That is the only word that can be used to describe today. Overwhelmed with the amount of work projects that are piling up. Overwhelmed by the amount of toys scattered across the living room floor. Overwhelmed with the million little household chores on my to-do list and the handful of unexpected tasks that continue to pop up. Overwhelmed by the sting of rejections that have been rolling in now that I am in the preliminary stages of pitching a new book. Overwhelmed with bickering children. And vicariously overwhelmed with my husband’s work stress because, even though it is not something that I am directly dealing with, when you love someone, their feelings can sometimes become your own.
This morning it all caught up with me and I lashed out at my kids in a scary and shameful way. So now, after apologies and lots of hugs, I am reminding myself of a few things that I need to do when I am overwhelmed.
- Slow down. My natural reaction when overwhelmed is to hurry, hurry, hurry. But often times this just ends up exacerbating the stress. By slowing down, I can remind myself that this too shall pass.
- Breathe. Sometimes a few deep breaths or a short mantra meditation is enough to get my emotions under control.
- Pray. While I don’t think that prayer can impact the outcome of a situation or change the hands of fate, I do wholeheartedly believe that prayer changes me – it increases my awareness, enhances my intuition, and connects me to something outside of myself.
- Ask for help. By nature, I am very independent so it is hard for me to ask for help, but sometimes I just need to swallow my pride, admit that I can’t do it all, and ask for some help. People usually want to help.
- Offer help. Helping others lessens my stress by shifting the focus off of my own stress and onto the needs of others.
- Shorten my memory. Within five minutes of my rage-filled outburst, my kids had pretty much forgotten all about it. They were playing, giggling, and smiling. I, on the other hand, continued to berate myself for most of the afternoon, chastising myself for yelling and basically just labeling myself the “worst parent in the world.” Letting go of mistakes goes a long way in breaking the cycle of stress and anger.
- Manage expectations. Many times I become stressed and overwhelmed, not necessarily because of the situation itself, but because I didn’t manage my expectations appropriately. I expect to get my freelance jobs done, edit my book proposal, blog regularly, keep up with my son’s summer reading, make frequent trips to the outdoor pool, exercise, cook healthy meals, keep in touch with friends, and spend time with extended family, all while being a supportive wife and a dedicated parent. When one of the balls that I am juggling drops, all hell breaks loose and I feel like a failure. When I do a better job of managing my expectations – which sometimes means lowering my expectations – both for myself and others, life chugs along much more peacefully.
- Find something to celebrate. On Monday, I celebrated friends, my marriage, and washable markers. Today, I am celebrating the generous support – of friends, family, and readers – as I make my way into this writing world.
How do you deal with stress when you are overwhelmed?