I set on the foot of the bed, holding my littlest one in one arm and wiping the tears streaming down my face with the other. I set there with little desire to move from the comfort of my bedroom.
It was just passed 8 a.m. and my husband stood in the doorway. His blank face showed zero ability to decide on his next steps as he faced a busy workday and great need for me to pull it together.
Backed into a self-inflicted corner, with a to-do list I clung to, I could barely breathe.
A moment, drenched in overwhelm, had forced its way into our home.
For both of us, the word overwhelm came nothing close to an explanation of the emotional chaos we felt that morning.
They had gone flat out ignored or unattended.
But this day, arriving with an early morning southern California breeze, pushed its way onto the scene. In all my exasperation, my usual ability to drive myself forward had reached, in all seriousness, an all-time low.
Confused and starring at the floor as if it were a road leading the way, I was officially stuck.
This is my most recent overwhelm story and the one I want to connect with you on.
For several reasons..
- As we get older and move into different stages of life, overwhelm doesn’t seem to knock any less. It. Still. Lives. And breaths.
- Life continues beyond single motherhood and so does overwhelm. The way we choose to react and respond to it is up to us.
- As I grow in wisdom and self-awareness, I reflect better and hence my decision-making skills become, well let’s just say, a bit more seasoned.
What I am learning about finding freedom from overwhelm and what I want to share with you.
In hindsight, that day, and all that led up to it was a gift.
Noticeably being made aware that I was moving at a speed faster than I could manage with more on my plate than I could handle.
Not accommodating for the energy of a new baby, a recent relocation to a new home and city, my business, a film team arriving for an interview just weeks from our move-in date – because I have yet learned to show mercy to schedules and needs.
Although I had my husband helping me, he wasn’t enough and it wasn’t all up to him to solve.
Graciously and possibly more concerned for our children than even myself – insert snarky grin – my husband called off of work, as I cleared my schedule.
And cried. All-day.
My mind raced from attempting to be solution-based and problem-solving, to flat out empty and craving rest.
I called one dear friend and dumped my heart onto her lap.
I poured my thoughts into a journal. So that it would all sit in one place.
Then I took a long nap.
By the next day, I had a game plan.
My therapist was back on payroll. A babysitter app was installed and login created. I was reevaluating my expectations and allowing myself to rest, even if that rest was mental. Creating space for a brain that has long wrestled with the concept.
You know what? For the first time, possibly ever, it felt good to go from that level of intense overwhelm to being able to pull it together that quickly.
That has not always been the case for me.
Nowhere near. Not even close.
If I am being honest, for years I lived in a state of constant overwhelm. Living on the defense. Always wondering what was going to happen next.
Starting out as a single mom at twenty-four, I hadn’t developed the maturity nor the skills to process such extreme pressure. Had I been thirty-four or forty-four, perhaps it would have been the same way. Because, well, single motherhood.
Need I say more?
I believe it is time, experience and opportunities that allow us room to grow in our ability to overcome our hard and overwhelming seasons or moments that have turned chaotic.
The gift has been the experience of self-reflection, learning how I function, while using those opportunities to ask myself hard questions and becoming a student of identifying my emotions and my emotional triggers.
How can you find freedom from the overwhelm of your single motherhood?
Before I go any further, I’m going to ask you to press pause right here and go order authors Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp’s book, Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity
During our journey of single motherhood, we become accustomed to juggling it all but no one was designed to maintain a sustained speed of 110 MPH.
My sweet sister, while we all like to think we can OR we have no other options, burn out is right around the corner and someone will lose.
It might be you. It might be your kids. It could be your job or your bank account.
In cases of extreme burnout and overwhelm, it could unquestionably be all four.
Most of what I have to offer you comes from my own personal experience and a combination of the book I highly recommended above.
1. Actively Surrender.
Throw in the towel. Use a lifeline. Call a friend. Call your mom. Sister. Boyfriend. Neighbor. Co-worker. Therapist. Brother’s friend’s sister. Reach out. Connect. You get the picture. Admitting we can not do it all and welcoming a change or shift of responsibilities is important in times of severe overwhelm.
2. Clear Your Schedule.
Yes. Clear your schedule. Down to the basics and VERY minimum.
3. Begin a Deeper Self-Reflection.
What is on your plate? What decisions are you constantly having to make that you can streamline, get organized, out-source? Even if it is for a minute to catch your breath. What about you? How does your personal make-up impact your current situation and how you handle overwhelm? How are you getting in your way and stressing yourself out rather than being your best friend and being on “Team-You”?
4. Dump Them All On Paper. Decisions that Need to Be Made and Gratitude
Get your thoughts on paper and begin to prioritize them by need. Place focus on what is overwhelming you most and all you have to be thankfull for. Then, call a trusted friend and have them help you think rationally. When overwhelm strikes thinking through things becomes even more demanding than usual, let alone seeing what goodness surrounds us. It’s in these places that prohibits us from seeing what needs to be done versus what can be pushed to a later date. Not all things need to be processed, evaluated and solved at once. Putting this all on paper and adding different items to your calendar, scheduled for a later time, clears up valuable headspace that can be used for much more important things, like loving yourself, enjoying your kids and resting a bit more.
5. Welcome the Holy Spirit.
I saved the best for last. Besides our own hard work and effort to process our thoughts, our hearts, and our circumstances, the Holy Spirit was The Counselor that led me to most solutions. Opening doors in my heart and life, linking thoughts to behaviors, and untieing knots that had been created. Knots that lodged me into fear, angst, and the inability to make solid decisions to get me moving forward and unstuck. Welcoming him into your overwhelm is the gesture that offers you peace. It is a gift to yourself. Surrendering what you think you know is best, to what He knows is best for you.
And by all means, my dear friend, give yourself an immeasurable amount of grace, just as you would someone you deeply loved.
These are just a few how-to’s to help you in finding freedom in your overwhelm. How you grow is up to you.
Overwhelm has a way of arriving at inconvenient times. It also shows up in different degrees with different masks. We all become overwhelmed for different reasons. So be careful to not compare what you are able to handle versus what Karen is able to manage.
As a single mom, if you haven’t already, begin to build a go-to team that is able to swoop in at a time of need.
I understand, like me that day, it is very likely that you have a significant other to drop his schedule and take the littles off your plate. At some point, during my ten years of single motherhood, my team consisted of a boss that understood, a mom – not always my own – a friend, an aunt, a cousin, a co-worker, neighbor, sibling or therapist that was able to take a call during these hard moments. I urge you to not sit alone. Reach out. Create community.
One more thing, if you didn’t catch it the first time, get the book I recommended….you won’t regret it! And if you need a bit more encouragement during the hard seasons you might want to check out my post: Four Best Practices to Get You Past Your Hard Season so You Can Conquer the Uncomfortable.
As always, our Facebook group, The Savvy Christian Single Mom, is a safe place to find rest in the chaos and connect with other Christian single moms.
’till next time,