How to cope with feeling overwhelmed

I don’t know about you but I normally have a million things in my head all vying for attention. The mental load of raising children and running a house (and thank goodness I don’t have an actual job to worry about too!). It can be overwhelming.

Is it anybody’s birthday coming up? What am I cooking for tea? Do I need to book a doctor’s appointment for one of the children? When did I last clean the bathroom? Do I have time to put a load of washing in? Is my second child missing out on opportunities that my first had? How am I going to keep the children entertained until bedtime? Should we be booking a holiday? Have the children grown out of their clothes? When am I going to find time to blog this week? Etc, etc, etc

Sometimes it can all get a bit much. I feel like I have so much to do that I don’t even know where to start. I just want to bury my head in the sand and forget about it all – which would resolve precisely nothing.

So what do I do to feel like I’m back in control?

Basically, I write things down so that I have a plan. Writing down all the tasks and day-to-day admin that takes up so much time and space leaves me more mental room to try and think about the other more important things – like how to raise my children.

Everything has to be written on paper too – if it’s electronic I don’t remember it and I don’t even remember to look at it. Having a million pieces of paper flying around may be slightly irritating, but at least it means they’re visible! (I would love a notice board, but, you know, we’re millennials so we rent.)

1. To-do list

I write down everything that I need to do – even if it’s just cutting my nails. It helps me to see it all, and once it’s on paper it stops taking up so much room in my head.

Sometimes I have separate to-do lists, like a list of things to do in the house, a list of things to organize for going away somewhere, a list of presents to buy coming up to Christmas and a list of things to do for the blog.

Sometimes, sometimes, I even write a list of all the lists I want to write. I know, the excitement is getting to me too.

2. Meal planning

Every week, I sit down and plan meals for the next week or ten days. I hate this task. Trying to think of interesting meals that we haven’t eaten the week before and that meet our dietary requirements (and my husband’s fussy eating…) takes time and it’s fairly dull.

BUT it’s worth it. It means I don’t have to make any decisions about food for the rest of the week. I’m on top of it, which is a massive load off. Trying to choose what to make for tea at the end of a long day can feel like an impossible task. Meal planning avoids that whole situation.

It also means we have a more varied diet and I can try and limit the amount of meat we have. And it saves us money in two ways: my husband takes a packed lunch and we waste less food. I buy the ingredients that I need for the meals I’m going to cook, plus a few staples for the pantry. Any fresh ingredients are generally used fairly quickly or frozen.

Of course there has to be some flexibility. One day we might be out unexpectedly and buy lunch instead of having whatever I’d planned, or we might have leftovers for one meal.

This is why I only plan about a week ahead. Any meals that I didn’t end up making can be added to the next week’s plan – early on in the week if there are fresh ingredients that need using.

3. Shopping list

I have a shopping list on the go all the time. As soon as I notice I’m running low on something, I’ll jot it down so that I don’t forget. If I don’t do this, I have items we’re running out of buzzing round my head like an annoying fly.

Then, once I’ve done my meal planning I add all the ingredients I need to be able to make the meals for the week, as well as any items that are on special offer that I want to stock up on.

If I don’t write a shopping list, the shopping takes me far longer as I drift aimlessly trying to remember what it is we need and I’ll more than likely arrive home with five bags of shopping only to realize I’ve forgotten to buy the only thing I actually needed.

Sometimes I forget to take my shopping list with me and then spend ages trying to remember what I wrote down, but that’s a separate issue…

4. Routine

The children aren’t great at sticking to a routine during the day, but I am. I make sure that I get up in good time so that I can get the laundry sorted and the washing up done before we head out for the day. For people like my husband this may seem daft – he’d much rather have the extra half an hour in bed – but for me coming back to a sink full of dishes and a backlog of washing just makes me feel behind before I’ve even started, so I get ahead.

I also aim to get to bed around the same time each night. If I don’t give myself a bedtime, I’m inclined to just stay up faffing on the internet which just leaves me tired (and more overwhelmed). My children are fairly rubbish at sleeping through the night so I’ll most probably have a disturbed night anyway, the last thing I need to do is to add to it.

If there are things that I want to get done but that often get pushed aside (usually because they’re things for myself), I try to have a set day when I do them. Mondays is my pin scheduling day, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for going for runs, etc. Having the idea that on X day I do X thing makes it more likely to happen, because I’ve planned for it.

5. Weekly planning

I have a unicorn-themed (!) weekly planner (it was in the sale, honest) that I fill in every weekend.

First are the fixed things we can’t miss: I note down any birthdays, anniversaries, etc for that week as well as any appointments. Next I fill in children’s activities that we’re registered for, like preschool, and maybe a few others that we might go to if I feel up to it. Then I use my meal plan to mark which days I need to get meat out of the freezer or what I need to make for lunch the following day.

After that I fill in the more moveable elements, like housework or drop-in activities for the children. I have certain tasks that I like to do on certain days, which is part of my routine, but these do get moved around. Usually by the end of the week my planner is covered in arrows, which is fine. It may not be bullet journal worthy and it may not actually be comprehensible to anyone but me, but it’s my aide-mémoire so that really doesn’t matter.

Sometimes I even go so far as to write which loads of washing need to be done on which days – darks, lights, handwash, nappies, towels, etc. It depends on how busy my brain is feeling and how full my washing basket is. Planning to the nth degree (even if those plans change later) helps me to get a handle on things and feel in control.

My planner does not look like this

6. Exercise

I’ve often been guilty of not finding the time to exercise, or finding excuses not to. Going for a run really does help me feel much stronger, both physically and mentally, so recently I’ve been forcing myself to go out. I don’t go far, or really very fast, but I have some fresh air and some time to think. I don’t listen to music so I can just think about what I need to do that day, or what I want to include in that blog post I’ve been thinking about or even just try not to think about anything.

7. Prayer

Not for everyone, I know, but I’m Catholic, so I pray. Quite a lot. Whenever it’s all getting a bit too much, I pray. And it helps.

At work if you’re having difficulties, it helps if you know you have a manager you can ask for guidance. In the same way, having the ability to call on a higher power when you’re struggling is very comforting. We are called to trust in God, which can be really hard to do, but once we manage it, what a relief!

So prayer is another one of the things I make sure I have time for – it’s the first thing I do in the morning, the last thing I do at night and at other times throughout the day.

Now that religion is so unpopular, meditation and yoga seem to have stepped in. I suppose it gives the same time for calm and letting go of your problems, just without the belief in the supernatural help.

What do you do to keep on top of everything? Are you a planner? Do you go with the flow?


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