How to Deal With Overwhelm

As a mom with a full time job, a side hustle and a blog, the deadlines never stop.  As soon as I finish one, it’s on to the next, and to do lists never, ever get fully checked off.  Overwhelm is an emotion I feel on the daily, and I am sure many of you are with me.  This emotion doesn’t feel good and, recently, I have developed a bout of anxiety around it.  I’ve had to try to figure out a way to deal with this the emotion of overwhelm in a healthy way.  Some of these "hacks" are easier than others and I don’t claim that they work every time, but here are my five ways for dealing with feelings of overwhelm.  Hope you find this helpful.  

How To Deal With Overwhelm

1.     Make a list.  Occasionally making a list will overwhelm me more, but most of the time, when I make a detailed list of all my tasks to accomplish, prioritize and start cross things off, it feels great.  Maybe this is too type A for some, but I have recently started assigning times to each task, estimating how long I think it will take.  The act of simply organizing my thoughts and making a to-do list more often than not, helps relieve some anxiety.

2.     Invoke the Pomodoro Technique.  As a multi tasker with so many different things happening in my brain, jumping around from task to task is my natural way to go about things, but sometimes that seems like the best way to get a lot of things half way done.  Instead, I set the timer on my phone and say, work on a blog post for 45 minutes, before I move on to the next task, maybe 20 minutes of cleaning the house.  When I set an alarm, I am a lot more disciplined about not getting distracted by scrolling Instagram or checking emails.

3.     Find a light hearted podcast.  If you know me, chances are I’ve recommended a podcast (or five) to you.  Find a podcast that you listen to for pure entertainment value.  I love “Chris Loves Julia” and “Bachelorette Party.”  These podcasts help me two fold, I use them as a measure of time, similar to my trick in point 2, I can’t browse the internet, start chatting with a co-worker about “The Bachelorette” or scroll social media until the podcast is over.  Plus, the easy listening nature of these podcasts make them perfect for passing the time, while not getting too distracted from the task(s) at hand.

4.     Take a dance break.  Dancing always helps you feel good.  This one may not work in the office, but at home, when my brain starts to feel fried, I put on a good jam, and dance while doing something mindless that needs to get done, like sweeping, picking-up toys, or making lunch.

5.     Listen to episode 127 of “The Lively Show.”  I know, more about podcasts, but this specific episode is really helpful to me when addressing this very problem of overwhelm.   Jess works with Brooke Castillio of “The Life Coach School,” on how to change her thinking to combat feeling overwhelmed.  So this last point could also say, “change your thinking,” but most of us don’t just know how to do that, this podcast episode serves as the perfect how-to reminder for me. 

photo: from Oh Joy!

Finding my joy...

If you read my post yesterday, I talked about the negatives and the insecurities I’ve been facing, but there are lots of positives and I am trying my best to focus on all the wonderful things in my life, big and little.

A few months back my husband, a giant baseball fan, said to me with joy beaming from his face, “You know I was thinking, I know it’s not important, but I really look forward to watching baseball everyday.  I really get enjoyment out of it.  And when you enjoy something you should do it whenever you can.”

The statement stopped me, because my life has gotten so busy that I literally don’t take time to enjoy the things that bring me joy.  The Bachelor franchise is my guilty pleasure, but I barely enjoy it because I’m always doing work or blogging or painting my nails while it’s on.  I’m barely paying 50% attention.  This is a problem in our society, Instagram, Snapchat and Pokemon, we can’t focus on the present moment and soak up the joy we get from it.  This was one of my new years resolutions that I am failing at. 

Oliver and Mommy


I’m trying though.  Here are 10 ways I have been seeking joy in 2016.

1.     Picnics with Kyle and Oliver.  Several times a month, Kyle will bring Oliver and meet me at the train station.  It’s right on the water, there’s a lovely sunset and a nice little playground.  We can have a lovely dinner and it feels like we have gone “out,” with out the cost of ordering drinks and a whole dinner.  I usually pick something up on the way out of the office and we have a lovely computer-free dinner. 

2.     Meditating.  I admit, this is still very difficult for me, but taking a few minutes, usually just between 5 and 10, is a lovely way to start the day.  As long as I don’t have to rush in such a tizzy that the work I just did goes out the window.  I sucked it up and paid for the year of Head Space, which I find easy to follow and currently I am listening to the Oprah and Deepak meditation series about getting unstuck and the messages are amazing!

3.     Finding moments of alone time to throw myself into my projects.  If you know me, you know I LOVE my projects.  But with a baby, it is nearly impossible to enjoy doing them anymore.  It’s hard to find a significant chunk of time to get into something, really get into it deep enough to enjoy it.  Usually I’m racing against the clock of nap time or my own bed time.  One Saturday a month I like to stay up late, real late, and get into the zone, guilt free.

