This morning, I was feeling overwhelmed. I noticed as I opened the door that it was about 15 degrees cooler outside than I thought it would be when I’d dressed my kids. I unexpectedly had to unload our double stroller from the middle of the van, which my husband had chucked there to load groceries into the trunk last night. And when I got home, I had to contend with an uncooperative poopy toddler and a baby who was screaming for food.
As parents, we all have moments of feeling overwhelmed like this from time to time, right? With four kids, I feel like they happen often. Sometimes, the chaos swirls around me, and I feel like I am being tossed along with the tide.
In overwhelming moments like these, here are a few strategies to try to calm down, center, and regain the cool you need to move forward with the day.
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Take a moment of mindfulness.
Feel the weight of your infant against your chest. Take a sip of coffee and savor the warmth as it travels down your throat. Listen carefully to your toddler’s laugh. Try finding a mantra or affirmation you can repeat to yourself as you focus and recollect.
Reframe with an attitude of gratitude.
As tough as it might be, try to approach the situation with gratitude. “I am grateful we have enough clothes that we can dress for the weather. I’m grateful that we have groceries and a van to drive and strollers to use.” Consider getting a gratitude journal that you can use for brief daily reflections on what you’re thankful for.
Do a one-minute declutter.
Look around. Find one area of your home that needs attention—maybe an end table, a couch cushion, or an area of the floor—and do a quick declutter. Toss toys in the bin, recycle papers, or put shoes away.
Do something for you.
You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t give from an empty cup,” haven’t you? Take a second to check that your basic needs have been met. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Do you need to use the bathroom? Even grab a quick shower? Your kids will be fine if you put them somewhere safe and take a moment for yourself.
Make a list.
Write down three things that it would make you feel good to accomplish. Ask yourself, “What would make me feel less overwhelmed?” Try to answer yourself with something small. “If I’d just get the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher,” for example. Try to tick one off the list.
Listen to something grownup.
Maybe you’re partly overwhelmed by the constant cacophony of children’s music and shows. We are in full-throttle Baby Shark mode over here lately. Try putting in headphones and listening to a podcast or audiobook, or switch the TV to a family-friendly but grownup show.
Tickle your toddler. Seriously. Hearing laughter releases endorphins! And maybe it will also redirect your kid from whatever temper tantrum overwhelmed you in the first place.
If you’re so inclined, take a moment to say a prayer. Offer up your feelings of being overwhelmed. Ask for peace, calm, and guidance.
Or open a window. Let the fresh air sweep over you and the sunshine hit your face! If you’re brave enough, go outside barefoot. I read an interesting article recently that explained how good this is for the soul.
Ask for help.
Try asking your kids for help, if they’re old enough. Toddlers are natural helpers, and they may be willing to accomplish a few small tasks for you that will make you feel better. (Again, this might redirect them, as well.) Don’t be afraid to be real with your older kids. “I am feeling overwhelmed right now. It can be hard to take care of everybody at the same time. Would you please clear the table for me while I sweep the floor?”
Just remember—nothing is forever. I have an infant, so I’m living in three-hour increments. Her naptime is always just around the corner. “I can get through the next 30 minutes.” Or you might think ahead to when your partner will be home from work. And hey, if it helps to take a deep breath and say, “It’s only 17 years until she goes to college,” that’s all right, too!