How to Reduce Overwhelm and Clear Your Plate

When I look at my life as a whole, I like to imagine it as a plate. When your plate is too full, things slide off and whatever is left looks like a hot mess.

I remember a time when I used to lose my mind at my daughter. I was going through custody issues, battling anxiety and depression and the moment she pushed even one of my buttons I turned into a crazy person.

Or I would throw out an “I don’t care!” and retreat into my bedroom, leaving my child confused and alone to deal with whatever blowout we just had. I wasn’t able to approach issues with a clear head and guide her through her behaviour.

The point is, I was completely overwhelmed. My plate was a disaster.

What does it mean to be overwhelmed?

It’s when you let all the small things build up until you feel like you’re drowning in stress.

People in all walks of life experience overwhelm, and parenthood is no exception. From a night-feedings, to teething, to potty training, to attitude, being a parent is a guaranteed ticket to Stressville.

How do we respond to stress?

Our bodies are biologically wired to respond to stress in 3 ways:

  1. Fight
  2. Flight
  3. Freeze

We, as parents, often engage in one of these responses when our life feels like it is spinning out of control.

Don’t believe me?

When we start yelling at our kids and our partners and become irritated and angered by the small things, we are fighting against our stress. We are putting up our defenses and lashing out at the things that are making us feel overwhelmed.

Sometimes we hide away, locking ourselves in the bathroom or losing ourselves in social media. Here was are fleeing, or engaging in flight, from our issues. While this can be helpful in some situations, constantly ignoring our problems will lead to that build up that causes overwhelm.

Lastly, there are moments when we freeze and do not respond in anyway. The overwhelm is too much and we simply shut down. We just let the chaos ensue around us.

Clearing Your Plate

Reducing overwhelm is about using our bodies stress responses to our advantage. While you can work to reduce stress in your life, being a parent means that it will always be there.

Here are some activities you can engage in to use your stress responses in healthy and productive ways:

Pick Your Battles

You don’t always have to fight and sometimes issues can be let go. This isn’t a matter of freezing and not dealing with an issue. It’s a matter of taking a deep breath and deciding what is important and what isn’t.

I remember one time I went up to my bathroom to find my daughter using a facecloth to clean the sink. She had squeezed out toothpaste all over the sink and was attempting to clean it up.

I could have gotten angry over the mess and made a scene, but I instead focused on her cleaning efforts. She finished wiping the mess and we went about our day.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s through self-care that we can use flight to our advantage.

If you need to retreat to your room, or have a glass of wine, or check your Facebook feed, it is okay. As long as you use these activities to collect your thoughts so you can deal with issues calmly and clearly.

Write in a Journal

We often exhibit a fighting response when the proverbial straw breaks the camel’s back.

By keeping a journal, you can practice a routine “brain dump” by writing out all the things bothering you. Sometimes just by getting it on paper we can evaluate our issues and come to the realization that some problems are just not as dire as others.

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