This post comes from my podcast, Motivation For Moms episode 74, entitled "Why You're Overwhelmed (Let's Change That)." Be sure to subscribe to Motivation For Moms to get the latest show episodes as they are published, and please write a review, which is the ultimate gift to me.
Today I want to talk to you about why you get overwhelmed, why you might be feeling overwhelmed, and what to do about it. I’m going to give you three common mistakes moms make that that lead to them feeling overwhelmed, and three practical strategies to prevent that.
It’s really no question why moms get so overwhelmed, you could probably come up with three reasons right now, you could probably come up with at least three solutions right now. So why are you listening to this episode?
The reason is likely because you keep finding yourself in the same place over and over again and you’re asking yourself how you keep letting the overwhelm happen.
The first thing I want to say is, you’re doing an amazing job, I know you don’t hear that enough, you really are, and you deserve some trophies for real, but, at the end of the day, our mental and emotional health and energy is entirely up to us to manage, and that includes maintaining an organizational life structure to ensure we’re getting done what needs to get done and not burning ourselves out, managing our workload, and setting healthy boundaries while managing expectations appropriately.
So in this episode I am going to give you the strategies for overcoming overwhelm, while also reminding you, the belief that mom life is just overwhelming by nature does not have to be true, and you have the power to change anything that’s not working for you.
So first of all, I want to define overwhelm because sometimes it helps to get validation about what it is we’re feeling and what it is we’re experiencing.
Okay so overwhelm can feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water, it can feel like things keep piling up and piling up and you get buried deeper and deeper, it can feel like you have no control over what’s happening around you, what’s happening in your life. You might feel like you’re always busy, but nothing gets truly done. It might feel like you have so much to do, and so much you are doing, but you still feel unfulfilled at the end of the day. It might feel like you a hundred tabs open at any given point in time, all with open-ended tasks, meanwhile, your brain is consciously and even subconsciously trying to process everything, which is why you’re exhausted. You might feel taken advantage of, you might find yourself snapping and saying things like, “don’t you see I’m busy? Don’t you see I’m in the middle of something? Don’t you see I’m overwhelmed?” And then comes the cycle of guilt and tears, and locking yourself in a closet, feeling like the overwhelm is never going to end.
It might get to a point where you dream about bedtime all day, and you dread getting up the next morning to the same cycle of to-do’s, tasks, projects, people needing you. Eventually, if overwhelm builds long enough, it can cause you to feel resentful of the things that need your attention, and even, the people who need your attention, the people who you love the most. This is not at all uncommon.
The good news is, you can take control of the overwhelm today, and I’m going to get into that in a few, but for now, I want to give you three reasons why you became overwhelmed to begin with. Of course, there could be way more than just these, but in most circumstances, you should be able to look back and identify at least one of these three contributing factors that led up to you feeling overwhelmed. Understanding how you got here is the key to figuring out how to get out of here.
#1) You lack routine, structure, and habits that keep you grounded and contained. What I mean by contained is they act as the container by which you carry out your day in. Having a daily structure can help you compartmentalize the things in your life, so that you can show up 100% mentally in whatever it is you are doing. When you have a plan for the day that YOU create, you don’t need to constantly feel like there’s somewhere else you need to be, there’s something else you need to be doing, because all those other things have their space in your schedule at their designated time, and if something comes up, you can more easily mentally prioritize it, is this something that requires me to alter the schedule I have to fit it in? Or can I schedule it in at a later time because I’m already maxed out for the day? See? This helps you not overcommit yourself, because you know exactly what your priorities are, and what your plan is to execute on those. Having a daily routine, like a morning and nighttime routine, act as bookends for your day, the purpose is to fill you up before you have to give throughout the day, or to help you unwind and download the day, so you can not carry any leftover stress into the next day. You can’t leave things like self-care or personal development or even rejuvenating leisure up to chance, because as you and I both know all too well, because we are highly sought-after in our families, everyone and everything will demand every free minute of your time, and you will never ever ever have anything left over for yourself. So if you feel overwhelmed, especially stretched thin, or if you feel like you have a million tabs open, there’s a good chance its because you’re not waking up and executing the day with intention.
