Motherhood can be overwhelming at the best of times, right? I find myself saying it all the time, ‘Ugh, I just feel so overwhelmed, if one more thing happens, then…’ (option to finish the rest of that sentence in your own words!)
But what does overwhelm actually mean? When I looked this up, it blew me away. Because it described the journey, my journey, of motherhood perfectly.
Overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli.
Charge someone with too many tasks.
To cover completely or make imperceptible.
We are over-stimulated, overworked, and often, we’ve lost sight of who we are. I’ve been there. When we become mothers, our entire identity shifts; and that in itself, can be overwhelming. So often, we go into default mode. We add more to the to-do list, we add more self-care, we try to do more, be more. And where does it land us? Right back at square one.
So, how do we remedy motherhood overwhelm when ‘doing less’ or ‘slowing down’ quite simply isn’t always an option? Something has to change in the way that we approach being overwhelmed in motherhood, and these are the tools that I use time and time again with my clients.
1. Get clear with yourself.
What are your symptoms of overwhelm? Do you find yourself getting irritable more often? Over-stimulated? Do you withdraw? Do your good habits go out the window? (Mine are all of the above, by the way.) Once you know your symptoms, you can label the emotion quicker, ‘Ah, I’m feeling overwhelmed.’ Say it out loud, and feel the self-compassion wash over you.
2. Get still. Really still.
When we’re overwhelmed, EVERYTHING feels overstimulating. Noises are too noisy, lights are too bright, and we are totally touched out. I’ve been there so many times. In this case, we’ve got to get quiet. We’ve got to seek out stillness, silence, solitude. Get yourself out for a solo walk, lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes, go for a drive. Whatever it is, try to give yourself even just 5 minutes where the senses aren’t being stimulated. Your nervous system will thank you for it.
3. Get it all down.
Next, grab a big piece of paper. Write down everything that you’ve got going on in your life right now. You might find it helpful to even categorise it - ‘work’ ‘family’ ‘home’ etc. Or, you might prefer to just let your mind flow and write things down as they come up. Either way, the act of emptying your mind onto paper is one of the most powerful things we can do. It allows us to look at our thoughts in black and white, and view them more objectively, giving us the power over them.
4. Get back to you.
What are your priorities in life? What comes first? What comes last? What is the most important thing in your life? And what do you not actually care that much about? What is on your list of priorities that is perhaps only there because other people tell you it should be? Now, compare. Look back at your paper from step 3. What is taking up the most of your headspace? And is it in alignment with your actual priorities? My guess is mostly no. Whenever I have done this exercise myself, I am always blown away. Because my headspace is always taken up with things like the housework, life admin, to-do lists. But when I measure this against my actual priorities, i.e. my children - the two don’t add up! I’m giving too much energy to things that are low down on my priorities, and not enough energy to the things that actually matter to me. The result? You guessed it! Overwhelm.
5. Get moving.
Overwhelm is an emotion. And we know that emotions live in our bodies. Therefore, it makes sense that if we want to shift an emotion, we have to move our bodies in some way! I encourage you to find a way of moving that works for you, that you find enjoyable and doesn’t feel like a chore. It might be walking, yoga, Pilates, boxing, or dancing around your kitchen! The more we move our bodies, the more we move the emotions along.
Finally, allow me to encourage you to foster some self-compassion. Overwhelm is a common and totally normal part of being a mum. Why? Because being a mum is overwhelming! Remind yourself of this, and don’t allow yourself to feel like everyone else is coping with it better than you are. Take it from me, we’re not! Give yourself kindness, and all of the guilt-free self-compassion you can muster up.
If you are feeling the overwhelm right now and this has resonated strongly with you, Hayley has created a ‘Managing Overwhelm’ Digital Course specifically for Mums feeling the weight and the pressure of motherhood. Allow Hayley to support you in feeling lighter, more motivated, more you.
About the Author:
Hayley Thomson, founder of Slo Living, is a mum of two living in the Midlands, UK. She is a Certified Coach with years of experience working with mums who are feeling overwhelmed and looking for specialist support. Hayley trained as a Life Coach following her own journey through postnatal depression after the birth of her daughter in 2019, and she is passionate about equipping mums with the confidence and the courage to slow down and overcome overwhelm by doing motherhood their way. Check out Hayley's 'Managing Overwhelm in Motherhood' Digital Course to learn more, and follow her on Instagram @iamhayleythomson