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Why Overwhelm Isn't Serving You and What to Do About It

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Mom-entum Podcast! I’m your host, Tanya Valentine. Whether you’re a longtime listener or new to the show, thank you so much for tuning in today. I truly appreciate you taking the time to listen.

 

Today’s episode is all about helping you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re juggling too many tasks, drowning in to-dos, or just need a moment of calm, this episode is for you. I promise that by the end, you’ll feel either completely relieved or at least a lot better than you did before you hit play.

 

Here’s what we covered:

 

1. Understanding Overwhelm: We kicked off by defining overwhelm and discussing how it’s often linked to our thoughts rather than our circumstances. It’s fascinating how our mindset can change everything!

2. Real-Life Examples: I shared a few stories, including one about twins with different outlooks on life and another about a mom of five who handles her busy life with grace. These stories illustrate how perspective shapes our experiences.

3. Steps to Overcome Overwhelm: I introduced my 7-step plan to tackle overwhelm:

  1. Awareness: Recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

  2. Breathing: Use specific breathing techniques to calm your body.

  3. Questioning Thoughts: Identify and challenge the thoughts causing your overwhelm.

  4. Shifting Perspective: Replace overwhelming thoughts with empowering ones.

  5. Making a List: Get everything out of your head and onto paper.

  6. Eliminating and Delegating: Cross off non-essential tasks and delegate what you can.

  7. Taking Action: Decide on the next best step and just start.

4. Breathwork Benefits: We talked about how controlled breathing can lower stress, improve focus, and help regulate emotions. These techniques can make a big difference in how you handle stressful situations.

5. Positive Mantras: I suggested having a set of mantras ready to go when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Some examples are “I refuse to be overwhelmed” and “Everything is figureoutable.”

 

Actionable Takeaways:

 

• Recognize and acknowledge your feelings of overwhelm.

• Practice the breathing exercises we discussed.

• Challenge and shift your thoughts to more positive ones.

• Make a list, eliminate unnecessary tasks, and delegate where possible.

• Choose a small task to start with and take action.

 

Final Thoughts:

Remember, we create our feelings of overwhelm through our thoughts. By changing our mindset, we can manage our emotions and take control of our lives. You’ve got this!

 

Thank you again for listening! If you found today’s show valuable, please hit the subscribe button so you never miss an episode. Share this episode with someone who might need it, and leave a quick rating and review. Your support helps me reach and help more amazing moms like yourself!

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TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Mom-entum Podcast, the show dedicated to inspiring, uplifting and empowering women on their journey through motherhood.  I’m your host, Tanya Valentine, and whether you have been listening from the beginning or you are brand new here, let me just say thank you so much and I truly appreciate you taking the time to listen today.

 

So I had this idea recently to do a series of podcast episodes that will serve as like a go-to for you to listen to whenever your feeling some type of way, basically these episodes will be uniquely designed to serve the promised purpose they were intended for.  For example, today’s title is “listen to when you’re overwhelmed”.  And I’m going to GUARANTEE that by the end of this episode you will have either eliminated or minimized your overwhelm and at the very least you will feel so much better than when you did before you hit play.

 

I’m also going to do a “listen to when you need motivation”, and “listen to when you are feeling triggered”.  In a nutshell I want to help give you some positive coping mechanisms and tools that you can use in any of these situations.

 

I thought I’d start by just talking about the feeling and definition of overwhelm.  So by definition, overwhelm means to be too much to deal with.

 

And overwhelm is what we at The Life Coach School call an indulgent emotion.  And by definition indulgent emotions are emotions that we indulge in and we can kind of use as excuses.  And as a result, these indulgent emotions keep us stuck and prevent us from moving forward.  For example, say you would really love to do a complete overhaul of your house and get organized.  But you say I want to do this, and I would do this, but I’m just so overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start, and so you don’t.

 

So let’s talk about what is going on that is causing the overwhelm.  Understand that overwhelm is a feeling.  Feelings come from our thoughts.  So although if I were to ask you right now, why are you feeling overwhelmed?  You might give me answers like “my kids just have so much going on, my son is on 2 different soccer teams, and then he has piano once a week and then my daughter has gymnastics and swimming, and I work full time, and I just can’t ever get caught up with laundry.  Or maybe it’s I have a newborn, and I’m a first time mom and I’m just so overwhelmed by all of the new things I have to learn about babies and all on so little sleep, and I’m still trying to figure out how to take care of myself, and my household, and just manage my life, like get into a routine while I’m simultaneously trying to get to know this little baby and how to attend to her needs.  