#2) You overcommit. Ahhh overcommitment, if there was one pitfall that we high-achieving mamas tend to do, it’s overcommit. God bless us, we say yes to everything because we care, and because we want to be involved in everything, and perhaps, there’s that fomo that comes up, that fear of missing out, we fear that if we say no, we limit our future opportunities or relationships. Want to meet up? Yeah I wanna meet up. Wanna be on the board of the PTA? Yeah I wanna be on the board. Wanna be the classroom mom? Yeah I wanna be the classroom mom. Wanna host all of the baseball families at your house on Saturday? Yeah, of course I wanna do that. Wanna watch this webinar, sure I’ll watch this webinar, sounds great! Wanna get together and gossip about Vanessa? Heck yeah I wanna gossip about Vanessa. And see, it’s not just other people we overcommit to. We overcommit to projects. We overcommit to this app and this tool, and this challenge, and this webinar, and this book, and the newest and the latest and greatest of everything. We overcommit to our own goals even because we are mamas who think big and we want more for ourselves in every area of our lives, but we haven’t even reached the last goal we set and now we’ve added even more to our plate of things we’re trying to do without clarity. We overcommit our hours to things like browsing Target and getting inspired to start this project and that, and we lack focus and clarity on what exactly we’re after, what exactly our intention is every day.
#3) This one goes without saying, we feel overwhelmed because we’re trying to do it all ourselves. And hey, look, I recognize that a lot of time, the people around us don’t always see all that we have on our plate. The people closest to us, our husband, our partner, our parent, they don’t always volunteer to take charge of things so that we don’t have SO much on our plate. They don’t always notice the things that need to be done like we do. It’s true that sometimes we are taken for granted. It’s true that sometimes the workload isn’t fair. And any solution is going to start by recognizing just what is happening, what we observe happening, and how we are left feeling, in this case, overwhelmed, under appreciated, under-supported, and taken for granted.
There’s a good chance that these three reasons as to why you feel overwhelmed are by no means an exhaustive list for you. There may definitely be other things beyond your control overwhelming you, be it illness in your family, taking care of a special needs child, financial crisis, marital crisis, mental illness, or other things.
But, one thing I am confident about is that we as moms were bestowed with strength and abilities, and resiliency that can help us get through anything, that can help us figure any thing out, and so even if you have so much on your plate right now that you are like, ahhh what is even happening in my life right now? I want to remind you that you don’t need to carry everything on your own shoulders, even if you are lacking support. You can give your problems and burdens to your higher power, whoever that is for you, at any moment you feel like you can’t do it anymore, like its too heavy to carry. Just imagine giving a whole stack of messy papers containing all of your problems to your secretary, your higher power, and say to them, please take these, and deal with them for me, please take these for a moment so I can reset my mind and get my head on straight, and then you let go, like really let go, and trust that they will all line up in a way that feels more manageable when you come back to do your part.
Doing your part means being willing to do what you need to do to take care of things, but when you don’t know what to do or how to do it, you can ask your higher power to make it clear to you what you need to do, and to guide you, and empower you, and strengthen you to do what needs to be done. You can say a prayer of something along the lines of: “God, Universe, Higher Self, please align things in such a way so that I can successfully manage all that’s on my plate right now. Please strengthen and empower me to show up how I need to show up right now, in the ways that I am needed. Please allow me the time and space to find peace and regain my sanity and strength so that I can show up even stronger when the time is right. Please do the behind the scenes work to make my job easier.”
Do your Mama Miracle worksheet, this is something that I created just for this, to help you get clear on what you need and want, and allow you to hire your hire power for assistance, and I made this available to you for free, if you haven’t gotten this worksheet yet, just go to themamamiracle.com, and you can download it and use it anytime you want to create change in your life, anytime you need assistance from your higher power, and whenever you just need clarity on what to do, whenever you need that Mama Miracle in your life.
