What’s a girl to do when she feels like she’s got nothing left in the tank, and there’s no energy-giving gas station in sight?
Friends, I’m in that space right now. Life is crazy. Work is crazy. My boys are in moody, behavior-y spaces and I’m feeling like a loser mom who can’t manage, much less improve, all this crazy. As Jen Hatmaker put it in her latest book For the Love (great read, by the way), my “nice to nag ratio” is about a negative 17. Basically, I’m nagging way more than I’m nice-ing these days…another symptom of overwhelm. As my friends can testify, this is my default emoji as it just explains the wackiness of life the best:
It’s true, we only have so much quality brain energy and will power to use in a day. Once it’s gone, my brain feels like a worn out jalopy and no amount of encouraging can make it motor again. When I’m out of gas but still need to make headway, I try to remember these tips that have worked for me over the years. Oh, maybe that should be tip #1: Remember to refer to my list of stress-squashing strategies! (I sense a printable poster coming on.)
- Breathe. And breathe, and breathe, and breathe deeply again. I try slow, controlled breathing for a few minutes and it always helps.
- Take a break and do something else. Focusing on a completely different task allows us to function using a different part of the brain muscle.
- Tackle the really challenging brain-buster problems tomorrow (if at all possible). Things are always most clear for me the next day. I can’t count the number of times I’ve struggled with something and then finally decided to put it off until the next day. If I could only learn to recognize these stalemate tasks sooner and stop wasting time and energy.
- Delegate or say “No.” to some tasks. (Yeah, I’m laughing too, but it’s worth a try, right?)
- Take a walk or a shower to clear the noggin. It’s amazing how much clarity comes to me when I’m away from my usual and out in nature.
- Curb the emotional eating by keeping healthy go-to’s at-hand. What I want to do is reach for easy comfort foods but then I eat too much of those things in an effort to calm my stress and emotions. No one else does this, right?
- Water. When I neglect hydration my brain is even foggier and I just feel bleh. Try drinking a glass or two mid-afternoon (when the inevitable slump hits)—it’s a game-changer.
- Green smoothie. It’s amazing all of the pick-me-up nutrients that can be packed into a green smoothie. I just add a handful of greens to a favorite smoothie concoction and then notice how much more energetic I feel (and it actually tastes good). I also like quality greens powders which are often boosted with vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes and actually have little or no taste when blended with a smoothie. I like this one.
- Pick ONE task. No matter how daunting my workload is, I try to put it out of my mind, turn up the tunes, and focus on that one task like it’s the only thing I need to do. It’s freeing!
- Find joy in the little things. I know, such a cliche, right? But it really is helpful.
- Shift mindset and try to recognize stress as helpful. Our stress response is nature’s way of trying to help us. Check out this incredibly insightful TED talk on how we can make stress our friend. People have been “stressed” since the beginning of time; it makes sense we shouldn’t think of it as the enemy.
- Reach out to someone for support. It helps to tell someone how I’m feeling and get some empathy from another human. In other words “get out of my own head.” This isn’t easy for those of us who like to do everything ourselves but it’s worth making the effort, and I will say it does get easier the more I reach out. As humans, we are designed to rely on and support one another.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. If I have several, small, low-effort tasks that are adding up to one big annoyance, I carve out a window of time and tackle them all at once. I feel so liberated after striking a whole pile of to-dos from my list! They no longer occupy space in my brain or steal my energy and I’m free to focus on the more important projects.
- Be grateful. It really helps to take a moment and reflect on everything good in my life to put things back in perspective and remember that all things do (eventually) pass.
In times like these (and I know they will pass, and come around again), I can’t keep it all together and maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up over it. Instead, I should employ some strategies to get through it. What are your tips for dealing with overwhelm? Please share!