Tips for Those Suffering from Being Parentally Overwhelmed

headache cartoonAre you feeling overwhelmed? With all the demands you have placed on your shoulders as a parent, it’s no wonder. You have to pay the bills, earn the money to pay the bills, get your kids where they need to be, help them with their homework, take care of the house, make the meals, etc.

And that doesn’t even cover taking care of pets, your spouse, yourself, or even your parents – which is something that many people in the sandwich generation have to do.

If you weren’t feeling overwhelmed before, just reading that last paragraph may have gotten you there.

You hear all the time that you have to take time for yourself, but sometimes you don’t feel like you have time for that.

“Maybe later” is a common refrain. You give up sleep, eat at your desk, and find any way you can to gain a few extra minutes in the day to usually fit in something that has to be done for someone else.

As a life coach, I’ve seen this in so many people from every walk of life. What I find all these people have in common is that they’re caught in firefighter mode. They’re constantly jumping from one proverbial fire to another and they never feel like they’re getting ahead.

One of the problems with this mode of parenting is that you always feel stretched too thin. When you operate this way, everything takes on a sense of urgency. Your energy is either high because you’re running around putting out fires or it’s really low because you’re exhausted.

With all that urgency, you lose sight of your priorities. Just because something feels urgent doesn’t mean that it’s actually important. One of the best ways to escape firefighter mode is to be able to shift from extinguishing to distinguishing.

When you’re pulled in all directions, how do you distinguish between the important things and all the other stuff that’s demanding your attention?

The best way to do this is to tap into your Internal Guidance System (IGS). With practice — and yes, I know that means spending some of your valuable time practicing this skill — your IGS will help you to recognize which fires are truly important and deserving of your time and talents. You’ll know which items you need to address right now, which can be put aside for later or delegate to others, and even those you may decide to ignore entirely.

Some people will balk at the idea that they don’t have to handle everything on their to-do list. The problem is, when you live your life as if the goal is to check everything off the list, then everything on the list is given equal billing.

Take John Jr. to the dentist- — check. Wash the dog — check. Plan Mom’s 80th birthday celebration — check. Be sure the life insurance policy is up to date before you have that heart attack — check.

How would it feel to let something go on your list? If it can’t be dropped or delayed, can it be delegated? How does it feel to ask your children, your spouse, a co-worker, or a friend to take over a task? Are there things that make you feel happy about finishing? Can you focus on those? Feel your way through the list to determine which items are truly important to you.

For some, this concept will be very foreign. They may even say that it’s selfish. Maybe it is, but there’s nothing wrong with that! Focus on what brings you joy. Being overwhelmed and exhausted certainly isn’t joyful. Be willing to be a little selfish. Be willing to let go of a few projects or at least how they’re accomplished. Show your children what it means to prioritize, to delegate, and to actually experience rather than race through life.

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