January 6, 2017

Thoughts on Overwhelmed

About six months after the birth of my second child – I gave up.  Until that point, I was a from-scratch cook, I exercised often enough to run a half marathon, I did a decent job of keeping up with laundry and dishes (although that area has always been a struggle), and in general I felt like I had my head above water. But then some serious frustrations potty-training my older child (ask me about the 2 year training plan – I’m an expert!), combined with a strained marriage, plus the normal stress of a new baby crawling all over the place, and I was pretty fed up with trying to be the ideal housewife. I even thought average was more than I could manage. 

At the time, I imagined I would just take it easy for a few months – order takeout more often, let myself and my house go for a little while.  Trouble with that plan is then you always feel behind – it has not been the season of rest, and then back to normal, that I was hoping for. Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free book has been helpful, and I have certainly gotten rid of lots of stuff, but I have found it impossible for me to get and stay clutter free while I feel overwhelmed by a never ending “to do” list.

Many things I do are wonderful and fulfilling – dancing, leading MOPS, teaching Bible studies, reading to my children, baking, and more.  But then I have to stuff all the necessities of life in around the edges of my schedule – shopping, dishes, organizing kids' stuff, sorting papers and finances, etc. There is not enough time around the edges to fit all that in – it’s overwhelming! 

I am literally trying to do more than I can do, and have had a growing realization that something must change.  But I’ve been afraid of what a new pared down “to do“ list would look like.  Would I have to cut out everything I love doing?  Spend my days folding laundry and running errands?  Ugh. No thanks. I would rather be frustrated than bored!

So I jumped at the chance to hear what Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory had to share in their newest book.  I expected Overwhelmed to offer some reasons behind my tendency toward chaos, as well as some practical tips for getting out from under it.  Kathi and Cheri’s book delivered on both counts. The first chapter delves into some of the how and why of all the different varieties of overwhelmed, and more of that is sprinkled throughout. In the rest of the book, the authors share personal stories, describe different aspects of being overwhelmed, and offer suggestions for overcoming it. 

Some of these suggestions were simply reminders to do things I already know – like meal plan.  But there are other ideas that were new to me and I look forward to trying – such as creating a personal manifesto, and using a calendar to plan, as opposed to an endless “to do” list.  This gives me hope that I (or someone else) will indeed be able to accomplish the not-so-fun “must dos” of life while also prioritizing those things I find fulfilling and enjoyable.  For sure I will need to make some hard choices, but at least I will be the one in charge, instead of haphazardly dropping tasks from my list because I run out of time.

My particular kind of overwhelm stems from being a mother of small children, but Kathi and Cheri address many different kinds of overwhelm that impact women.  The chapters dealing with unhealthy relationship patterns are particularly insightful.  I think in the future I will see this book as a resource -- going back to re-read chapters as I reach different stages of life and struggle in different ways.  The book doesn’t address every area in depth (it can’t, or it would be textbook size), but each chapter gives good practical ideas for escaping the chaos and there are recommended reading lists throughout – so you can explore more in the areas most helpful to you.

Despite some heavy topics, this is a fun book to read because of the personal stories and encouraging tone.  I now have a plan to start the new year with a few small changes to lessen my current level of overwhelm, and I am hopeful these changes will be the beginning of many more.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy for free, but I like this so much I am buying the final version for myself as well. For more information, and to get your own copy, check out www.overwhelmed.website.

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