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How to Beat Overwhelm

overwhelm time management time momagement working mom May 07, 2022

If you’re a mom feeling like the hot mess express, you are not alone. Trust me when I say, I have been a working mom for nearly a decade now, and I still have my days where I’m just like, "WTF? This feels impossible. The juggle is not only real, it’s paralyzing. I just want to sit in a dark room and watch all the bad reality TV and eat all the chocolate. Peace.” True story-this is still sometimes how I feel when I get overwhelmed by mom life, work life, wife life, fill in the blank life. I’m not immune just because I’m a time management expert. Trust me, overwhelm still visits people like me. And I know just how sneaky and powerful this feeling can be, even if you consider yourself a motivated, self-starter, organized and productive person overall. Overwhelm doesn’t discriminate.

In case you don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Marisa and I'm a mom of four kids ages nine and under. But, that means nothing when it comes to overwhelm (no matter how many people comment that I have my hands full when they see me). Anyone can feel overwhelmed no matter what season of motherhood they're in, no matter what season of work they're in, no matter what season of LIFE they're in. So whether you’ve got four, five, six kids or are expecting your first baby or you’re in the lull season at work or the busiest one you’ve ever experienced, overwhelm can easily show up for you.

What happens when you feel overwhelmed? You feel stuck. You feel fuzzy, unfocused, unsure. You start questioning everything. You can’t make a decision. You’re demotivated. You think to yourself, "There’s so much on this list. Why even bother? Doing one or two things isn’t going to make a dent." Everything looks hard. There’s an excuse why you can’t start anything. And then after all this mental analysis, you start to feel tired, exhausted even. And you decide maybe you’ll just take a nap or scroll social media or do something mindless because that feels a whole lot better right now than actually diving into these tasks. They all feel like work, hard work you don’t want to do. You’d much rather procrastinate and do something that gives you an immediate endorphin kick. So, you do that. And then the end of the day eventually comes, and you look at your list or you think about all the things jumbled in your head, creating a very hefty mental load and you feel defeated. You feel like you were totally unproductive, and you got nothing done. You go to sleep feeling guilt, shame and probably demotivated to get to it the next day because now you’ve likely added even more to that to-do list. You feel overwhelmed.

When I became a mom in 2013, I had twins. I had a high-risk pregnancy with mono-di twins, aka twins who share a placenta. That meant lots of monitoring, lots of ultrasounds, lots of checking to ensure each twin was growing and on target with measurements. We were scheduled to have a C-section to deliver the babies at about 37 weeks because there was a risk of something called acute twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome that could occur at the late gestational stages, and we all agreed it was best to take them at that point, which is full term for a twin pregnancy.

What happened though? I went into pre-term labor at 34 and a half weeks, and my twins arrived via emergency C-section early. We were in the middle of moving and renovating our first house at the time. Not only was our house not ready, but our babies would also need to spend some time in the NICU. I was overwhelmed. Fortunately, after only about a week in the hospital, our boys were ready to come home, and we were ready (kind of) to welcome them there. We all slept in our living room while the house was under construction, and we got into a routine. But again, overwhelmed. Not sleeping, taking care of two babies alone, not knowing where anything really was, the house being a disaster, I felt overwhelmed.

Fast forward about a year. The house was coming together. We had full access now to everything. The nursery looked decent. The babies were sleeping through the night. You would think, I should be feeling good by now. I should have it all under control. Maybe I looked this way from the outside, but on the inside I still had many days where I continued to feel overwhelmed. I was trying to show up at work as a top performer every day. I was trying to be the best possible mom and spend all my free time when I wasn’t working with my babies. I was trying to cook dinners and clean my house and look like myself again. I was trying to grow professionally. And I felt overwhelmed.

I felt overwhelmed because I was choosing to feel it.

That’s right. It all came down to this, overwhelm was a choice I was making. I first heard this approach of choosing overwhelm from one of my mentors, Marie Forleo, and I was like, “What?!” But the more I thought about it and learned about, the more I really vibed with it and decided to fully adopt it into my life. In fact, if you read my first book: Time MOMagement, you know I even wrote about this because I’m here for it. I’m a believer. 

Overwhelm is a choice. We can either choose to feel it or choose not to. The decision is ours. It’s literally that simple.

So how do you tackle overwhelm so you don’t find yourself on the hamster wheel of feeling like you’re never making any progress, you’ve always got so much to do, or worse yet, like you don’t even want to try because you’re so demotivated or paralyzed by it? In my opinion, there are three simple steps to get you there.

Step 1. Brain dump! Get everything that’s in your head OUT. Take out a piece of paper and a pen and clear the brain clutter, the mental load heaviness you’re feeling right now. It doesn’t need to be organized or categorized or anything. Just let all your to-dos circulating inside your brain flow onto that paper. Word vomit them right there. Done.

Once you’ve got your lengthy and disorganized list there, you may be feeling even more overwhelmed—that’s ok. This is normal. Now instead of having these thoughts floating around your brain, coming in and out of view, they’re literally staring at you in black and white on paper. They’re all ganged up together, and that can be intimidating. Don’t stress. I got you. This, my friend, is NOT your to do list. This is where people make the mistake of stopping and diving into doing stuff right away, and then feel defeated or stuck because this hot mess you just threw up on paper is too much—it’s too much to handle. We can’t attack it all at once like this. We need to prioritize this list now, which brings us to step 2. 

Step 2: Prioritize! Now, you are going to circle or highlight three things from this list. That’s it. Just three, no more, no less. These can be the things that are most urgent or the things that are most important. I would recommend three things that are going to make the biggest impact on your day. So, choose three and circle or highlight them.

Step 3. Focus! These three things are what you’re going to focus on today. You are going to hold yourself accountable for getting just these three things done, that is it. These are it. You can schedule them into your day. You be flexible about when you do them. Either way is fine, but commit to getting these three things done come hell or high water. If you find that you have a lull in your day or a few minutes here or there, these are the three things you’re going to come back to before you start doing anything else. Don’t get distracted by your phone or other things on your list—these are it.

Ok, finally, (not part of the steps), but I want to recognize that even with the best intentions your day may not always go as planned. When things pop up for you that happen, that catch you off guard (like birthing premature twin babies), and you don’t even know where or how or what to start, and you begin to feel that feeling of overwhelm creeping in and luring you into the realms of procrastination or frustration or demotivation, I want you to remember that you always have a choice. You have a choice in that moment to give into that feeling and let it take over or you have a choice to say, "Not today, B!", circle three things and get to it. You have that power. As slap you in the face direct as that is, it’s also really empowering! Flip the script, beat overwhelm, choose not to feel it, and start getting more done every single day. Start using your time with intention. Start prioritizing things that matter to you. Start living your best life.

These are just some of the hacks and mindset shifts I teach in my Time MOMagement and Biz MOMagement programs. If you want to learn more about how to become a Time MOMager or a Biz MOMager, let’s connect! You can check out these incredible programs or book some time one on one with me here. When you manage your time right, you are capable of achieving anything and everything you want: having a better relationship with your spouse, being a more hands on and patient mom, growing in your career, starting your own business, making more money, you name it. It’s all about what you do with the time you have. Now are you ready to MOMage things? Let's go!

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