 

Or maybe you have a dream to quit your job and start your own business, but the thought of doing that seems so overwhelming to you because you are believing there is too much to learn and you wouldn’t even know where to start and when would you even find the time to do it, and so you don’t.  

 

So in all of those answers I gave, we are blaming the feeling of overwhelm on circumstances: it’s my kids and all of their activities, it’s the laundry, it’s my newborn baby and I’m a first time mom. 

 

And many of us might agree that in those circumstances we would feel overwhelmed.  In fact, many of us have been in those circumstances and experienced overwhelm.  But what I want to offer here is a shift in perspective, and pay attention to this part.  The overwhelm is not caused by our circumstances, it is caused by our thinking.  This is true because we all have different perspectives, different ways of looking at things.  

So take twin studies for example. Particularly those involving twins who grow up in the same household yet have different perspectives and outcomes in life. One famous study is the Minnesota Twin Family Study.

 

In this study, researchers followed numerous sets of identical twins who were raised together. Despite sharing the same genetic makeup and growing up in the same environment, many of these twins exhibited strikingly different personalities, emotional responses, and life outcomes. 

 

For instance, there were two identical twins, John and James, who were part of the study. Both were raised in the same household with the same parents, attended the same schools, and had access to the same resources. However, John developed a more optimistic outlook on life, believing that challenges were opportunities to learn and grow. He tended to see the positive side of situations and approached problems with a sense of resilience. As a result, John generally felt happier, more motivated, and achieved a successful career in a field he was passionate about.

 

On the other hand, James developed a more pessimistic outlook. He often focused on the difficulties and setbacks in his life, believing that they were insurmountable and that he was less capable of overcoming them. This negative thinking led James to feel more anxious and defeated, impacting his mental health and leading to a less fulfilling career and personal life.

 

The key difference between John and James was not their external circumstances but their internal thought processes. John's positive thoughts led to positive feelings and outcomes, while James's negative thoughts led to negative feelings and less desirable outcomes. 

 

Another example I’d like to give is that of one of Lucia’s old preschool teachers.  She has 5 kids and I believe they are 6 and under. And in that mass of 5 children she has 2 sets of twins!  And the youngest set of twins are 1 years old.  Her husband works long hours so it is just her and 5 little ones the majority of her days.  

 

She also works as a preschool teacher AND coaches softball AND coaches cheerleading.  Now she is telling me all this and I’m like girl i started being overwhelmed when you said you have 5 kids 6 and under.  And I can tell you right now that if I were in her position, I most certainly would not be volunteering to coach for softball or cheerleading because I would be thinking I’m too overwhelmed with all I have to do I couldn’t possibly.  

 

But that’s where her and I are different, bless her heart.  She clearly does not get overwhelmed as easily and therefore can handle much more roles and responsibilities because she thinks about it differently.  And i applaud her and admire her for this, seriously.

 

Now I don’t know exactly the thoughts going on in her brain because I didn’t ask her, although in retrospect I should’ve asked her, maybe the next time our paths cross I will, Ha she probably would think I’m crazy.  Anyway, but my guess is her thoughts are something like, “i can handle this.”  Whereas mine in her situation would be “I can’t handle this”.  See the difference there?  And then whatever we think or say out loud, eventually manifests into reality.  Because our thoughts cause our feelings, and our feelings fuel our actions which then gives us the results we have in our lives.


 

So now that we have talked about what is at the root cause of the overwhelm, and we know that overwhelm stops us and prevents us from moving forward. Let’s talk about my 7 step plan to overcoming the overwhelm so we can get stuff done and just feel better.


 

So Step 1  is AWARENESS.  As is the case in anything in our lives.  We must be aware that the problem even exists in order to be able to do anything about it.  So the first step is just to recognize and notice when you are feeling overwhelmed.  Maybe even say it out loud, say I’m feeling overwhelm, or this is overwhelm.

