Even the most organised mum with the outward appearance of having her shizzle together, will feel overwhelmed sometimes. I am no different. I am particularly prone as I’m an introvert so for me stillness and quiet is incredibly important. I’m also incredibly focussed to the point of being single minded. I’m an over thinker too. It’s not a winning combination when it comes to stress and anxiety, two things I have suffered from in th past. Because of my history though, I am good at spotting the signs and can take action before it escalates. My husband might read this and think “what you are managing it?”, aghast at me crying recently over a work worry. He wasn’t around when it was it’s worst. I was. My wobbles now are nothing in comparison.
My tunnel vision means I can often get swept away by a task and forget to tell myself to relax and take some time for myself. The risk of feeling overwhelmed has increased tenfold since I became a mum. So how do I deal with it?
I have juggled a lot this year. Work. A toddler. Illness in my family. Bereavement. It’s been tough and no matter how organised I am, there are moments when I don’t feel like I’m doing everything well. I might be doing brilliantly at one thing in a particular moment, and barely average at something else. Some things I have to just let slide.
When you are juggling so many things as a working mum, it’s sometimes difficult to spot the signs of overwhelm. You’re in the trenches doing “the stuff”. You’re in the thick of it, from loading the third load of washing, to clearing your emails and writing that report for work. Somewhere in between you’re trying to ensure your toddler doesn’t pour that pee filled potty on their head. You’e also aware that you should shave your legs but right now that even going to the toilet on your own feels like a treat.
When you are feeling overwhelmed though you probably won’t make your best decisions. Nobody does when they are stressed. Its important to take action and practice some self care.
Mind.org has a really helpful list of signs to help you identify signs of stress, from issue with sleep to loss of appetite. For me, I know it’s when I’m getting snappy. I might ask myself or do any of the following:
- Why doesn’t anybody do what I ask them to?
- I haven’t got time for this….
- I’m trying to do this, can’t you just…?
- A pit in my stomach if someone asks if I’m okay
- I’m short tempered
- I feel like I’m never still
- It feels like everything is noisy
- I worry about how events will turn out in a far more detailed way than usual (I’m often able to shrug things off and enjoy the unknown usually).
These thoughts can be directed at anyone, from the person who has just rung my doorbell to my husband. I even forget myself sometimes and get frustrated when my toddler is having a tantrum over something I think is ridiculous, like not allowing him to have a third banana.
It’s different from the usual moments of frustration over being time-poor, it’s when momma really needs a break. Bizarrely I can pack in a lot of stressful activities or conflicting priorities, that’s not the sort of thing that would make me feel stressed or overwhelmed.
I’m usually overwhelmed when I haven’t had sufficient down time to myself or feel like I’ve lost control of a situation. As an introvert this is super important to me. When I have a ”wobbly” moment it often comes out as anxiety because due to this. I joke sometimes that my “nerves can’t stand this” but I’m not entirely wrong.
So what can you do when those moments of overwhelm hit?
Take a breath
This can really help. Take a big deep breath and exhale. I don’t know why this works for me but it does. Perhaps it’s because it forces me into stopping everything. It gives me that few seconds to regroup and behave like an adult.
Leave the room
It doesn’t have to be literally, but sometimes it’s perfectly okay to excuse yourself for a few minutes until you feel a bit more composed. I do this sometimes in work when I’ve been particularly busy or feeling stressed, and there’s a lot of noise or natter going on. As an introvert it used to wind me up, now I go to the toilet or take a walk for a few minutes and then come back to my desk. It’s the same at home when I feel there’s too much stimulation going on for my senses to deal with. TV on too loud? Go read a book for 20 minutes in another room, or lay on the bed and close your eyes.
Don’t make important decisions
Don’t make impulse purchases, big life decisions or anything else major when you’re stressed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s not the moment to make any decisions. You’re in fight or flight mode and thinking with your monkey brain, not your human one!
We are all so busy, the thought of planning any activity just for us seems impossible. It might even produce a little guilt. Try and find five minutes every day which is for you as a minimum. Maybe it’s making sure you have a break at lunchtime and go and sit and eat your sarnies in the fresh air, or a long hot shower, or time when everyone has gone to bed to read a book.
Talk to someone
It might be a cliché but nobody can help you if you don’t ask for it. Although you might be feeling overwhelmed, you might look like you’re managing really well to others. There is no shame on saying to your partner that you need some time to yourself or you’re feeling overwhelmed.
They might be feeling the same way too and that knowledge that you’re in it together can bizarrely help. It’s easy to make assumptions about what people need so spell out what support you’d like, whether it’s a couple of hours to yourself while he takes the kids to football, or an early night to catch up on your sleep.
Sometimes you need to talk to someone to unburden yourself, whether that’s a friend, or a stranger. Sometimes just saying the words “I’m struggling today” can help.
This list is not exhaustive and I’m not a therapist, so if you feel overwhelmed or stressed please do seek help. Have a chat with your GP, staff counsellor if you have one, or an organisation like Mind. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to talk about it. Don’t battle on until you burnout.
Know in this you’re not alone. I’m convinced that all parents feel like this sometimes. It’s the hardest job in the world after all, even if it is the most rewarding.
Let me know how you deal with feeling overwhelmed by popping your thoughts as tips in the comments.