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I hit a wall last week. Figuratively, I was pushing ahead, slogging through an overwhelming schedule, head down and leaning into the wind, when I ran head first into a wall and crashed.
I needed rest, but life keeps moving forward so I had to get up and keep moving forward, too, dragging myself through the quicksand of my day. Sometimes it’s so hard to make yourself keep putting one foot in front of the other, because you are just. so. weary.
Today I was talking with a friend about how I felt when I said, “I feel gray today. I know people usually say they’re feeling blue, but I feel gray.” Later in our conversation, (talking about overwhelmed, stressed, and depressed moms,) my friend said something that hit home.
“Generally a mom in that condition has either been running ragged taking care of everyone else, or has been checking out and ‘resting’ in ways that aren’t actually helpful.”
I think she’s talking about me. . . I’m guilty of both. We went on to discuss how moms often don’t take care of themselves as they should, and then they find themselves hitting a wall, running out of steam, or spinning in circles.
So last week, while trying to recover from my crash, continue getting life done, and right my upside-downs, I reached out to a group of women for some encouragement. With their permission, let me share their wise words with you.
First, ask yourself, what brought you here?
Many of these wise women were quick to point out that a crash-and-burn is a RED FLAG that needs to be checked out. They rightly observed that it’s time to take a close look at my time management, priorities, activities, and commitments, etc, to see if there are adjustments that need to be made.
My friends weren’t wrong.
Fortunately, many of our fall commitments have either already ended on their own or are about to. I’ve let go of some other things, too. But it was too little, too late. And again, as my friend said, I’m guilty of resting in ways that aren’t actually helpful, too. Recently, I started reading “The Hormone Cure,” and because of what I’m learning there I’ve been trying to implement some truly helpful and much needed self-care strategies in my days and weeks–but for a couple of weeks I had been too busy to make the time. In any case, the crash had already been set in motion and it was too late to stop it.
Take Small Steps To Put Yourself Back Together
One thing I’ve learned from being here before is that it takes time to recover from something like this. It takes more than a day, or a week, of rest and healing to get back on solid ground.
If you’ve been doing too much for too long and not getting the rest that you need, you are well past the point of taking one day of rest and making a plan of action.
The days and weeks WILL keep going, however. If I allow myself to pull back too far and do nothing, the mess around me will increase and it will add to my stress. If I don’t keep trying to do my best to take care of our home and my family, I will feel even more overwhelmed and more like a failure. If I don’t spend quality time with my husband and my kids, I will feel like a terrible wife and mother. And if I don’t make time for mental and physical and spiritual rest, I won’t be able to keep doing any of those other things.
Something else I know from experience is that sometimes it’s hard to think about what I need to do, even though I have the knowledge in my head. It helps to have the encouragement and reminder from a friend and that’s why I reached out to my friends for encouragement last week. When I was feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed but needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, they had a lot of good advice for me.
In case you might also be in need of some encouragement and advice, they’re letting me share these with you.
“Set a small goal – like taking a shower or getting one thing done. Staying off social media when things are upsetting. Making a list of things you enjoy doing. Meeting with a friend that makes you feel better. Taking it easy on yourself. Forgetting what happened earlier and moving on.” – Ashley (Some Random Lady)
“Do something you otherwise wouldn’t do because it would get in the way of your normal routine. Like drop all the school work and go try that dessert place you’ve always passed up. Go sift through a used book store. The winner is who looks for and finds hand written love notes in the jacket flaps. – Jennifer
Take a day to be silly, light hearted, and deep breaths. – Jennifer (Hifalutin Homeschooler)
“Stop everything and snuggle my babies.” – Christy (PK1 Homeschool Fun), and then Christy shared a post with me: Mom, Your Source of Stress is Your Source of Rest.
Kay shared something she had written about this, Dear Mom, Are You Tired?, which was a great reminder for me.
