This is a guest post by Rachel Lang. Rachel is an artist and a designer. You can check out her website here: Making Something Rad.
It’s hard to juggle a job, a side hustle, and kids – and still get enough sleep and keep your sanity. I know this struggle forwards and backwards. I was a young, single mom for most of my life – holding down a job, two little boys, trying to get through school at one point, and always working some kind of side hustle. Now I’m a young(ish) married mom with two teenage boys, a job, and another side hustle. Throw in a couple of pets and my mom, who lives with me – it’s a lot to manage!
Does this sound familiar to anyone? Get up too early. Wrestle kids out of bed and into some clean-ish clothes (don’t look too closely). Chug coffee while fighting traffic to drop kids off at school and head to work. Work for 8 hours while thinking about all the other things you’re not getting to while you’re at work. Get off, fight traffic home. Eat a bagel with cream cheese for dinner while you try to manage your family and work on your side hustle until you pass out and drool on your keyboard, and the cats walk over your limp body. Rinse. Repeat.
Do you feel like you can’t make it ONE MORE DAY at this pace… but there’s no end in sight?
I FEEL you! My life is always packed as full as I can make it. Which I like, even though it’s super difficult at times. I’m currently working full time – although I’m trading my day job to work full time at the startup I’ve co-founded in a week. (Yay!) I also run my blog and design business on the side. Add in the aforementioned family and pets, and some semblance of a yoga practice… and I sew my own clothes too… It’s a lot to handle.
But, I’ve come a long way from the exhaustion of my 20’s. I’ve learned how to juggle all this stuff (pretty much) successfully. Of course, I still get tired and I still feel overwhelmed from time to time. But, I have some really great tools and processes that help me get through those feelings of gloom and doom and back to productivity and excitement!
Here they are:
My top 8 tips for getting from “I’m not gonna make it” to “I’ve got this!”
1. Get some perspective
When you’re deep in the overwhelm, you have to do some soul searching and get some perspective on your situation. Talk to someone, or journal it out. Ask yourself – why am I in this situation? How am I responsible for this? Blaming and passing the buck won’t get you anywhere. You have to mentally get yourself from a place of “I can’t do anything about this” to “I’m in control.”
Is this hard? Heck yes. Like my bestie says, “It feels GOOD to complain. For a little while.” Give yourself a half-hour tops to wallow in your sorrows. Then, grab a pen and start making a plan. Write down how you got to this place and brainstorm some steps to get out of it. Get creative! I’ve been through some crazy situations, and as it turns out, there’s always a way out.
2. ORGANIZE for real
“But I AM organized!” you might say. Mmmhmmmm. That was me too for a long time. I wrote my to-do’s and tasks down haphazardly in my sketchbooks, on Post it’s or on random sheets of paper. I’d complain about how I was always rushing around and couldn’t find time and then protest that I was “making a schedule.”
Writing stuff down on scraps of paper or in your phone notebook app is not going to cut it. You need to see your whole schedule at a glance. If you’re juggling multiple tasks, clients, appointments – you need to have that all in one place and have notifications enabled. If you aren’t rich enough to have a personal assistant in a stylish outfit follow you around with a clipboard telling you when and where to be, you need to get the next best thing.
That thing is your phone. Let it help you. Get good with your Google calendar and schedule every moment of your day. As soon as you get a new task or appointment, put it in RIGHT AWAY. Don’t wait for later! You WILL forget. It takes 5 minutes in the morning and it will free up so much mental energy for you. When you don’t have to worry about what you’re forgetting or wonder what to do next, you will be so much more productive and content.
3. Ask for help
You are not a robot. You are a mushy human with a limit on how much you can handle and how long you can stay awake. Especially if you have kids. Ask for help when you need a break! Reach out to your spouse, friends, family – even strangers you can pay to help you manage life stuff. Get someone to watch the kids so you can take some time off. Ask a friend to do your errands or shopping in exchange for a favor, your skills, or cash. Ask your family to help you clean your house. Or just reach out for emotional support! It’s okay to need assistance.
SO many people are afraid to meditate! Let me tell you a secret… you can’t meditate wrong. There are many ways to meditate but the basic process is to simply connect your mind and body in the present. All you have to do is sit and breathe. My meditation practice is one of the things that makes the most difference in my mood and my emotional well-being. I’m not going to get super woo-woo and make up reasons why that is… all I’m going to say is that from my experience, it’s very helpful.
Here’s my simple meditation practice that you can follow. Do this for 10 minutes in the morning before you get out of bed if possible, as well as 10 minutes right before you go to sleep. Sit in a comfortable, seated position with your back supported. Place your arms and legs however feels most comfortable. Close your eyes and begin breathing in a connected breath. This means inhale fully – you don’t have to put a lot of effort into it, just try to breathe into your diaphragm, not your chest. As soon as you fill your lungs fully, exhale naturally by pressing all the air out. This is not a super fast breath or a super slow breath. It’s a rhythmic breath that leads from inhale to exhale. As you breathe, repeat this mantra. “Be here now. Now be here.” And that’s it! Do this for 10 minutes in the morning and evening, and I feel confident that you will have a much more centered mindset throughout the day.
Graphic illustrated by Rachel Lang.
5. Forgive yourself and let things go
This one is huge! Stop beating yourself up about forgetting things, not getting to tasks, or generally not living up to your expectations. For one thing, you can not do anything about the past. All you can do is try to make the future different. The only thing that happens when you dwell on the things you didn’t do “correctly” is that you feel worse. Here’s a good trick – talk to yourself in your head like you would talk to your best friend. If they didn’t have time to do the dishes or forgot to call the school counselor back, what would you say to them? I bet it would be a lot kinder and more forgiving than what you would tell yourself.
6. Write down your accomplishments
You know those days when you feel like the to-do list is a Hydra? You slay one task and 7 more pop-up in its place. When I start to feel like that, I grab a journal and write down a long list of all the things I accomplished that day. From waking up and successfully getting my kids out of the house to removing the old coffee cup from my bedroom. Anything at all that was a productive task. It’s usually a ton of stuff. Then I look at that list and I think, “I got a ton of stuff done today!” It’s an instant mood-changer.
7. Take a weekend day off
Take a weekend day where you don’t do things for other people. Just do what you want. Yeah, this is a hard one! You might be thinking “There is NO WAY that’s going to happen for me.” Soooo…. Let me just say this. If you didn’t do a list of tasks for everyone else this Saturday, who would DIE? I mean literally, would anyone die? If not, then don’t do those tasks. Life can resume on Sunday, and guess what? Clients, friends… people will get over it. You deserve to have a day where you don’t do things for other people.
8. Be grateful
I’m ending on this one because it makes the most difference in my life, even more than meditation. Instead of saying prayers each night, I say my thanks. When I’m falling asleep, I go through the list of all the things I’m grateful for in my life. My family, opportunities, personal revelations, my pets, the weather… just anything. It trains my brain to look at the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. I suggest you try it! You can do it before bed like I do, or you can do it in the morning, throughout the day, you can write them down… whatever way works for your life.
There you have it! These are my top eight magical solutions for getting yourself out of overwhelm and into a good head space to get things done. Each of these practices is directly responsible for my ability to remain productive and happy. I really think they will work well for you too! I encourage you to give them a try. And remember – there’s no wrong way to do any of them! Life is a journey that we are all on. Take it one step at a time.
Thanks so much to Rachel for submitting this guest post. When implementing these tips, there’s no doubt that you’ll feel a shift in your mindset. Don’t forget to check out her blog at Making Something Rad.