This post was originally published March 20, 2015.
I woke up in a fog. The to-dos were piling one on top of the other. Tasks undone spun through my mind. Exhaustion pelted my body. I hardly even knew which end was up let alone how to get it all done.
I was tired and completely overwhelmed.
When it all seems overwhelming, planning or doing anything can seem pointless. Why does it matter? I’m behind. I’ll never catch up. Something isn’t going to get done. I’m a failure.
However, when it all seems overwhelming, giving up isn’t an option. Even though it feels hopeless. Even though it feels like what you do doesn’t matter. It isn’t hopeless and what you do matters.
7 Tips for When it All Seems Overwhelming
1. Take a deep breath
Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Usually when I’m overwhelmed, I go into panic mode.
- How will it ever get done?
- Will I ever sleep again?
- Will I ever wake up not feeling exhausted and behind?
- Are my kids going to be scarred for life because Mommy didn’t stop what she was doing to play with them?
- Will I always be this busy?
And on and on I go. Tormenting myself by asking questions that really don’t matter, or at least, asking questions that do not move me forward.
Taking a deep breath and speaking truth to myself is usually the first thing I do.
I know it seems counter-intuitive to rest when it all seems overwhelming. When it seems you will never catch up on laundry, get a hot shower, or finish the remodeling project, resting is the last thing you want to do. You just.want.to.be.done.
I get it. I totally do. However, your mind and body are in overdrive. Let (or perhaps make?) yourself rest.
- Take a walk
- Sit on the porch and listen to the birds sing
- Pour yourself a cup of tea
- Go on a family bike ride
Just rest. Let your body relax and desensitize from all it’s going through in this season.
We’re all different in what brings our bodies and souls rest. However, we were created to rest. Do something that gives life to you!
And no, it’s not to just get something done. I don’t buy it! Rest.
3. Brain dump
Sit down with a piece of paper and dump everything out. Anything that is spinning through your mind, write it down. This is when I love my Bullet Journal.
4. Make a plan
Now that you’ve dumped everything out of your mind, make a plan for getting things done. Don’t just start doing. Think through the most important tasks, what you can mark off your list, or put off until later.
I also like to think about tasks I can delegate to someone else during this time. Remember every need is not YOUR calling.
When I’m overwhelmed by my to-do list I like to prioritize my brain dump session. Essentially, I give a letter of priority (A, B, C, A being most important) to each item on my to do list. Then I group those to-dos into three groups (all A’s on one list, all B’s on another list, and C’s on another); then, I cross everything on the C list off. They aren’t getting done right now. Finally, I prioritize the remaining tasks into the order they need to be completed in. Finally, I work my to-do list.
You can also check out other posts in this Planning 101 series for more helpful tips on making a plan.
5. Set a timer
When it all seems overwhelming, getting started is the hardest part. But set a timer and do something. Do something that will motivate you when it’s accomplished to keep going forward.
- When my house is a wreck, I go to my room and make my bed
- When I’m overwhelmed with my work, I will free write for 15 minutes
- When I’m overwhelmed by tasks, I’ve usually neglected intentional time with my children so I’ll start with just getting on the floor and playing with my boys
Whatever it is that you need to do that will motivate you to keep going or clear your mind, set a timer and make it happen.
6. Work your plan
Instead of thinking about all you need to do, just do the next thing. You don’t have to accomplish everything on your list today, but you do have to keep doing the next thing. If you’ve prioritized your list, then just keeping moving through the list until you’re done. Do the best you can!
7. Finish what you start
Finally, finish what you start. You’ve made your list. You know your priorities, you know what you can put off until later, and you know what you need to hand off to someone else. Stick to the list and finish each task before moving on to something else.
When you’re overwhelmed, it’s tempting to multitask your way through the day. Don’t do it! Work on one thing at a time and finish what you start.
When I wake up in a fog of depression from all I have to complete, I work these seven tips. Almost without fail, I end the day feeling much better than when I started. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Just focus on the next thing and keep moving forward. Don’t give up!
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