“Force yourself to get up and do one thing. Sometimes, we feel completely overwhelmed because there is so much we feel we SHOULD be doing. And we can tend to shut down. Getting lost in our own minds doesn’t make things any better. No matter how you’re feeling, choose one thing that needs to be done and do it. Often, we will feel so much better just from completing a task and from moving around that we will then be able to choose one more thing and do that. Our success will snowball and will often cause us to snap out of our funk.” – Michelle (Homeschool Your Boys)
“My advice would be first, as a Christian, make sure I’ve spent some time with the Lord reading the Bible and prayer. Pray for wisdom about how to prioritize before I try to do it. Doesn’t have to be a whole Bible study or praying for everyone and their brother by name… just some personal time with God in his word. Pray for wisdom about how to prioritize before I try to do it. Second, evaluate my priorities for the day. What has to be done, what can wait. Where can I fit in something easy or fun to give me (or us, with the kids) something to look forward to. Lastly, I would consider whether or not I’m overcommitting myself to too many outside activities. For example, my husband and I have been faithfully serving at our church but we don’t over extend. I say no to the small in-home Bible study groups and we don’t do a lot of the adult events. Mostly the second is due to cost I suppose. I’m not convinced there is a true way to actually balance doing everything we as moms try to do but we have to prioritize and do the best we can.” – Tracy (Hall of Fame Moms)
“Sometimes you can not fix hard. This is not the life I had planned but I am keeping to my vows of in sickness and in health. Some days the overwhelmed does not seem so hard and other days I don’t think I will survive. Currently my support group of friends and co-workers keep providing me with life lines. I weekly meet with my BFF for coffee for 2 hours. This is sacred time in my schedule. I need a safe place to talk out loud.” – Stacey (Layered Soul)
“I remember reading (or hearing) Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley talk about “the year of ‘Nope'”. Feeling free to say no to things. Even if it shocks people. Even if there isn’t anyone else willing to take up the torch. Even if people might give you the side eye (which really says more about them than you). Recently my husband and I have been working through some things like this in our home and he said “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you really *want* to feel guilty about not doing all the things.” Lightbulb moment. I can no longer pretend that I can do all the things. That ship has sailed. But somehow, it feels more noble to at least feel awful about what I can’t do than to say no with peace and no backwards glance. The way I treat myself is completely OPPOSITE to the way I would counsel a friend if she were having my struggles.” – Lynna
“There’s a short-term answer, and a long-term answer. Short term, carve out some time to breathe. Find a thing that recharges you and do that for two hours. No phone, no kids (unless that recharges you), but do that. There are times when I’m just too over-committed and I’ve got too many things to do that I disappear upstairs with some fabric and the sewing machine and create something. I can control what happens there, and it helps me to reboot. Then make a plan. This is starting to get long term. As Jimmie and Lynna said, find the overwhelm, figure out what to say no to, retrench and regroup. Are there other women at church who can step into your place in ministry? Can you train up a new person? Is this even your ministry right now? Brain dump everything you need to do and separate it into categories on post-it notes, because I like post-it notes. Even better if they’re color-coded (this is getting into my right-brained personality). One for each thing you think of to do, because there’s nothing that feels better than crumpling up the completed item and throwing it away (or recycling). You totally got this. And totally follow Stacey’s suggestion. I walked my best friend through the death of her husband several years ago to cancer. We had all been friends since high school, and each week we got together and just talked for a couple of hours. Find that person to talk to you like that. It can be a sanity saver.” – Ticia (Adventures in Mommydom)
“Ironically, I started this post in the first few months of blogging and then found it later after some very stressful life events that left me feeling frayed and just worn out. 10 Bible Verses for Strength and Rest. It was God nudging me to open this post I had started because it was just what I needed at the time. It was like I had written myself a letter of hope and rest before I really needed it. I have suffered from anxiety and depression and I totally get where you’re at. Just don’t let yourself feel guilty for doing whatever you need to do to get feeling better. When there’s nothing I can physically do I read a devotional, bible verses etc. and just pray hard. Then…. of course, there’s the beach.” – Heidi (Pool Noodles and Pixie Dust)
“I usually have to accomplish something even if it’s stupid. Like if I clean the bathroom then I think, ‘OK, NOW I deserve to be alive.’ I’m the kind of person who writes something I already did on my to-do list so I can cross it off and feel accomplished, so this is kind of an obvious win for me. I also have to try to find something to look forward to, which my partner helps with a lot. It gets me at least functional to think, ‘OK, in two weeks we’re going to go to a concert,’ or whatever.” – Joan
“I’m feeling bombarded with my to-do list *a lot* lately and my new thing, despite seeming counterproductive, is to start my day with a walk. I don’t usually have time for more than two miles, but it’s an opportunity to start my day with a clear head and create space for myself to process all the things swarming inside. When that happens, I get home and I start tackling things a little at a time. That’s how I make it through the day now, by making time for me first. I’ve learned the hard way that I need that time in order to balance my different roles in ministry, homeschooling, and relationships.” – Emily
“I actually wrote about this last week, it’s the first time I’ve mentioned it publicly. Setting priorities at the beginning of the day really helped – and sometimes it was just ‘cook x for dinner’ or ‘make sure boys shower and cut nails’. Seriously. But it meant the core stuff got done.” – Kelly (Fearless Homeschool,) and her post: “Homeschooling with Depression.”
When I know I need to be productive in some way, whether around the house, in homeschooling, spending time with my kids and husband, or taking care of myself, but every single cell in my body doesn’t want to do anything, sometimes the best thing really is to just pick one thing and do it.
I make a long list and then mark the high priority and time sensitive ones, and then pick one. But I have to remember that showering and being with the kids are priorities, too, not just paying the bills and washing the dishes.
I don’t write a lot about the depression and anxiety that I frequently struggle against. It’s been a recurring battle since my first bout of depression in 2001. It will probably always be a weak spot that Satan knows he can target, but there are definitely certain manageable triggers that I know I need to avoid.
Heading into the winter and the busy holidays, I’m definitely going to have to put some boundaries in place, implement some wise time management strategies, prayerfully prioritize, and take care of myself so I can take care of my family. When I run myself ragged, nobody benefits from that!
If you can relate, I hope you’ve found something useful here today. Know that you are not alone. More and more women are struggling with these very same things, now more than ever. I put my hope and trust in Jesus, though. He faithfully brings me through each battle, He restores my soul, He puts me up on solid ground. Keeping my eyes fixed on HIM, as I do my best to keep doing what I should be doing, I will not sink into the mess, but I will be carried through to safety. This is my prayer for you as well.