barricade off just 15-minutes a day to find some quiet time to balance and center yourself. Even just 15-minutes will rejuvenate you by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and allowing you to see a clearer way ahead.
5. Lean on your supports.
Feel free to lean on your support system. One of the best ways for women to deflate overwhelming stress is to call a friend. Research shows when we reach out and connect with trusting friends, oxytocin, a happy hormone, is released which counters our stress. So connect with your friends for a relaxing and creative boost. Sharing a laugh with a good friend always makes us feel better and puts things right with the world.
Ask family, friends, and colleagues to help you reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed. Many of them have been there at some point in their lives and will share insights and sage advice on methods that worked for them.
Focus on those things most important to you by prioritizing, do less of the not-so-important. Life brings us only so many precious seasons. Enjoy and make the very most of each one of them.