I know a lot of moms that feel busy, overscheduled, or overwhelmed these days. Has it always been this way? Is this a product of our current society, with our after school hobbies and social media?
But there is “busy,” and then there is “I’m so busy I feel like I’m failing.” I find myself there all too often, and I’ve heard many of my friends say the same things.
“I’m too busy to keep on top of the dishes or stay on top of the laundry.”
“I’m too busy and I feel like I’m doing a lousy job.”
“We’re so busy I don’t feel like we’re really getting any good time together as a family and I’m failing as a mom.”
Me, I feel like I’m always behind in several areas at once–on dishes, or laundry, or schooling, or emails, or literally running late throughout my day (probably because there weren’t clean socks and I forgot to thaw out something for breakfast/lunch/dinner in advance.)
Any of this sound familiar?
Take Action, Overwhelmed Mama
Sometimes there are definite steps that need to be taken and certain things that need to be changed. Other times you are in a temporary, unavoidable, busy season. In addition, we have to somehow make sense of the mess we’ve created – the laundry we have let pile up or the email inbox boasting 3,000 unread emails.
Regardless of why I am busy, it helps to spend 5-30 minutes clearing something that adds physical or mental clutter to my day. Every piece of clutter I clear gives me just a wee bit more breathing room. Every success helps me feel a smidge less of a failure. If I can do a few of those a day, every day, I can start feeling a little more on top of things. (Or, if I’ve dug myself out of the mess fairly well, it can keep me from landing back at Square One.)
I don’t often “find” that I suddenly have some free time, I usually have to stop and take it. I have to pencil it in to my to do list for the day, along with the other things I already have to do that day. It’s making me busier in one way, but letting it pile up makes me feel more overwhelmed. The only way to fix that is to roll up the sleeves and DO STUFF.
At the same time, it’s also important to find a few minutes to stop and relax, even if there is more stuff to do. Running, running, running all the time just adds to the anxiety and stress.
30 Useful Tasks For the Overwhelmed Mom
(In no particular order.)
- Clear unread/unwanted email, just deleting. (5-30 minutes.) This isn’t the time for sorting or answering, just purge, purge, purge! If it’s been “a while,” set the timer for 5-30 minutes and stop when the timer is done. You can do more later. If I get lost in my inbox I can spend too much time there and then feel guilty for losing so much time. Use the timer!
- Reply, act on, or otherwise process 5 or less “action emails.” (20 minutes or so.) Now you can start working on emails that need action. Again, use a timer for this one. If you have more than five emails and you have time left, go for it!
- Text 3 people you’ve been meaning to check on or talk to. (5 minutes.) For follow up texts, if you need to reply to their reply, either allot 5 more minutes for texting back and forth before moving on, or text back on your next break.
- Make a cup of tea or coffee, sit, drink—while it’s hot. (15 minutes.) If all I do is “go, go, go” I feel stressed, hurried, or overwhelmed. Sometimes you have to say, “hey, I’ve been on my feet for a while. I’m going to sit and drink one cup of ___ and when it’s gone, I will do something else.” Having down time in my day is important for not feeling too busy.
- Say a prayer for peace. (5 minutes.) This one is a biggie! I also pray for joy, wisdom, and endurance, but peace is the antidote for feeling overwhelmed.
- Make a short ‘to do’ list of 5 things you can knock out quick. (5 – 10 minutes.) Making a list is a huge help for my brain. Crossing it off is even better, so start with something you can cross off right way–“Brush teeth…check!”–for motivation boost. =) But ask yourself, what things I can do real fast real quick and knock them out all at once? Sack up the trash can? Take my vitamin?
- TACKLE that short ‘to do’ list. (5-10 minutes.) Now cross those things off! Look how fast you cleared five things out of your brain. =)
- Pick one yucky chore that doesn’t get addressed often enough or well enough, or just not lately, that makes you feel like you’re not on top of things. (20 minutes.) DEEP clean the toilet, or the microwave, or the stovetop.
- Read a book aloud to your children -OR- read quietly amongst yourselves, in the middle of an afternoon. (20 minutes.) Doing this makes me feel like I am on top of my day well enough–I must be! We are on top of things well enough to have read-aloud time! Double bonus: This is good time spent with the kids.
- Clean out the car or minivan. (20 minutes.) When I’m overwhelmed for too long, my car gets messy. The messier my car is, the more behind and disorganized I feel. STOP the spiral with a quick car clean out.
- Clean out your purse. (5-10 minutes.) What’s true for my car is also true of my purse. I even have a purse organizer (which I love.) And when I’ve cleaned out and reorganized my purse, the sight of the neatly organized organizer makes me smile.
- File important receipts or bills into a keeper (so they are handy at the end of the year.) (5 minutes.) This isn’t the time to dig through ALL THE PAPERS. (You have those, right?) If you’re like me, you find receipts or other papers when you tidy up, clear clutter, clean out the van or the purse, etc. Quickly scan your desk or workspace (or wherever you might take such papers) and spend five minutes checking for receipts you need to keep and file them into your keeper.
- Throw things away. (5-10 minutes.) I often do this when I first start tackling any messy space. The first task is walking through the entire space and looking for things to throw away. Even if I’m not tackling a room that’s been thrown completely off kilter, walking through the entire house looking for things to throw away is a good way to clear mental clutter. Do you have papers hung on the fridge that you don’t need to keep anymore? Did a kid get up for cereal last night and leave an empty box on the counter?
