What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

No matter how organized I strive to be, it seems like there are always times where I am just plain overwhelmed with what is going on in my house, work life and/or life in general.

What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed |countingwillows.com

When I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself it is time to stop, drop and roll.  Just like fire safety teaches you.  Let’s say you suddenly found yourself surrounded by flames.  What would be your main goal?  To do everything you can to get out safely.  Nothing else is more important at that moment.

That is how I feel when I feel overwhelmed – I want to just focus on getting through the worst of it safely.

I find that these four strategies help me whether I am overwhelmed – whether it is from something mundane like multiple days of school closing due to cold or something serious like a sick parent.

Remove What You Can From Your To Do List

This is the one time I let myself skip stuff on my lists or in my normal routine.  When I feel like I just cannot catch up, I start really looking at what I am trying to get done and I see where I can cut something out of my list.  I ask myself these questions:

  • Why am I doing this thing?
  • What will happen if it does not get done?
  • Can someone else reasonably do it?  Can I outsource it?
  • Am I holding myself to too high of a standard in trying to do this thing?

Very often, it is that last one that gets me.  I have the item on my list because I THINK I SHOULD be able to do this or should do this to be a good mom, etc.  Those are usually the things that I have to realize no one is noticing but me.

For example, I love making the kids’ Valentine’s Day cards for their classrooms.  If Valentine’s Day happens to fall during a period where I just feel overwhelmed, then they can be store bought.  My kids don’t care that much about it.  I am the one who has the expectation.  If I have time and I enjoy it, then fine.  It is when I have too much going on that I need to just let it go.  I ‘outsource’ it – I buy the Valentine’s.

Another example is that I usually sweep the floor once a day.  It keeps me sane, keeps the floor clean enough and I don’t even think about it until the next day.  When I am really overwhelmed, I skip it on days where it passes well enough.  Maybe I can just sweep once every other day for a few days, something like that.  A lot of times, someone else will notice it is not done (usually my husband) and he will take care of it.  Even better.

Ask For Help

Right now I am mainly at home.  I am busy taking care of the household, writing for the blog and working for my accounting clients, but I am at home and more flexible than my husband.  I try to handle most things around the house so he won’t have to – I like it that way and it is our agreement.

When the kids had so many days off from school in January due to bad weather, I was really falling behind and feeling very overwhelmed.  I was spiraling into a tiny pity party one day when we came up with a plan for this season of our lives.  I will plan on cleaning the house on Fridays.  If I cannot get it all done by then, Steve will help clean over the weekend.  That way I can do my best, but when my list is too long, he will be there to help me out.

I also do laundry on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I try to get it all folded and put away during the day, but if it is still going on into the evening, Steve jumps right in and helps make sure it gets done and where it needs to go.

The other humans I can recruit are my kids.  They each have their own chores, but I do get into a routine of just doing what needs to be done.  When I ask them to do more they are usually very happy to help out; I just need to remember to let them know I need the help.

What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed |Countingwillows.com

Make Yourself Do Something Fun

Do you ever feel like you will never catch up?  Well, you probably will at some point, but it might take a while.  I know my tendency is to put my head down and stick to business until I catch up, but I have learned that I just end up burnt out.

Even though it seems counter intuitive, I make myself do a craft I have been wanting to do, go to a movie I want to see or enjoy a game night with the family.  You might even find me doing something crazy like paint the living room.

Once I do something fun (that I want to do, not just need to do), I feel like I regain my perspective.  I remember why I do what I do and who I do it for – my family.  They need me, not my craziness over organization.  Even though that keeps us operating smoothly most of the time, when push comes to shove if I let it make me crazy, then I am missing the point.

Set Yourself Up for Success

The fourth thing I do when I feel overwhelmed is to set myself up to get some stuff done. After I go through my list and remove what I can and ask for help where I can, I look at what remains.  I pick off the easiest tasks and tackle them one by one.

Schedule a haircut?  Done.

Pay bills?  Done.

Enter dates into the calendar?  Done.

You get the idea – I pare down my list by taking care of the smaller things first, so I get a boost from crossing things off my list and that often gives me motivation to keep on working, tacking the bigger items.

Before I know it, I am back to feeling on top of my world.  Sometimes it only lasts a day, sometimes I get lucky and it lasts a week (or more).

Whatever the case, when you feel overwhelmed, it is important to remember that this, too, shall pass and if you just put one foot in front of the other, you will make it to the other side.

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  1. says

    I love this list – it puts into words what I need a lot of the time, and I’d add a fifth. GET ENOUGH SLEEP! Without enough sleep, I can cry at the drop of the hat, and even the easiest to do list items are too much.

    Your husband sounds like a real catch. I’m slowly training up my boyfriend, hoping one day he’ll be as wonderful as your husband (and my father, with helping with chores).

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