 

Step 2 is Breathe.  Overwhelm puts your body in that fight, flight or freeze state , and we can’t use the logical part of our brain when we are in this state.  So we want to start by relaxing the body so that we can think more clearly, and from this place we are more able to problem solve.  So stop and inhale through your nose for a count of 5, hold your breath for a count of 20 and then exhale for the count of 10 and do this 3 times.  And the reason why we do this is that it sort of sets the stage and provides a foundation for us to be able to use our brains at its highest capacity.  This breathwork works by improving focus and concentration. Controlled breathing enhances mental clarity and cognitive function.  It enhances the activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and emotional regulation, while reducing activity in the amygdala, the brain's fear center.

.  It also activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Deep, slow breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your rest and digest response, counteracting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). And this results in a calmer state of mind and body.

In addition, improved breathing techniques ensure better oxygen supply to the brain, further enhancing cognitive functions such as memory and concentration.

 

Step 3 is question.  Say to yourself ok, overwhelm is a feeling, and I know that feelings are caused by my thoughts, so what am I thinking right now that is causing the overwhelm?  I suggest taking a piece of paper and drawing a line going up and down the middle.  And that first column on the left I want you to label “A” for automatic thoughts. And in this column list the thought or thoughts that come to mind that are creating the overwhelm.  Some examples of thoughts that might cause overwhelm are “this is all too much, there is too much to do, I don’t have enough time, I don’t know where to start”.

 

Step 4:Ok, so now that you know you are feeling overwhelmed, you have taken some deep breaths, and you have identified the thought or thoughts causing it, now it is time to move on to step 4 which is Shift.  And what I mean by this is to shift your perspective.  Think what else could I believe or think right now that would help move me out of overwhelm?  So on your piece of paper, label the right column “I” for intentional.  And start brainstorming a list of intentional thoughts you could believe that would circumvent the overwhelm.  And to start you can just think of whatever would be the opposite of or what you could think to challenge the thoughts you listed from step 3.  So for example for the automatic thought “I don’t know where to start” you could list next to it under the “intentional” column the thought “I get to decide where to start” or “there is no right or wrong place to start” or “i just need to pick something and get started”.  

 

Step 5: Make a list.  Now that you have a list in front of you of some more empowering thoughts to believe, I want you to think to yourself, ok if I were to believe these more empowering thoughts, and if I weren’t feeling overwhelmed, what would I be doing?  Write out a quick list, and these will serve as your action items to get you moving.  An example of what your list might look like is this: I don’t indulge in overwhelm, I just get started and I don’t overthink what would be the most important thing to do next, I make a list, I look over my list and decide if I can remove tasks  that can either be done later or not at all and I decide what can be delegated, I get started doing the next best thing and I just focus on doing one thing at a time.

 

Step 6: Ok now its time to eliminate and delegate.  Now that you have your action items in front of you on a list.  Go ahead and glance over this list and cross off anything that can either be done later or not at all.  And yes there are things on your list that can be taken off.

 

And now that we’re on the topic I want to tell you a brief story that changed it all for me.  It was when I was listening to Brooke Castillo share on one of her podcasts about this profound moment she had one day when she was at the park with her young boys.  She had this thought that she could actually drive away right now and leave them.  

 

But don’t worry, she didn’t and she wasn’t going to because of course she didn’t want to do that, but she had this epiphany that she had a choice.  That she didn’t have to take care of her kids, but she was choosing to because she loved them and that was the type of person she wanted to be.  

 

And when I heard that, it changed the game for me.  That thought right there, that I don’t have to do any of it, that is a powerful thought that will immediately take you out of overwhelm.  Just recognize, seriously, that you really don’t have to do anything.  You don’t.  AND It doesn’t mean you're going to lay on the couch and eat chips and drink wine all day, no. Some may think oh, if i think  I don’t have to do anything, then I won't get anything done, it will take all my motivation away, when in fact the opposite is true. 

 

Because when youre overwhelmed, the overwhelm stops you and it slows you down and makes you less efficient. You can’t think straight when your overwhelmed, it’s like complete chaos in your brain.  Its a very disempowering feeling. 

 

But when you shift the thought to im choosing to do this, but i don’t have to, that moves you from disempowered to empowered, it takes the pressure off, and you can think clearer and get things done with more efficiency and ease. 

 

So once you’ve eliminated some tasks from your to do list, next see are there any tasks that can be delegated to someone else?  For example, the grocery shopping.  Can you use instacart today or another grocery service?  Do you need to go out and get a birthday gift for someone?  Can you just order it online instead to help save you the time and hassle of going to the store?  Could you ask your kids to help clean up their toys, or assign some small chores for them to do?  Can you hire a cleaning service for your home?  Could you order meal kits or get takeout?  Could you hire a laundry service or maybe if you have a sitter or nanny ask this person to fold laundry while the kids are taking a nap.

