What to Do When Life Overwhelms You

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Ladies, I am willing to bet solid money that you have felt (at least once in your lives) the burden of being overwhelmed. If you’re a woman and you have never felt that way, please share your secrets with the class. If that sense of overwhelm seems to orchestrate your day, then you definitely need to hit reset.

So, what is the single best thing to do when that overwhelming feeling starts to overtake you? For me, I say hit pause as soon as you can and figure out what absolutely must be done to function at the bare minimum for the day. Let me give you an example.

It’s Friday. You’re at home with the kiddos, hubby is working late. The fridge is looking bare, the whining is at a fever pitch, and you’re out of time, money, and a vehicle. You have errands to run, there is an obscene amount of laundry lying on your floors, and you haven’t showered since Tuesday. Awesome (this scenario may or may not be inspired by real events). When times like these roll around, you’re probably ready to uncork the wine starting at nap time. But what can you do to get your day back on track?

1.) First and foremost, pray. It doesn’t have to be long. You don't even have to say anything. Just sit in God’s presence and be still. Listen. Say an Our Father and a Hail, Mary to orient your thoughts if needed, and then just let your emotions flow from you to Our God. Let Him know how you’re feeling. Five minutes with God can do amazing things.

2.) Start writing or typing a list of every single thing that is flowing in your mind. What do you have to get done? What is bothering you? What do you feel like you
should be doing, but haven’t? Just get some of those words out so that you don’t have to sit with them there in your head anymore. Don’t worry so much about making it orderly. Just write it all down in the order it comes.

3.) Write out or highlight in your list the bare minimum. What MUST be done today for you and your family to function? It usually is something like, “Feed the tiny humans. Feed the fur babies. Change some diapers. Repeat.” Once you have that bare minimum list, then figure out how you will execute ONLY those things.

4.) Once you have that bare minimum taken care of (at least mentally), you can move on to processing those other items on your list. Move them around. If anything on your list can be completed tomorrow, leave it to tomorrow. Focus right now on getting through this day and quelling this feeling of overwhelm.

5.) When this day is done (or almost done), don’t worry about that to-do list that now includes things such as wash all the dishes, do 47 loads of laundry, sweep the floors that have been neglected for 2 months, run a marathon, become a millionaire, establish world peace (or just peace between your kids). Instead, focus your efforts on considering where it is your schedule isn’t working in the first place. How did you get to this feeling of overwhelm? Was it just a rough day? Or is this your operating norm? If you’re feeling overwhelmed more often than not, it’a a sign of 2 things: a.) you need more time to yourself with Our Lord, and b.) your schedule isn’t working. So, take another time out and determine just where it seems to go wrong.

These 5 tips seem pretty easy, right? I know what you’re thinking. “But I just don’t have TIME to sit down and write or type out everything going on in my head! The kids are (fill in the blank)!” Or, “I’ve got a deadline that I have to make. I can’t just take time out and write down my thoughts and feelings!” To that I say, fine. Have it your way. Look, I know it’s hard. I have been in both of those positions. But if you don’t take just 15 minutes to figure out what your bare minimum is, you’re going to completely burn out and continue to feel woefully overwhelmed. Break it up into intervals. Take 5 minutes to pray, first and foremost. Then, take 5 minutes to write out your thoughts and to-do lists. Then, take 5 minutes to find your bare minimum. Those are the three things you absolutely must do in order to function and not feel as if you’re completely adrift. The other two can wait until you have some down time (the kids are in bed, you’re home from work, etc).

Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.