6 actions to take today: stop feeling overwhelmed and start feeling in control

Sheryl Ziegler
April 10, 2019

Doe this sound familiar: a constant battle against a never-ending to-do list and the sense that just when you think you’re caught up, something else comes up?  You’re not alone.

Parenthood is amazing. It’s also a long cycle of work demands, kid activities, housework, returning emails and texts, cooking, and dealing with  finances — which leaves us feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Even just thinking about everything a mom has to do in one day is exhausting! This is why so many moms experience what I call "mommy burnout."

In my private practice, I have found that there are strategies that actually do work. To stop feeling overwhelmed and start feeling more in control, try these 6 tips over the course of two weeks, and see what a difference they can make in your life (and stress levels!):

1. Let it go

Look over your to-do list (tip: I highly recommend you have it written out and not stored in your head!) and see what you can drop. If you continue to skip over a particular item on your list week after week, it probably isn’t that important. Just drop it! Some women keep things like, “manicure” on their to do lists and day after day. They realize that they aren’t going to get to it, but it still stresses them out because it’s another thing on their “still didn’t do it list!” Guess what? When you really need a manicure, you will get it. Aim to drop a few items and revel in that sense of satisfaction as you cross them off!

2. Give your day some structure  

You are much more likely to feel accomplished when you have a plan for the day. If your to-do list is currently a long grocery list of items in a random order, it can be overwhelming to even know where to start. Try switching it up and listing items in chronological orrder by the hour by which you can reasonably get the task done (for example 6:30 am: return emails).

Just map it out and you will quickly see what you can realistically get done and what you either need to delegate, move to another day, or just drop from your list entirely.

3. There are needs and there wants - know the difference

If you have a hard time prioritizing, ask yourself the question:  “Is this a need or a want?” This question helps you cut right to the chase, whether it’s getting together with a friend or baking cupcakes for the school bake sale.

I have a personal to-do list rule that helps me from feeling overwhelmed: The needs come first, and then the wants. It’s like work first play later — they are both important, but in order for me to relax at a dinner with a friend, I have to feel like the things I needed to get done were accomplished.

4. Night owl or early bird?

Focus on identifying when you work best and recognize that this might not always be when you want to work or think you should work. Take an honest assessment of when you are most likely to be in the right headspace for responding to work emails, getting a work out in, going grocery shopping, or catching up with a friend. Perhaps try leaving a few days completely open and seeing what comes naturally to you.

For me, I am in the best spot to breeze through to-do's first thing in the morning, so I do the things I really need to accomplish that day soon after I wake up. I have a daily agenda and I do my best to stick to it and to mitigate distractions. That might mean turning my ringer off, changing my work environment or not looking at incoming emails. You have to find a system that works for you, but the point is: Most of us benefit from a personalized system.

5. Remember that “no” is not a bad word

Set boundaries for yourself when it comes to others, and learn to comfortably say no. Easier said than done, but practice in this case really helps.

Start with small things, like not volunteering at a school event, and experience what it feels like to turn down an opportunity and how people handle it. I find that there is a level of respect that comes with seeing someone hold her boundary and know her limits.

The only way you are really going to know that you can do it is by trying so start small and build up from there. When you value your time, so will others.

6. Be the example you want to set

Remember that you are a role model to your children. You are setting the example for them on how to manage time, emotions, stress and other people.

If they see that you are constantly overwhelmed, they will think that is just the way life is. They will be less likely to practice the skills necessary to self-regulate all that life has to offer. Our children are already stressed and overwhelmed in their childhoods with all of the opportunities that they are afforded, so teach them through your actions how to create a sense of control in their lives.

Today’s moms report record levels of stress in their lives. By following these tried and tested strategies you really can make a difference in your own life and the lives of those around you. You can accomplish more in less time and have time on a daily basis to schedule in something for yourself, which is key to managing stress and anxiety.

Sheryl Ziegler

Dr. Sheryl Ziegler is a mother, Doctor of Psychology, speaker, and author of the new book, Mommy Burnout: How Addressing Yours Will Make You A Better Mother And Create A Better Life For Your Children.


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