 

Step 7:  so that was elimination and delegation and now we will move on to the next and final step which is just to decide on the next best step and go. Whats 1 small thing that i can do to help move me forward? The hardest part is just getting started. Once you get started you gain momentum and then someone comes along and asks you for something and you don’t want to stop because you are so in the flow of what youre doing you want to finish.

 

So I know that may have seemed like a lot so I’m going to do a quick breakdown of those steps:

 

So 1 is awareness.  Just notice when you are overwhelmed and maybe even say it out loud or in your head “I am feeling overwhelmed”

 

Step 2 is breathwork.  Do the breathing exercise I went over earlier on in this episode.  Inhale for a count of 5, hold for a count of 20 and exhale for a count of 10. And do this 3 times.

 

Next is identify the thought or thoughts causing the overwhelm.  Ask yourself what am I thinking that is causing this overwhelm.  

 

Step 4 is then challenging that thought or thoughts.  For example if the thought is “there’s too much to do”, you could shift the thought to “I don’t have to do any of it and I’m going to choose to do the things that matter”.

 

Step 5 is get a paper and pen and get all of your to do’s out of your head and onto paper.

 

Step 6 is eliminate and delegate.  Eliminate what’s not important and delegate things that you can ask others to do.

 

And the last step is just decide on a task to get started on and go.  No overthinking it, just start somewhere.


 

One more thing I would like to suggest before I sign off today are having a set of mantras prepared ahead of time to keep in your back pocket.  Here are some to get you started; I refuse to be overwhelmed. I know this feeling does not serve me and in fact it keeps me stuck and prevents me from being able to access that part of my brain that would help me come up with a solution or create the result I want, everything is figure out able. I don’t have to do any of it. There is nothing that I have to do, I get to choose the thoughts, feelings and actions that best serve me and the people I love.  

 

Put the mantras in the notes app to serve as your go to when you are feeling overwhelmed, or save this podcast episode and go to it whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.

 

 

You just say I refuse to be overwhelmed because I know it doesn’t serve me and I am in control of my emotions and I get to decide whether or not I want to stay here in the overwhelm or do I want to intentionally choose thoughts that will help me feel more empowered, calm and at ease, and just like I got this I can handle this.

 

The Truth is we create the overwhelm. It’s not what’s going on outside of us, we are the ones creating it for ourselves. And if you are having a hard time wrapping your head around this, I get it trust me. As someone who is easily overwhelmed I totally get it. But that’s exactly my point is look around, there are people in this world who are a whole lot less overwhelmed with a whole lot more on their plate. That’s why it’s not our life circumstances causing the overwhelm, it’s the way we are choosing to think about it. And I know many times it doesn’t feel like a choice, it feels like something that just happens automatically, and that’s actually true because it’s a pattern we’ve been stuck for a while. But it’s not who we are. We can’t allow that to become our identity oh I’m just someone who gets overwhelmed easily. This is just who I am. No it’s not who we are because of it’s who we are then we can’t change it. And yes we actually can change it by becoming the person who doesn’t get easily overwhelmed.

 

 So what I’m suggesting is interrupting the patterns. Recognizing you have a choice, interrupting it as soon as you notice the feeling of overwhelm, stopping, taking your deep breaths to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and calm you down so you can think more clearly and from this place you can choose the thoughts that will better serve you and make a plan on what actions you can take to move forward. You get to decide what’s important and what’s not. 

 

Just say I am becoming a person that doesn’t get overwhelmed. You’ve got this!  You can handle this friend!  You don’t have to do it all.  None of us are doing it all.  It may appear that way, but we are not.  I am not anyway.  I’m just doing the best I can with what I got on any given day.

 

Alright friends. That’s it for today’s episode.  I hope you are leaving feeling a whole lot less overwhelmed than you did at the beginning of this episode!  Thank you so much for tuning in today!  If you found todays show valuable, be sure to hit the subscribe button so that you never miss an episode.  And if I could ask you to please share this episode with someone who needs it, and leave a quick rating and review, this would greatly help me reach and help more amazing moms like yourself! Have an amazing week with your families and I’ll talk to you next week! Bye!

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