Post updated September 12, 2018
Overwhelm has been defined as “too much emotional going on,” and that’s certainly how it feels for an overwhelmed mom. I ought to know, because I’ve lived it far too often. As moms we have plenty going on, but pile on the emotional “too much” and it’s a recipe for stress and a meltdown. There are plenty of shifts you can make in your life to help with stress, but an overwhelmed mom needs a quick fix NOW!
One of the great lessons of my 50’s has been to stop bringing in the stress and to-do’s of tomorrow and next week and next summer into today, because then I miss today. Over the past few months I’ve found something that acts as a quick fix for overwhelm. I’ve used this tool for a while and it works so well I want to tell you about it.
The Swirling Thoughts of an Overwhelmed Mom
Part of overwhelm is swirling thoughts and sweeping generalizations. What’s a sweeping generalization, you ask? Thoughts and words like “I always” and “You never” and “Nobody ever.” Those sweeping general statements are NOT true but we believe the story when we tell it to ourselves. Thought of always and never press in upon us, adding a heavy–but false–weight to our already spinning minds.
The other part of overwhelm is the real press of responsibilities and tasks. Yes, there is a lot to do. We’re not trying to deny the reality of your world. But often it’s not so much the tasks, it’s how we think about all of it.
So what’s a good way to stop overwhelm in its tracks before it progresses to a meltdown?
Quick Fix for an Overwhelmed Mom
Try this: When you feel the stress rising and the panic ensuing, get out some paper (hopefully your journal). But don’t necessarily write about all that’s going on. I have old journals from my young mom years, and they’re full of complaints and self-pity. Not sure that helped much, except to reinforce the despair. No, don’t write your emotions at this moment.
Instead, write your gratitude.
Make a simple list of things you’re grateful for.
For scientific reasons (and I don’t know what they are), use white paper and a blue pen. I do think it’s best to put pen to paper, but in a pinch use a gratitude journal app on your phone.
Writing your gratitude will shift your focus from “what a big mess” to “what a great God.”
It will help put things in perspective and equip you to deal with what’s at hand, because you won’t be blowing it all out of proportion anymore. We get in trouble when we start focusing on the problems and the what-if’s….and we’re not thinking “what if it all works out,” believe me.
If you know someone who is successful, it’s because they’re NOT watering and fertilizing their fears and anxieties.
Why We Get Overwhelmed
And in the end, that’s really what overwhelm is: fear that we’re not enough, fear that we can’t do it all, fear that it’s not going to work out, fear that there isn’t enough “us” to go around.
Try this quick fix for overwhelm and see if it helps. It’s best to catch the overwhelm at 1 or 2 on a scale of 10. If you let it go till it’s an 8, it’s going to take tears and a bubble bath to get back on track. We may not have control over the toxic thoughts that pop into our heads, but we DO have control over how long we think them and the importance we assign to them.
Focus on what you’re grateful for, write it down and feel the stress dissolve. If you’re driving or otherwise unable to write, think and speak your gratitude out loud.
I’ve tested this method for not only small daily stresses, but also for times when I’ve been in a season of heartbreak or heavy anxiety about a family situation. I found that gratitude turned naturally into prayer, instead of toxic thoughts spiraling out of control into anguish.
So if you’re an overwhelmed mom…or child…or aunt…or person…try gratitude as a quick fix, then make it a way of life.