Monday, October 27, 2008

8 Tips For When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

I am a mom. I have a job. I have four young children. This week is Halloween. Its also my oldest son's birthday. I have visions of myself in a bathtub, screaming, "Calgon... take me away!"

Yes, I am feeling overwhelmed.

How did I get to this point, you may ask? Well, for some reason, the word "no" is not often a response I make when asked to take on volunteer work. I am a cub scout leader and a Sunday School teacher, as well as a full-time attorney. I serve on the Board of Directors for a local community organization and I am the Treasurer for the local bar association. No wonder I am often feeling overwhelmed.

My children are involved in a number of extracurricular activities: soccer (fall), basketball (winter), baseball (spring), swimming, gymnastics and ballet. WHEW! Oh, and I also mentioned scouts, didn't I?

So how does this busy mom keep everything in line without losing my mind? Here are my simple steps:

1. Caffeine - lots of it! Actually, I usually only have 2-3 cups of coffee a day, but it sure jump-starts my morning. I started drinking some of the energy drinks in the afternoon, but they are expensive and also wreak havoc on my sleeping.

2. Keep a master calendar and carry it with you everywhere. I also have a backup computerized calendar that pings me with reminders 15 minutes beforehand (which is often way too late for me!)

3. Hire support if you can. We have a nanny pick up the kids twice a week and start them on their homework. She also gets my middle son to his scout meeting, which starts at 4:00 on Thursdays (too early for me to leave work).

4. Go with the flow - leave perfection behind and you may be able to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Just realize that each 24 hour period is its own special day, and that no matter what, you'll get through it!

5. Try to get good, quality sleep. This means limiting alcohol intake and, sadly, some late cups of coffee for me! I am much better prepared for what the day will bring when I get to bed at a reasonable hour and sleep through the night.

6. Ask for help! Don't forget your neighbors, kids' teachers, significant other, or extended family members. They can pitch in sometimes when you are feeling overwhelmed. Even if they are not there to physically assist with housework and carpooling, a listening ear can make all the difference in a stressed out afternoon.

7. Learn to say no. Yes, I need to practice what I preach here. But truly, you will find that volunteer positions will be filled, even if you do not step up. There will always be another year to serve on the PTA. Besides, you can save yourself a lot of stress if you don't have to worry about the politics of social organizations, as well as manage your marriage and discipline your kids.

8. Exercise and/or stretch at least 3 times a week. But I don't have time, I hear you saying. Even if it means setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier so you can take the dog for a quick walk in the morning, make a habit of it. You'll be more energized and less likely to be feeling overwhelmed when the day gets going.

Any or all of these tips can help you when the world seems to be crashing down and you feel like you don't have enough time to even go to the bathroom (believe me, I've been there). And if all else fails, maybe you really just need to take a bubble bath. "Calgon.... take me away!!"

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