Feeling Overwhelmed? Here's How to Get Untangled

Self on 06.15.11
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A common question I hear from women -- be they new mothers or those who’ve taken the stroller around the block a time or two --  is how do I fit it all in my busy schedule? I know how you feel; I’ve been there, I’ve done what you’re trying to do. So I feel pretty comfortable in telling you this; you simply cannot.

Okay, now before you all start waving your app-laden iPhones and Droids at me to prove how organized you are, let me clarify. You may be able to cram it all in, but think of this as your purse when you have too much in it. It’s heavy, crap is falling out and you look in the bottom (if you can actually see the bottom) and realize you have more junk in there than your average hoarder. To top it all of you can’t even find what it is you’re looking for.

I know women who still use fancy, online organizers, calendars or schedules that are more detailed than troop movements in Afghanistan, only to find that the whole operation jumps the track when they get a flat tire or a sick husband or a screaming baby keeps them awake all night. God forbid they happen simultaneously. And new moms make life hardest of all for themselves – trying to care for their children while still trying to lead their ‘pre-baby’ lives. That’s why I wrote my book, "Good Enough Mother", and why I believe in ‘perfect imperfection’. Cutting corners here and there really isn’t the end of the world.

Years ago when I was in TV news, the producer I worked with always made sure she allowed for something called “Phantom Time” -- basically time that we couldn’t really pinpoint but which just sort of vaporized into thin air. When you have a schedule too tightly packed with no “Phantom Time” built in, the slightest deviation will throw everything off and stress you out in the process. 

Do you want to wake up every morning with that kind of pressure? I don’t. So here are three quick tips to keep you from feeling overwhelmed:


1. Prioritize. It doesn’t matter if you have the biggest, baddest organizer around, cramming 28 hours worth of stuff into a 24 hour time frame just doesn’t work. Take a red pen to your weekly schedule, cutting it by 20 percent. That is your “Phantom Time” which you must guard fiercely. If you have to schedule something on that day, make sure to deduct that time from somewhere else in your schedule. New moms – feel free to cut even more!


2. Plan a Do-Nothing Night Once a Week. Now that you’ve freed up some time in your schedule, you’ll plan a Do-Nothing night once a week. That means no kid activities, running around after work or baby talk. On our Do-Nothing night we eat a frozen pizza or soup with salad or leftovers, whatever requires the least amount of work. The dishes? We put them in the sink where they will be waiting the next morning. Then we put our feet up and chill as a family.


3. Learn to Say No. When someone asks you if you can help with the church banquet but it’s on your family night, the answer is no. When they ask if you can babysit alongside your own newborn, the answer is no. When neighbors ask if you can help with the school bake sale because no one makes lemon bars the way you do, if you have a conflict, you will say no.

I think this last one is especially difficult for women, as we have been taught to please and be accommodating. But you cannot compromise your physical and mental health. Learn to say no and not worry about what people are going to say when you leave the room. They’ll probably wish they had the guts to do it the same.

So give these tips a go – especially all you new moms out there. Trust me, you’re gonna feel a whole world better!



Photo: from_ko/Creative Commons

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