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How to Cope When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed and being a mom seem to go hand in hand. Three simple tips anyone can use to reset and create a coping strategy.

How to cope when you're feeling overwhelmed.

School is in session, the holiday season is ramping up, and we are in that moment of time where it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Today I thought I’d share three strategies that really help me stay balanced – or recover balance – when this happens.

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How to Cope When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Last month I accomplished about half my goals for September. My goals are exactly that – goals – so it’s not the end of the universe when I fail. September was full of a family reunion, a couple of cool freelance jobs, adjusting to a school year, getting a grad student’s baby used to spending time in our house, Anna’s birthday party, and more. All good things that make it hard to accomplish other things.

I updated a couple of post, including this one full of Halloween class party ideas. The Learn to Blog Dominate course inspired me to pull together this long-overdue round-up of hands-on activities for preschoolers. I wrote up our amazing day touring the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio in London. We enjoyed our time with Mike’s extended family. Emma made the cutest bird cupcakes for Anna’s party. My Top Toy Finds blog now features our favorite stress toys.

I did not blog about our homeschool conference. I did not write a simplified version of my weighted blanket tutorial. A draft for Great Family Reads was begun but not published. I didn’t publish a second post from the many I have planned from our summer trip.

It’s not the end of the world, but a 50% success rate does mean I need to reevaluate where and how I’m using my time. I knew my September goals were ambitious, so it doesn’t mean I need to make time to make so many things happen in October. I just need to take a look at how much time I have and plan more effectively. Limiting goals is one way to plan effectively.

This goal setting approach is the same strategy I use when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Here’s what I do.

Tip #1: The Hour Rule

When obligations feel like they are just too much, look closely at your day. See if you can identify one hour a day you can dedicate to getting things done that matter to you. As a morning person, I aim for an hour early in the day rather than later.

Next, decide WHAT you will do during this hour. Put it in your calendar, and stick to it! I do recommend taking one of these hours each week to assess the week and schedule out the next week. For the remaining six hours, try to strike a balance between high priority obligations and passion projects.

It’s important to stick with things that can get done in only one hour, unless you manage to carve out more than an hour. Honestly, my favorite weeks are those where I manage at least four hours of concentrated time once a week. Unfortunately, I find that those are few and far between at the moment. A single hour every day can add up and help a lot!

Tip #2: Priority Lists

I have a Happy Planner, but instead of using it as intended I start the day with a post-it note. I don’t allow my self a longer to-do list than I can fit on that little post-it note, and tasks that I know will take more time are written in larger lettering in on the post-it note. Items get crossed off the list as they are completed. Remember that organizing hour once a week I mentioned? I use that time to write out post-it notes for the next week. I find this approach makes me more aware of what is going on and what I need to prepare for.

Tip #3: Find the Joy

This is really the most important of my three tips. Did you notice that I didn’t even write in my planner for tip #2? I only write down things that I am proud of accomplishing and things that happen that day that make me happy. Sometimes I’m really proud of folding the laundry, and that makes it in! Other times I record finishing a project with a child, or editing a batch of photos.

I record special moments from the day at the bottom of the page. Focusing on joy and gratitude transforms my days from overwhelming to memorable, even when other things go wrong.

How to Cope When You're Feeling Overwhelmed as a Mom #parenting #momlife #settinggoals

Setting Goals for October 2018

And, now that I’ve taken those steps, here are my October goals! You will notice they are a bit less ambitious than last month!

  • Declutter in preparation for the holiday season. I did start this last month, even though it wasn’t a goal!
  • Schedule at least one blog post on Top Toy Finds and Great Family Reads. I didn’t get this done last month, but there is less going on around the edges of my life this month, and I think it’s a realistic goal. Especially since the book post is already partially written.
  • Write up at least two posts from our summer trip. I only got one written last month, but two still seems reasonable to me.
  • Write a simplified version of my weighted blanket tutorial. I worked on this last month, so I’m closer to being done than I was when I wrote last month’s post!
  • Keep working my way through the Learn to Blog Dominate course to help make all the posts I’ve spent hours upon hours writing easier to find.
  • Figure out Halloween costumes for the kids. I might have to make one for Anna, but we have a plan and it shouldn’t take that long. And I think the three other kids are working with things we already own, or making their own costumes.
  • Write a post about my strategy for keeping kids off screens. This came up when I was interviewed for the upcoming Inspired Parent Summit II. The summit begins October 10th, and registration is free. Check it out!

Honestly, that still feels pretty ambitious!

How do you cope with feeling overwhelmed? What are your goals for October 2018? This month my friend Cassie wrote about how life moves on even as we grieve the loss of loved ones.

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

8 thoughts on “How to Cope When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed”

  1. I think 50% is great. I think I only got about 70% of my goals but life has a way of happening. I’ve been looking at the planner you mentioned. I’ll have to check it out more.

    I can’t wait to see the post from you summer trip!

    1. My favorite thing about that planner is that you can add pages anywhere easily! I combined the planner with this hole punch (different brand because their brand didn’t get great reviews). Emma has a custom-made bullet journal that we made using the hole punch, a nice plastic cover that I got originally to go with my binding machine, and discs I bought just on their own.

  2. The post-it notes tip is such a good one. It’s better to have a bunch of tiny to-do lists for each day of the week – and actually accomplish the things on those lists – than to write one big giant ambitious to-do list, feel overwhelmed, accomplish none of the things on your giant list, and feel worthless at the end of the week.

    I know from experience! lol

  3. I like the idea of making a to-do list that has to fit on a post-it note. That would probably stop my ever-growing list of what I believe I can do.

  4. This is a great outlook to have! I also try to reserve an hour for myself every day and to make a short list for the day. Most of my planning though is digital in Outlook. Wishing you a happy October.

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