4.     Enjoying evenings on our patio with my husband.  It's a simple summer pleasure with lots of great conversation.  

5.     Dance parties with my baby.  Lately I’ve been putting on the music and feeling the groove with Oliver.  It’s such a little moment that brings me so much joy.

6.     House projects.  We bought our house back in October, and I have loved working on it little by little making it into our perfect home.  This one is tricky, because like I mentioned in #3, finding the time to do house projects is not an easy task, but when I actually finish one it brings me an immense amount of pride.

7.     Morning runs.  This isn’t new, but getting fresh air, spending time with my dog, clearing my head, all while getting my blood pumping is my favorite way to start the day. 

8.     Watching and making Oliver laugh.

9.     Volunteering.  Another of my goals was to start volunteering regularly.  I've been spending one Saturday a month at our local food pantry.  I want to instill this virtue into my son as soon as possible.  Doing this one little deed contributes to my community and makes me so grateful for all that I have.

10.  Starting the day with a gratitude journal.  I am working to change my habit from looking at Instagram the moment I wake up to thinking of three things I’m thankful for.       

Opening up on personal issues...

This is going to be a different kind of post for me.  I usually talk about fashion and interiors and throwing parties, but today I'm going to open up a little deeper.  Here it goes:

One of my 2016 goals that I'm not doing so hot on is practicing joy.    With a sweet toddler and a new house 2016 should be my best year yet, but it's not.  Admittedly out of the gate this year, I didn't take time to be joyful.  I rushed from one project to the next without taking the time to appreciate the accomplishment I had just finished.  But that is the pattern I have set for my life and it has worked fine for the first 32 year.  Plus I really really love a project, but as a new homeowner, the list is just so long, and the bank account is shallow.  Then throw a 1 year old in the mix and I don't have time to do anything for myself or my husband and friends?  what are those? The many many things that are sharing my attention have finally caught up with me.   

Lauren and Oliver

These past several months I've have felt a little like I'm drowning in my own negative thoughts.  This is not the entire cause, but it is part of the problem that has been amplifying many other little things, I suffer from psoriasis.  I have for about 10 years.  Normally it's controlled to a very manageable level.  For the past 10 years it's shown up as an itchy scalp or a few spots on my back and chest.  I've applied a prescription once a day and that's that.  But, when I was away in Morocco I ran out of medicine and my back became covered in red blotches.  Much much worse than it's ever been.  I'm pretty sure had I not run out of medicine it would still have flared up.

These photos are don't illustrate the worst of it, but you can see how one would be self conscious in a swimsuit. 

Lauren and Oliver

I know psoriasis is just a skin disease, it's not cancer, it's not something terminal or major, but it has still caused me a lot of suffering.  For the past four months I have worked to get my skin back under control.  I tried cutting dairy, grains, legumes and sugar out of my diet, to no positive results, only additional stress trying to figure out what to feed my family for meals.  I've apply my prescription twice a day (fighting with the insurance and pharmacy to get more, more often), I've visited the dermatologist on several occasions, I've tried two different acupuncturists, and spent upwards of a thousand dollars on doctors, prescriptions and creams, all with no improvement.  It is incredibly frustrating to be trying so hard and not be able to help yourself.

Not since my middle school days have I felt this low level of self confidence.  It's summer, I've lost all my baby weight and then some and all I want to do is wear tanks and dresses that show some back, but I just don't feel good when I put them on.  Thinking about my skin takes up more room in my brain than I would ever want it to.  I am lucky my spots are mostly confined to parts of my body covered by clothes, because when it moves to my arms and hands, I can't help by fixate on it.  The whole situation has become a thief of my joy.  A joy that I already thought was lacking before this became a problem.  

I am writing this post to hopefully connect with other women and people who are going through something similar.  A few months back I listened to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, The Lively Show, Jess interviewed Dana Schultz of the Minimalist Baker talking about a health issue that has lead to loss of about half her hair.  I related so deeply and was grateful that Dana  told her story.  It let me know that there are others out there dealing with body issues that they can't control and that really can take a toll on your mental health.  

I have convinced myself that much of my issue is stress related.  In addition to my topical prescriptions, I have begun taking Ortezla, an oral medication, but I have also started self treating my stress.  I began meditating and I am trying everyday to practice joy and make good on my 2016 goal after all.  While my skin isn't yet clear, I feel like my self esteem is back on an upswing and I am happier and more positive.  Lets hope I stay on course.  Thank you for your support.