So let’s talk real life ways of what you can do about your overwhelm. I believe that the first place to start is with prayer, like I mentioned, and that tool that I created, The Mama Miracle, is an excellent tool to help you get that clarity and divine assistance. It also just helps to put these things on paper and re-read them. Even if you don’t believe in God, or, you’re not sure who you identify as your higher power, prayer can be a very personal, internal thing, where you even just check in with yourself, and ask your subconscious mind to work on your behalf to make things easier for you. It doesn’t really matter who or what you’re “praying” to, the thing that makes a difference is that you set an intention, and you let go of the stress around that intention, and just trust that it’s all gonna work out.
So going back to that first reason why you feel overwhelmed. And that was, You lack routine, structure, and habits that keep you grounded and contained. The whole reason I created the Planner Makeover Course was to share with you what has helped me, and what continues to help me every single day from feeling overwhelmed, and that is, waking up each day knowing exactly how many hours I have in the day, knowing exactly how I plan to use those hours, what i’m living for, what my goals are, what I’m working toward, and what I need to do that that day to make that life my reality.
Because of the number of things that are constantly coming at us all day long, the notifications, the popups, the ads, the phone calls, the texts, the direct messages, the ideas, the inspiration, the crises, the emergencies, everything and it’s mother calling for our attention, it is necessary for us moms to take charge of our day and live our day on purpose, not in defense mode or in reactivity mode. That’s not to say we can’t respond as things come up. BUT, if we know what we’re doing on any given hour of any given day, if we’re doing what we intended to be doing, then when things come up, like I mentioned before, it’s a lot easier to mentally address it as something that’s worth interrupting our plans for, or, if it can be simply written down and addressed at a later time, perhaps scheduled in at an appropriate time. And even if we do get sidetracked, we can always come back to our original plan and go, okay, where am I now, and where do I pick up at?
Because how often have you had those days where you started your day with some idea of what you wanted to get done that day, and one thing led to another, and all of a sudden, you find yourself wasting the entire afternoon at Target, your kids are grumpy because they missed their nap, you still don’t know what you’re doing for dinner that night, and evening time comes around and you didn’t get to a single thing on your mental list.
My strategy helps you avoid those kinds of days, so that you can feel accomplished and get done what you need to get done to move you closer to your goals WHILE also having those Target days that are scheduled in, and you can have absolutely no guilt whatsoever because it was an intentional Target shopping trip. And here’s the other thing. How often do you get super inspired to do something, whether it’s start a business idea or a home project, and you throw yourself into that thing, only to realize at the end of the day that you’ve totally neglected everything else - the home, the chores, the to-do’s, the personal business, the self-care …. And then you feel overwhelmed because as I’m sure you’d agree, if we as moms go even one day neglecting any of the important up-keep things in our life, we fall behind, things pile up, and we end up feeling overwhelmed. And so the trick I’ve learned is to just make sure that all of the important parts of your life get time and space in your schedule, and are treated as equal importance. Because your goals are important, your home renovation is important, but laundry and dishes are just as important ya’ll.
When you plan your life in advance, you not only give yourself the permission and the dedicated time and space to do the things you WANT to do, but you ensure that the important things like daily chores and routine tasks are cared for too, and you don’t even have to think about it, because it’s in your schedule. Of course you’ll learn how to stay on top of all of these things in my Planner Makeover Course.
#2 The second reason for being overwhelmed was because you’re overcommitted. People say, “learn to say no,” I say, learn to say, thank you for thinking of me, I’d love to be able to do that right now, but I’m over-committed at the moment, and perhaps we can revisit in a couple of months, or next time the opportunity presents itself. This was exactly what I did when my daughter started Kindergarten. Since it was her first year in public school, I really felt like I should sign up to be the classroom mom. But I was also getting busier in my business, and I had to ask myself whether this was the best way for me to connect with her, and her in her school experience. The instinctual Sara replied right away to her teacher and said, yes absolutely I’ll be the classroom mom. And then the more I thought about it, I realized I had jumped the gun, and I ended up emailing her teacher to let her know I overcommitted, but that I’d love to revisit the opportunity the next semester. See this is such a softer blog than just “no” - it leaves people with a very reasonable impression of what you’re willing to do. Practicing saying no without saying never. Trust me, it’ll make you feel empowered, and you won’t feel like you’re burning all your future bridges.
