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7 simple things you can do right now if you're feeling overwhelmed

When was the last time you felt overwhelmed? Last week, yesterday, earlier today? My guess is, it probably wasn't that long ago. If your triggers are anything like the moms I work with, overwhelm can hit you at any point and in any situation.

Sometimes it's in the middle of the workday when the responsibilities and stresses of the job get to be so much that you think there's no way you'll ever climb out of this hole, let alone your inbox.

Sometimes it's in the evenings when you look around at the mess in your house, a pile of laundry and no certain plan for dinner that you feel like you've let your family down and what you should really do is quit your job so you could actually stay on top of all of it.

Sometimes overwhelm shows up when you're surrounded by two children who are wallowing in their own overwhelm of emotions, crying and whining, that you think life will be this way forever. And you're overwhelmed by the fact that you are the adult here.


Or sometimes, overwhelm waits to hit you until the craziness of the day has ended and you have your first quiet moment to yourself. When you finally sit down, exhale a big sigh of relief, and think about doing it all over again tomorrow, the crushing weight of overwhelm sits on you making it hard to breathe.

Can you relate?

No matter how it shows up for you, overwhelm feels heavy. It creates the feeling of being out of control in terms of practically everything you can think of. And like the temper tantrums we often witness in our children, it can be hard to snap out of.

Trust me—we have all been there and some of us probably more frequently than we would like to admit.

But just like we're taught how to approach and calm a toddler who is stuck in an emotionally overwhelming moment which often manifests as a screaming fit, there are things that we can do to help ourselves snap out of it, too. Things that can help us stop spiraling into that feeling of being out of control, and instead, grounds us in the present moment.

You will get through this.

Everything is not lost.

This is only temporary.

You've got this.

So the next time you feel that feeling, you know how it goes—your breath becomes short, your head starts to feel heavy, you can't see past your own nose and you just might break into tears if anyone asks you if you're okay—try one (or try all) of these things to catch your breath and reset.

1. Close your eyes and breathe.

One of the signature symptoms of overwhelm is a loss of control—having more than you can handle, whether that's work, chores, or emotions. One of the quickest ways to prove to yourself that you have more control than you are feeling in this moment is to take control of your breath. My go-to is the Headspace app. If you've not tried it, I highly recommend it. They have a 3-minute overwhelm meditation that I use all the time, even in public. I pop my earbuds in and let Andy's voice calm me down.

But if you don't have that, you can just as easily close your eyes and take 10 deep belly breaths. Count each inhale and exhale as you go and try to think of nothing else except your breathing and counting. Do another 10 and another, until you feel like you can open your eyes without freaking out again.

I find this counting to 10 method particularly helpful when I am in the presence of a toddler meltdown. It allows me to not get emotionally tied up in their drama and to create a sense of calm that I can then demonstrate and try to transfer to my little one. It doesn't always work, but I at least get a short meditation in the midst of chaos.

2. Move your body.

Last week when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the amount of work and responsibilities on my plate, I shut my laptop, stood up and walked away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to stand up, move your body and remove yourself from the situation.

Even if you can't literally walk away, you can roll your shoulders or your neck, do a quick stretch (or if I were at the office, I could walk a few flights of stairs or take a quick lap around the parking lot). Anything to get the blood flowing again and to clear my head, which an elevated heart rate and some movement always do.

3. Drink a full glass of water.

Dehydration can be a trigger for so many out-of-control emotions. On days when I've not been drinking enough water, I am quick to snap at those around me, quick to fall into despair about anything that's not going my way, and quick to feel overwhelmed. So if you can, fill up your glass and drink a lot of water. Drink it purposefully and drink it mindfully. For the next few seconds, your thoughts should only be about that glass of water and how you're going to drink it. Then exhale.

4. Look around and name five things you are grateful for.

Quick, don't overthink it. Just look around the room or think about your day so far, and quickly list to yourself five things for which you are grateful. It could be as big as the opportunities that your job creates for you, the health insurance that you have for when you are sick or the health that your family is experiencing right now, to smaller things like the amazing lipstick you are wearing today or the fact that you have access to clean drinking water (see previous tip).

Giving yourself a quick break to realize all the good that you have in your life is a sure-fire way to snap out of despair. And besides, it's proven that gratitude increases happiness. So if you're in for some drastic changes in your life, you could always turn this into a longer-term practice!

5. Eliminate something from your to-do list.

If thinking about all you have to do in life triggered your overwhelm, try challenging your list. There is probably a lot on there that HAS to get done. We all have weeks like that. But what is absolutely necessary and what is not? Can you have cereal for dinner so you can eliminate cooking from your to-do list for today? Can calling to schedule that appointment wait until next week when you're not feeling so bogged down? Can you be upfront with your client about not being able to get them that thing you promised for a few more days?

So often we tell ourselves that we HAVE to do certain things when in reality, the deadline is flexible. Most people understand a busy schedule, and I think slowing down for a day or so might actually make you more productive in the end. Whereas powering through often means missed details and tasks completed with little effort.

6. Write down your "ta-da list."

Speaking of lists, I want you to do the opposite of crossing something off. I want you to create a list… of EVERYTHING you've done so far today. I bet you got up, brushed your teeth, made breakfast, tended to your children's needs, listened to a podcast, crossed some to-do's off your work list, re-filled something around the house, returned a phone call, filled out some paperwork… you get the idea.

We never give ourselves enough credit for all the things that we do each day. Even if the only things we did were take a shower and cook for our kids, that's actually pretty incredible. The fact that ON TOP of that we're working, doing laundry and taking care of business is pretty dang impressive. So take a second to look at that big long list of things that you DID do today and say a little "ta-da!" to yourself. (Don't smile, someone might be watching. 😉)

7. Schedule some downtime.

When you've got a lot going on, it can be particularly hard to give yourself a break. We keep thinking that this is just a "season" or that "work is really busy right now" and we put off anything fun until things slow down. Well, what if they don't slow down? What if you wait and wait for that opportunity to breathe and it never comes? What if this is the new normal?

You have got to schedule some downtime. You have got to give yourself something to look forward to. Make it quick, make it small, make it easy. Whatever works for you right now to just remind yourself of how good it feels to have a break and to have something to look forward to. And then you'll probably be more motivated to schedule the next one and the next.

Don't feel bad about feeling overwhelmed. It happens to the best of us. Yes, it even happens to me. And because I know what that feels like, and I'm guessing you agree with me when I say it's not an enjoyable feeling, I want to make sure that you have the tools to stop yourself from spinning too far out of control.

Because it's true what I said earlier—this feeling is only temporary. You've got this.

Originally posted on The Mother Nurture.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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