Overwhelm is something that many of us are all too familiar with these days.
We live in a world of never-ending to-do lists and we’ve grown accustomed to the notion that we have to do ‘all the things, all the time’.
We work, we take care of our families, we manage our homes, we schedule and plan and organise and remember everything - for everyone.
And we’re largely doing it alone. In Britain today, the majority of people live over 100 miles away from their family and where they were born. That’s a huge change from 50 years ago, when most people moved no further than 5.
It takes a village to raise a child? Well, society’s changed and the villagers have gone.
Added to this, our children are busier than they were a generation ago, their daily schedules filled with hours of homework and structured activities.
It’s no wonder that we’re habitually overwhelmed.
The mental load is huge and it’s exhausting!
Then, life throws a spanner in the works. We get sick; one of the children is sick, there’s a work emergency, the car breaks down or there’s a huge unexpected bill ……….
The straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The good news is that it really doesn’t have to be that way.
Whilst you might not be able to make yourself ‘less busy’ or prevent unmitigated disasters, there are a few practical ways to deal with day-to-day overwhelm.
Hopefully, if you’re not totally overwhelmed, you’ll find it easier to cope when life throws you a curveball.
Plan, plan and plan some more. To-do lists don’t have to be overwhelming if you understand that you don’t have to be productive all the time and your life doesn’t depend on getting everything done all at once.
I love physical journals, diaries and planners, but apps like Trello are good too. Try and make your daily plans the night before, to get yourself off to a good start.
Try and recognize the difference between being actually busy and having a bad case of ‘Busy Elbows’. Be honest about what really needs to be done. Are you adding thing’s to your to-do list that don’t belong there? What’s urgent and what can be left?
Carefully prioritise things into what needs doing, today, this week and this month. Tick off what you can and be prepared to carry things over.
Try to always set yourself one or two really short, manageable tasks each day, so that even if the whole day goes awry, or something disastrous occurs, you still feel like you’ve done something positive and moved forward.
Try your best to tame your inner gremlins.
It really isn’t possible to do ‘all the things, all the time, all by yourself’. Anyone who says it is, is probably doing less, with a lot more help or with some other advantage that you haven’t seen. You’ll find that you make a lot more progress if you pick one thing to do at a time and focus on doing it well.
Work on your time management! Look up the Pomodero technique before you embark on any new task. Set a timer to 25 minutes and really focus on your chosen activity for that amount of time. If possible, eliminate distractions (she says with a wry smile). Use the timer to help avoid the temptations to make yourself a cup of coffee or do something around the house. Once the timer is up, have a short break before starting again. Use a physical timer (like one of those ticking tomato timers you find in the supermarket) or an app like Study Bunny.
Stop struggling. If you’re feeling really stuck when working on something, it’s counterproductive to struggle with it for hours. Rotate the different tasks you have to work on. For me, this is writing, working on my website, photography, marketing and jewellery making. If I spend too much time on one thing, nothing seems to go right and even the simplest task takes forever!
It’s even worse if I start off in the wrong frame of mind.
Try to recognise when you’re struggling. Set a sensible amount of time to spend on one task, then move on.
Make a “Don’t-Have-To-Do” list. Try your hardest to set some time aside for yourself at least semi-regularly. A small amount of time each day is perfect (see point #3), but anything is better than nothing. You’re important and taking care of your mind shouldn’t be a luxury or an afterthought. Unless burning out is what you’re shooting for, it’s important and necessary.
Never getting one minute to yourself is not something to aspire to.
I’m going to avoid saying “Find a hobby” - way too much commitment.
Instead, make a list of small, enjoyable or creative activities that you wantto do, rather than have to do. Things that you can dip in and out of. Maybe a list of things you’ve always wanted to learn (there are a plethora of online resources), or even magazines you never seem to have time to read.
Find your online tribe. Loneliness is in on the increase, not just for elderly people, but for younger people too and for a whole host of reasons, it’s not always easy to ‘just go and make some friends’. Online membership communities, full of like-minded people, can be invaluable. It’s often really helpful to bounce ideas off other people and it’s also healthy to be able to vent when things go wrong.
If you don’t know where to start, head to Instagram and search for people using hashtags.
Looking for women running their own businesses? Try #fempreneur or #staybossyladies , Mothers? #ohheymama or #childhoodunplugged . Creative? #meetthemaker or #handmadecurator. Looking for people local to you? Search under your local area name. Also remember to check out seasonal, or topical hashtags, like #blossomwatch, #StayHomeStaySafe or #IsolationChronicles
Stop comparing yourself to everyone else!
It’s so hard when you feel like you’re being left behind and it often feels like everyone else is doing things better and progressing faster.
Social media creates this illusion that we all have this whole life-thing sorted, but stop a second and check yourself.
You’re being shown a snapshot of what people want you to see. Chances are, you do it too! You’ve just never thought about it that way before. Nobody’s ‘that’ perfect.
Stop being so hard to yourself! Try to be kind.
A lot the time we can pretty mean to ourselves. We’re unsympathetic and we expect way more than we would from anybody else.
Here’s how it usually goes…..
We make a plan and have a goal - And we have this fanciful notion that everything will go smoothly.
Then, we run into obstacles. We’re juggling way too many balls. We get stressed, we procrastinate and the whole thing takes three times longer than originally planned.
So we get frustrated, discouraged and allow a cloud to descend – which makes everything worse.
Yet we never, ever seem to learn.
In reality, we’re all just trying to muddle through and as long as we’re doing our best….. Then we really can’t ask any more.
Lucille is based in Suffolk UK and has been a jewellery designer and writer for 14 years.
She’s the founder of Sophia Alexander Jewellery, creating modern family heirlooms and luxury personalised jewellery using real fingerprint, handprint and footprint impressions in 9ct gold, 18ct gold, ethically mined fairtrade gold and silver.
She’s also a Mummy of five, a full-time home-school Mummy to one with multiple anaphylactic allergies and she’s lived with a life-long chronic pain condition for 20 years.
- And she knows a thing or two about overwhelm.
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