By Zipporah Neuman, LCSW-C
As a working mom, there is so much that I need to accomplish each day. Make the lunches, do the dishes, drive the kids to school, go to work, meet with my clients, finish my paperwork, bring the kids to soccer practice, bring the kids to dance class, organize the toys, make dinner, study with my kids, clean up the house, the list goes on. Sometimes my mind races; did I call the doctor to make an appointment for that well visit? Did I schedule the oil change for my car? Did I call the handyman to fix that broken sink? Did I remember to call my client? Did I respond to that birthday party? My day races, my mind races, so much to do, and so little time. This is what occurs on a good day, on a day when everything goes as planned.
And then, there are days when things do not go according to plan. My car breaks down, a child gets sick, I need to be in one child’s school for a play and another child’s school for parent teacher conferences, my appointment is canceled, I don’t finish all of my paperwork at work, I get stuck in traffic, I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, I overslept, I forgot to send my son to school with show and tell, I’m late for pickup. Crash. Burn. My day is in shambles. I am overwhelmed. The reality is, we are living complex lives with busy schedules. We’ve all had days when we feel as if we are barely hanging on. One bump in the road, one mishap, or one unexpected event can make it feel like our day is in danger of collapsing and taking us along with it. It is normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes, but there are ways to prevent it from becoming our daily experience.
- Don’t overschedule – Be realistic when scheduling activities for yourself or the members of your family. If your day is booked in a way that requires you to go straight from one event to another, you are not leaving yourself any room for error. Allow more than enough time between events just in case something goes wrong.
- Allow for Down Time – Adults and children alike need time to relax and decompress. Block out time in your daily and weekly schedule that is not designated for any activity or any event. Let your kids have opportunities for free play at home and outside, allow yourself the luxury of picking up a book or a magazine to read for pleasure. Every moment does not need to be programmed and scheduled.
- Manage work responsibilities – If you are asked to take on an additional task or special project at work, assess whether you need to prioritize or even relieve yourself of one of your current responsibilities. Communicate openly with your colleagues and supervisors concerning what you can or cannot do given your workload. Ask for additional support or the flexibility to shift an existing task to a colleague, even temporarily.
- Set boundaries – We all have limits. Know your own personal limits and create boundaries. Make a rule and stick to it. Whether you allow each child to choose one extracurricular activity at time or you ensure that your family is all home by a certain time each day, make a limit and stick to it. Once it is established as a family rule, it will reduce stress and pressure from your life.
- Schedule “Me Time”- As a working mom, finding time to be alone can feel like an impossibility. Just like you schedule a doctor’s appointment, schedule “me time” or alone time each week when you can do something for yourself. Parents spend the day taking care of their kids, we need to care for ourselves as well.
When we feel overwhelmed, the core of the issue is not what happens, but rather how you react and manage those feelings. Just like we budget our finances, we can budget our time and responsibilities to cope with mishaps. There is so much in life that we cannot control like snow days, changes at work, babysitter cancellations, or an appliance breakdown. When you become overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remind yourself that the one thing you can control is how you react. Remind yourself that you have the tools to manage these feelings.
Zipporah Neuman is a therapist for Jewish Community Services.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.