Realize that it’s not people’s expectations of you that you need to manage. It’s your idea of people’s expectations of you. Oooo that’s good. We overcommit because we think that people expect us to show up in certain ways. When what we really need to get clear on, is how do WE want to show up? Are these different things we think we need to do, REALLY what we ultimately WANT to do with our lives? Or can we do things more our way?
And let’s briefly talk about what we’re overcommitted to that isn’t people. The apps, the notifications, the challenges we signed up for, the goals we set. At one point, we said YES to all of these things, and over time, they began to fill our inbox and our home screen and our mailbox, all the things. Over the next couple days, I want you to notice everything that pops up in your life - notifications from apps, emails in your inbox, phone calls, text messages, anything that comes up that asks for your attention, and I want you to start clearing out the things that aren’t getting you closer to your goals, that are just distracting you, draining your energy, and creating decision fatigue, the thing that happens when you’re faced with little and big decisions all throughout the day, like, what do I do with this, how do I respond to this? It’s important to purge these little mental energy zappers once in a while to take control of your brain and your attention and energy again.
#3 The number three reason I mentioned that you likely feel overwhelmed is that you feel like you’re the only one doing everything. Maybe sometimes you feel like you’re the only one who cares enough to do anything. I totally get this feeling, and please know that you’re not alone in this. Your fellow motivated moms worldwide unite in this feeling. Because the truth is, for high achieving mamas like us, moms who want more than just average for our lives and for our families, it can be lonely at that level, when everyone around us just seems to be doing the bare minimum.
Listen we can’t control the people in our lives, even the ones we hope and expect to show up on their A game for us or for our kids. All we can do, is set an example and don’t give up, knowing and believing that someday, we might just inspire our spouse or the closest people to us to start living more fully too, to step into their greatness, and show up even stronger for us and for our family. We set an example, and we ask for what we need. And we ask for it in such a way that makes people feel like they’re com doing to the rescue. Because you and I are smart mamas. And we know that saying things like, “You NEVER help.” Or, “I’m ALWAYS the one to do everything” isn’t going to motivate the person we’re trying to motivate. We’re smart and we’re tactile and we’re strategic, and because we’re thoughtful, clever women, we understand how to stroke the ego and get people to step up without demanding them to step up. We tell them how much we appreciate all they do, and that we simply need some help, and we trust THEM to step in and help us. We make it about what WE need, NOT what they haven’t been doing. Be clear on what you need, and ask for assistance.
And remember that no matter how the people around you respond to your requests for help, your higher power, the divine source of all that you have created in your life, will never let you down. So if people let you down, put your burdens on your higher power, trusting, that you will get the strength, the answer, the way, the knowing, the assistance, whatever it is that you need, if you just ask, and LET go of the worry. Once again, I encourage you to get your free copy of my famous worksheet, The Mama Miracle at themamamiracle.com.
I hope you feel a little more empowered to overcome your overwhelm. If you’re in iTunes or Apple podcasts you can add this episode to your personal library so that you can go back and listen anytime you need it, and while you’re at it, do me a favor and download the last 5 episodes, it really helps me out, it helps with the iTunes algorithm stuff when more people download my episodes, it’s just one small way to give back to me, and, I know that just having this positivity in your inbox is going to help you feel more supported too.
Thanks for listening today. Thanks for working to better yourself. In case no one has thanked you recently, thank you for all you do, thank you for being so committed to bettering yourself and your families life. Now go out there, take charge of your day, you beautiful, powerful, and incredible mama.