The Spiral of an Overwhelmed Working Mom
It feels kind of like a “chicken or the egg” scenario, and I get it. If you’re overwhelmed, adding something else to the daily list seems counter-intuitive.
As moms, we tend to have this ability to keep pushing through until we quite literally break. Our abilities to ignore our own needs to care for others in almost like a superpower.
And like they say about all other superpowers, with great power comes great responsibility. As moms, it’s so critical that we stay in tune with how much we’re exercising the ability to “push through”.
So we give up one small thing we do for ourselves to help someone else. Our schedules get tight, so the small, seemingly insignificant tasks of taking care of ourselves get replaced with other, more pressing matters (ever decide that laundry takes priority over reading a book or a bath?).
As a result, this causes just a little more stress in our lives and the cycle is repeated, until one day, we find ourselves frozen. Overwhelmed and stressed to the point of physical impact. Maybe it’s losing sleep, or maybe it’s feeling physically exhausted all the time. Stress impacts us in so many ways.
Breaking the Cycle When You’re Feeling Stressed at Work
But, stress is inevitable in our lives. We can’t avoid it or ignore it, so having a plan to help manage it as it comes up, or even to take steps to reduce some of the physical symptoms (tension, losing sleep, etc.) can help you get through a stressful time and avoid falling into the downward spiral.
In the case of the client I mentioned in the beginning, it was a matter of making a full list of everything on her mind. Things with work, things at home, things in her life. Then, she categorized everything into priorities.
What needed attention now? What could wait? What could be eliminated altogether? What could be delegated to someone else?
After identifying these categories, she looked through the list of the things that needed attention now and selected one. This is where she started.
Having a plan for her and seeing it all in front of her made her feel like the overwhelming idea of everything on her “to do” list was more manageable.
Taking steps to proactively manage your stress is a great form of self-care. We often think of self-care as things that require money and time, but that’s not the case. Finding self-care activities you can fit into your lifestyle and day in a way that doesn’t feel disruptive is so important when you’re a working mom.
Stress Management & Self-Care = The Key to Success
When you have a way to manage the physical side effects of stress along with tools you can use to help you work through that overwhelming feeling at times, you’re setting yourself up with a plan that’s sure to help you stay productive even when stress is high.
Below are 15 ideas for helping you “get unstuck” in moments of stress at work and overwhelm so you can get through your day:
You’re stressed because of things that need to be done at home
1. Make a List
The exercise I did with that client is a helpful one for getting through overwhelm. When you’re feeling the weight of so many tasks that need to be done at home, try making a list of everything and going through the questions mentioned above. When you can put it all down on paper, it will also help you relax in knowing you can let go of thinking about them at work and pick it back up when you get home without forgetting anything.
2. Address Your Priorities
When it comes to home to do’s, understanding what is a priority and what can wait for you is so important. Are you able to live with some dirty laundry for another day while something else gets your attention? Or is there a soccer outfit that needs to get cleaned ASAP. Coming up with a prioritized plan can help you know what needs to get done after work, and what can wait for another day.
3. Delegate home tasks
Are there things your kids or spouse/partner can help you do? If you’re the type of person that likes things done in the home a certain way, it can be hard for certain things. But, just like anything else, done is sometimes better than perfect. Decide on the things you can delegate to other family members and do your best to let go if it’s not exactly like you would have done it.
4. Schedule a “Date Night”
I often hear from my clients that things would get so much better if they could just have a “break”. Scheduling time for someone else to watch the kids and allowing you to get away for some quality time with just yourself or your spouse/partner can make a big impact on your well-being. Ask the babysitter can also do a few extra things around the house like picking up the toy room or doing the dishes after the kids are in bed. (refer back to the list of tasks you can delegate at home).
Having a date night to look forward to can go a long way in getting through a stressful week at work.
5. Use some PTO
Do you ever feel like you can’t take time off because there’s too much to do at work? I get it. Setting this boundary can be really hard when it comes to work/life balance. But, if you can take some time for a “mental health day” to get a few things done at home or take care of yourself by making an overdue appt to go to the dentist or get a physical, you might be surprised to find how much more productive you can be once you take a little time to reset your body and mind for a day.
You’re stressed because there’s something impacting your work environment
1. Schedule a walking meeting
Endorphins are so great for temporarily helping stress. See if your next meeting can be a walk around the building outside, or even through the halls of your workplace. You’ll probably feel a boost of energy when you get back to your desk, too!
