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Dealing with Overwhelm

There are times when I feel so overwhelmed that I want to just crawl under the bed and hide! The first time I remember feeling this really strongly was right after my second child was born. Mike had gone to work, and I was home with Christina, the newborn, and Michael, the one and a half year old, and they both woke up early and started crying at the same time. I had no idea how to deal with two little tiny kids, so I pulled the covers over my head for a couple of minutes, hoping that if I closed my eyes real tightly, somehow the crying would stop, and I would magically figure out how to do this.

Needless to say, that didn't work. They kept on crying, and I had to hoist my exhausted and extremely sore body out of bed and figure it out, one step at a time.

My daughter Dani, feeling overwhelmed

Fast forward 27 years and 11 kids later, and I'm considerably better at dealing with feelings of being overwhelmed. "One step at a time" is how I tackle overwhelm. Recently I hit that place from too many things happening at once. Here's what I had going on:

1. My two youngest were getting ready for the sacrament of Confirmation, which for me involved getting them to their weekly classes and rehearsal, making sure that they had all their volunteer hours covered in the right categories, and getting them all the proper clothing for the ceremony (one has grown several inches in the last couple of months, so nothing he owned fit him except for gym clothes!).

My two youngest, Joey and Nick, after getting confirmed with their older brothers Christian and Alex, who sponsored them. I found clothing for them!

2. The end of both Spring flag football and water polo season for my youngest three boys. Naturally, water polo ended with a three day tournament out of town on the same weekend as two flag football games and the Confirmation rehearsal. Thanks to my very helpful older children, I was able to get some other drivers for the football games and the Confirmation rehearsal.

3. My daughters and I were scheduled to provide the music at our church on Mother's Day, which was the weekend after all that football and water polo mayhem, and the same weekend as Confirmation. Providing the music requires picking the music, loading the binders, and several rehearsals (I play the piano, and they sing).

These 3 things made life a little crazy, but still doable. Then these other things piled on top:

4. My daughters band had a local show that was a fundraiser, and when they went in for the sound check, my son the sound man found that half the stuff on the board wasn't wired into anything! Fortunately, this was one of the rare times that our sound check was not on the same day as the show, so he had plenty of time to fix the situation, but talk about panic mode...

5. I co-wrote a musical 10 years ago, and my writing partner contacted me to let me know that they were going to perform it again, and would I please make the printed scores I had promised 10 years ago, and could I get them done in the next couple of weeks? And could I also please update the instrumental tracks, all of which had files that had been lost several computers ago, and send them ASAP? AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

6. I co-wrote another musical 7 years ago that was also scheduled to be performed this summer, and I got an email asking for a performance CD. Shouldn't be a big deal, but once again, those tracks were done several computers ago, and although it appears they are all in my iTunes, 5 of the song files say that they no longer exist. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

7. For some unknown reason, I decided to host the end of season water polo BBQ and organize the neighborhood BBQ, both of which were scheduled 3 days apart, in the week following Mother's Day. #whatwasithinking

8. One of my kids got in a minor car accident; for a parent, even a minor car accident is a big deal.

9. The weekend following Mother's Day/Confirmation Day/music-at-the-Mass-day also had a two day swim meet that I had to work at on the second day and an essential oils seminar on the first day that I really wanted to go to (I have to occasionally do something for me, right?)

11. I had to rebook dentist and orthodontist appts for the child who decided to take off on a weeklong vacation to Malibu with his older brother, deal with some homeschooling administrative stuff, and do my usual band manager activities and bookkeeping. These wouldn't normally be a big deal, but the overwhelm from all of the other things made these feel like the straw that was breaking the camel's back!

12. Summer swim league was starting.

13. My daughters' band was getting ready to drop a new album with a corresponding new merch line, and all the details that go along with that (you can check it out here:

My daughters' new album Photo Credit: Acacia Evans

My strategy: prioritize, simplify everywhere possible, break everything down into chunks, and attack things one step at a time.

1. Prioritize

The top priorities were:

- getting the volunteer hours done for Confirmation

- making sure the girls' show had all the technical stuff handled

- making sure music for the Mass was ready

These things were happening first on the calendar, and they were going to be a disaster for me if I didn't get them right, so they had to be top priority. The musicals were due a few weeks later, so I moved them down the list. I can plan BBQ's in my sleep, and the water polo and football games were going to be fine as long as I figured out how to coordinate the transportation.

2. Simplify

Simplify everything you possibly can. Free up some of your time and valuable brain power by cutting back in a few areas temporarily:

- instead of cooking, do takeout. Get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a bag of salad mix.

- let the laundry go for a few days.

- don't worry about the cleaning; focus on getting all that other stuff off your list!

- delegate as much as possible

- if feasible, hire someone to help you

3. Break things down into chunks

Example: water polo weekend - three day tournament, 3 hours away

- get hotel reservation for the players and me (can't put this off or we'll be without a room!)

- figure out who of the other siblings is driving up on which days and enlist the others to stay with Joey and take him to the flag football games and Confirmation rehearsal

- help Mike figure out flights in from where he was working out of state so he could watch the tournament

- make sure there is someone home to take care of Jessie (the dog)

- make list of food and drinks to bring to the games

- packing list - include church clothes and team dinner clothes, cooler, bleacher chair

- check air pressure on tires before leaving

- figure out where and when we can go to church while we're at the tournament

My son Nick playing water polo at the State Championship. Photo Credit: Mike Cimorelli

4. Dig in, one step at a time

My calendar is my lifesaver at times like these. I write everything down in it as a running list at the top, and then I plug those things into various days. After I've done this, I can stop worrying about the 500 things on the list, because they have all been assigned to their own day. If I just deal with that day's items, then I know everything will be fine.

5. Knock the easy stuff off the list

Some people like to tackle the hardest stuff first, but I personally like to knock out several easy things first. The more items I can get off my list, the closer I feel to overcoming my overwhelm. Of course, if you just keep doing easy things and never get to the hard stuff, then the procrastination will crush you. Don't do that! Get some of the easy things out of your way, then tackle the bigger things with a clearer head.

For instance, I knocked out just about everything else on the list before I dove into doing those musical scores, and then I was able to focus fully on them and still get them done in a timely manner. I was simply unable to do my best work with so much weighing on me mentally, but as soon as I got that other stuff off my list and out of my head, boom! Scores done.

6. Commit to finishing

For many people, when they hit overwhelm, they flake out on everything and don't get anything done. Try not to overcommit in the first place, but when everything comes at you at once, make a plan, and work the plan until you get it all done. You can do it!

7. Block out some time to de-stress

This is critical. You can't give your best if you are running on empty. I do my best to do things like: eat clean, get some exercise, take a hot bath before bedtime, spend a few minutes in prayer, and using my calming blends of essential oils, like Balance during the day and Serenity at night before bedtime. Those have been game-changers for me!

My daughters got me this awesome spa kit or essential oils products for my birthday, which is packed full of de-stressers! Yay!!

The next time you're feeling overwhelmed by all of the craziness coming at you, take a deep breath, and know that you've got this! One step at a time, and remember to fit in some moments to recharge your batteries.

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