- Get things that need to go out of the house.. OUT OF THE HOUSE. (10 minutes.) We have a “Go Cabinet” by the front door. It holds umbrellas, gloves, scarves, motorcycle helmets, etc. On top of this free standing cabinet, I place things that need to “go” – usually to be returned to a friend. I also almost always have a bag or box that is collecting items for the thrift store. And we usually have library books. I may have something that needs to go to the post office, too. So all at once, take all of those things out to the car, and plan a time later that day, or the next, to run around and deliver everything. Not only have I removed the physical clutter from my home, but also the mental checklist in my brain.
- Take a mental brain break. (20 minutes.) Color in your adult coloring book (I know you have one, too) while listening to worship music. Or write in a prayer or thankful journal.
- Load the dishwasher and start the washer. (About 10 minutes.) I don’t know what it is about getting both of those going, but they make me feel so productive. =) If you don’t have a dishwasher (as I don’t at the moment,) wash a certain amount of dishes. If you’re behind on dishes, washing even one sink full, or one dish mat full, lets me see an immediate difference.
- Clear off one surface. (You know the one.) (10-15 minutes.) We all have one don’t we? Actually I have a friend that I’m pretty sure doesn’t have ANY. But if that’s you, you’re probably not reading this post. Tackle an end table, a night stand, a bath room counter… one of those surfaces that collects piles and makes you feel like a mess.
- Give yourself a manicure. (20 minutes.) Whether you paint your nails or just give them a good trim and clean, this is one of those things I don’t make enough time for that makes me feel like more of a mess. A simple manicure can make me feel a little more put together.
- Purge the fridge. (5-10 minutes.) Uneaten leftovers, forgotten veggies in the crisper drawer. Purge, purge, purge! Wash emptied containers right away (don’t add more clutter!)
- Organize a small drawer or space. (5-10 minutes.) The operative word here is “small.” Is the main drawer in the bath room or the kitchen looking a little disheveled? Restore order in a few minutes and stand back and smile.
- Gather the empty hangers. (5 minutes.) Sift through the closet and gather all the empty hangers together – either together on one end of your closet rod or in the laundry room or wherever it is they need to go. Do hangers collect in your bath room? Grab those, too. As you sift through the clothes, adjust any items that are falling off hangers or hanging funny and leave everything tidy.
- Take a shower (and relax.) (15-20 minutes.) If you’re like me, you don’t have to set the timer to make sure you’re out fast enough. By now, quick showers are the norm. I have to make myself stay in longer for a relaxing shower. Queuing up worship tunes on Pandora with my phone and letting it play on the bath room counter is a plus.
- Purge accumulating magazines, catalogs, sales flyers, etc. (5 minutes.) Do you have a stack of paper items that regularly accrue? I started saving circulars and such for the fireplace, and I later realized I never set boundaries or limits. We haven’t used our fireplace even once this winter! Now our stack is quite large. Whether you are saving something for the fireplace, to read later, for shipping packaging, crafts, or anything else..if the pile is growing but not being used, bag it up for recycling now! (And then go put it in your trunk right away.) I promise, plenty more paper items will come along later.
- Go for a walk “around the block.” (15 minutes.) I don’t know if you have “a block,” an apartment building, or a dirt road, but here’s how you do this: you walk out the door, in any direction for about seven and a half minutes, you turn around, you come back. There. =) Seriously though, fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for a person. (Not to mention that exercise is a natural way to fight stress and anxiety.) This one is good option in the middle of a particularly stressful moment. Excuse yourself for 15 minutes and come back with a clear head.
- Lock yourself in your bedroom for 15 minutes. Alternatively, sometimes what you need is a quiet and dark room. I will ask the kids to give me 15 minutes with no interruptions and lock myself in my room, room darkening curtains drawn, no pets, no kids, no music, no phone, and lay down and be still for 15 minutes. This one is good for those “sensory overload” moments.
- Tidy your DVD/cd/video game/book shelf. (5-20 minutes.) It’s self-explanatory. Fix the books that are leaning, put the last video game back in the case, etc. If you’re an overachiever you can rearrange them by color, size, or title. 😉 Just make it look tidy instead of disheveled and it doesn’t add visual clutter when you look around the room.
- Run your essential oil diffuser or Scentsy warmer. (Less than 5 minutes to get it going.) Essential oils can really help lift your mood or calm you down, as can a favorite smell from a Scentsy warmer.
- Make “cake in a mug” with your kids (10 minutes.) Not that we need to eat our worries away, but a cake in a mug every now and then is a good thing. And making them with your kids is a fun mom thing. That’s called “Making memories.”
- Make your bed. (5 minutes.) If it isn’t already made (and mine usually isn’t,) making the bed is an immediate “Go me!” encouragement boost. GO ME!
- Be a cobweb ninja. (5-10 minutes.) Walk around every room with a long handled swiffer duster and grab those cobwebs!! Hi-ya!! Hi-ya!! It’s amazing how good it feels to get rid of those nasty things.
Now OBVIOUSLY, you aren’t going to do all of these all on one day every day. But many of these things can be done on most days. Find regular places to add regular tasks. My morning routine generally includes some quiet brain time, some Bible reading, some email clearing, often some worship music, and some list making and planner time. I try to get the laundry started first thing each morning and I sit and drink coffee or hot tea almost every morning, too.
But you know those days when you feel behind on everything and you don’t know where to start? Here you go. 30 different places to start and any of them are just as good as the next. You can’t do it all at once, you just do one thing at a time.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to delegate some of these things, too! For example, send one kid to carry stuff out to the van, and send another to be cobweb ninja while you clear a horizontal space. Many hands make light work. =)
What would you add to this list; is there something that you work on or a place that you start when you feel overwhelmed?
*PSSST! Would like you like to see more lists of more useful tasks? For lists of homeschool projects, inside activities, tips for bad days, and so much more, hop over and browse the big list of “Useful Tasks in 5 to 60 Minutes” at iHomeschool Network.