2. Grab Lunch Outside
Fresh air makes such a difference in our overall well-being. If you feel like you need to work through lunch at your desk, it’s probably time to take a look at setting boundaries again. Step away from the desk and take a short lunch outside to enjoy some sunshine and listen to the birds.
3. Know it Will be There Tomorrow
There was a time in my corporate career where I wanted to be able to go home with a clean “to-do” list at work, and quick found out this wasn’t very sustainable. When I finally gave it a try and let myself stop at a specific time instead of when the work was all done, guess what happened? Nothing! No one noticed or cared that my list wasn’t 100% done. Setting the right expectations on timelines is an important element to helping you walk away at the end of the day and know that the list will be waiting for you tomorrow.
4. Change Your Scenery
Does your work have a coffee shop or cafe you can go to? Do you work from home? If you’re feeling extra stressed about work, sometimes our environment can be just as much of a trigger as anything else. Try changing up your work location for a day or talk to your boss about creating more flexibility in where you can work to allow you to mix it up and get some fresh perspective.
5. Have a Courageous Conversation
If you don’t like confrontation, this can seem so hard to do, but here’s the way to look at it. If you have too much on your plate and your work truly values your work, you should be able to let them know that you need to take a few things off your task list so you can do the best job possible for them.
Or, next time someone wants to add another project to your list, be direct in clarifying with them that your bandwidth is full right now and if there is a project you’re currently working on that could be de-prioritized to make room for this new project.
Often times, people don’t realize everything you have on your plate, so they’ll keep handing things to you until you let them know you can’t take anymore. Speaking up for yourself if a self-care act all on its own.
You’re stressed because you never get a moment for yourself
1. Drive with the sound off
If you feel like you just need a moment to yourself, try driving to and from work without the radio on and see if you can clear your mind and focus on being present during the drive.
It might sound a little silly, but it’s so easy to let our minds already be in the next place – thinking about that meeting you have today, or the food you need to make when you get home, that you never really allow yourself the mental space you need. Why not try giving yourself that mental break when you’re stuck in traffic?
2. Clean your desk space
Your environment you’re in can make a huge impact on how much stress you feel. If your space is cluttered, you might find yourself more stressed and having a hard time concentrating.
It can feel like you don’t have enough time to stop and clean your desk, but this is really a practice in time management. If you have time to run to the bathroom, check your text messages throughout the day, or chat with a co-worker about your weekend plans, you probably have enough time to fit in a 5-minute desk clean up.
3. Add something to your environment that makes you smile/feel good
Small reminders can be a great way to bring us back to a happy memory and help us destress in the moment.
Try bringing a picture or souvenir to work that reminds you of your favorite vacation or a memory of when you felt calm and happy.
4. Clear your after work schedule & make a date with yourself
Do you ever feel like you’re on someone else’s schedule all the time? Maybe it’s time to take back control of your schedule. Ask your neighbor to pick up the kids and block an hour for yourself to go do something for you, even if it’s sitting at a coffee shop and reading a book.
5. Talk to work about flexible work arrangements
Today, flexible work arrangements are becoming more and more of an expectation as more companies are adopting the idea of allowing their employee’s additional flexibility between work and life.
If you currently don’t have a flexible work arrangement for your job, like working from home or being able to adjust hours as needed, talk to your HR or boss about creating an option to allow you some additional flexibility in your day while also being a great asset to the team. Some jobs can’t accommodate a lot of work flexibility, but there should be some small things you can negotiate in to help you out. At the end of the day, happy people make better employees, and employers should want to help make creating a manageable work/life balance possible, otherwise, you’re more likely to leave altogether.
The reality is that stress is inevitable in our life, and the more we can plan for ways to help manage through it when we start to feel overwhelmed, the less likely we’ll be to reach the point of feeling completely frozen or stuck.
Moms have this amazing superpower to set our own needs aside to take care of everything else and everyone else around us, but the key to this successful superpower is to know when enough is enough, and start taking care of yourself.
Next time you’re feeling stressed at work, reflect on why you’re feeling this way, and reference the list of ideas in each category to help you through the day.
Being a working mom is tough, and finding a support system that can help you create work/life balance, manage the specific points of stress in your life, and help you adopt simple self-care practices in your day can go a long way to helping you be the successful working mom you want to be. A wellness coach can help you in each of these specific areas with a customized and personal plan that is unique to your life.
If you feel like a personalized plan is something that could help you feel like your best self, stress less, and be more productive at work, schedule a 15-minute fitting call to find out if wellness coaching is the right fit for you.