3 tips for dealing with overwhelm

Open sea with a single arm and hand reaching out of it like someone is drowning

If you’re a working mum feeling the weight of overwhelm from having too much to do, you’re not alone. Here are some simple steps for helping to relieve the feelings of stress.

Notice your feelings

This sounds so simple, but recognising that you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed and have the power to do something about it can often be the trickiest part. Or – worse – the part which gets skipped completely. Allowing yourself to notice your feelings that things are not as they should be and it’s giving you discomfort is the first step. Along with the realisation that you’re not going to be productive or efficient when feeling this way

Often, we recognise that we feel stressed or overwhelmed, but are so used to operating from that space and carrying on regardless, it can be hard to acknowledge that we do actually have the option to do something about it. Giving ourselves permission to see this as an issue to be resolved is step one.

Review what’s on your mental to-do list and project manage your life

Once you’ve noticed your feelings and allowed yourself to acknowledge you can change things, the next thing to do is run through what you have to do.  The key word here being have. There will definitely be tasks on your list, which don’t need to be taking up head space right now, so the ultimate point of this exercise is to ditch and delegate wherever possible!

Make a list or review one you already have

I do this in a project management tool, Asana. I love using a tool like this because it’s on my phone and my laptop and is super simple to set up and is collaborative too so a great option for household activities as you can share with a partner (if you have one).

The way I plan my time needs to be really flexible and fluid because I have two young children and few child-free hours, so things often move around due to sickness or unforeseen outbursts, etc. If you’re in the same boat, I highly recommend planning your time by the week first off, rather than by the day. Obviously, there are some things that happen every day at the same time, like school drop offs and mealtimes, but – for me, as a self-employed mum with a toddler – having some flexibility around what I can expect to achieve each week is key and immediately relieves some pressure.

In Asana, I have a to do list which is made up of three boards/columns: “this week”, “next week”, “longer term”. Using these boards, I can review all the tasks floating around in my brain and work out if there are tasks I’m stressing about that don’t actually need to be on my radar at all for this week or next week. Those go on the longer term board. Then they’re effectively out of my head, until I review again next week. 

The next questions I ask are: what’s on the list for this week that can be delegated (to my partner, a friend, etc)? What’s on the list for this week that can move to next week? If anything can be delegated that helps you reduce your list, do it. If anything can move from this week to next week, move it across and forget it for now.

Now you’re left with what should be a shorter list for this week and can forget the rest for now and work out your tasks in order of priority for the week. I focus on having a maximum of three tasks for the week. That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything else whatsoever, but I have in mind what my priorities are when I come to planning out what I hope to do at the start of each day.

Take a break

Counterintuitive? Maybe. But after I’ve worked out my priorities for the week and can feel the feelings of stress dissipate, I take a break and so should you!

Stress has an impact on your mental and physical wellbeing, so if you’ve spent an evening or a morning feeling the effects, it makes sense to get yourself back to full calm so you can be effective at whatever it is you’re going to be doing next. If you can take a walk  outside or meditate, do that. If you’re a single parent with no childcare, maybe that break looks like five minutes of deep diaphragmatic breathing whilst your child watches something or naps. Maybe it’s just a cup of tea alone. Whatever it is be intentional about it – tell yourself you’re taking a break and decompressing before getting on with your day.

On the subject of being intentional, before I get back into the day-to-day, I like to set myself an intention for how I want to feel that day –  for who I want to be – and spend a few moments visualising how I want the day to go. This sets me up to be the calm, collected person and parent I want to be. That’s not to say I never slip up – I do – but moving from stress to taking practical action, a break, and setting intentions means a far greater chance of the day going well.

I’d love to know if you found these tips helpful or have any to add of your own? What do you do when you feel stressed or overwhelmed?

If you’d like to hear more tips from me, join the Working Women’s Club Facebook group where I share tips, insight and advice live every week.

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