Anxiety, Work + Productivity: What To Actually DO When You’re Overwhelmed

So, the start of 2017 was rough. At the New Year, we had a slew of Designed to Fit Nutrition clients ready to start their new meal plans, but our custom software wasn’t quite ready. We were initially told by the developers that it would be finished the final week of December, but, unfortunately, it was pushed to the first week of January and then to the second week. Thankfully, our clients were understanding, but it was not how we wanted to begin our relationships with them. Once our software was ready to go, Kerrie and I scrambled to make meal plans.

And then there was this whole Carrots ‘N’ Cake business that I run, which is a big part of our family’s income, and I was barely doing any work for it. I also had Qman home with me two days a week, so, my work time was limited. I woke up every morning dreading the day because my To Do list just got longer and longer and more and more overwhelming, and I didn’t know how to do it all. I did my best to squeeze in extra hours of work when I could—in the early morning, late at night, and on weekends—but I just couldn’t keep up. I was spreading myself too thin, and I couldn’t work anymore than I already was, both physically and emotionally.

On all fronts, I was falling apart. January and February included a whole lot of crying, irritability, sleepless nights, stress-eating, and wine-drinking. Not surprisingly, my body had a negative physiological response… eczema, acne, weight gain, and feeling like my heart was about to pop out of my chest on more than a few occasions. Emotionally, I was a mess. I was cranky, distracted, and totally on-edge. I was frantic when I worked because there was just so much to do. I wasn’t the fun-loving partner and mom that I used to be. Basically, I was a terrible version of myself, and I didn’t like the person who I had become.

One night (looking back, it was probably my rock bottom), Mal reminded of me of the words that I’ve used again and again on this blog: If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. I knew he was right, but I didn’t what to do. Up until this point, I thought I could handle it all, but the more I tried to formulate some sort of plan to balance it all, I came up short. It was almost like the more I tried to plan and control the situation, the more stressed and overwhelmed I became.

Mal knows me better than anyone else in this world, and, thankfully, he realized that I needed something more than a supportive husband to manage my current situation. He suggested seeing a therapist, and it immediately sounded like a good idea. Even the thought of having a feasible option and not feeling so stuck helped me feel like I was moving in the right direction.

I made an appointment with a therapist just few days later. We immediately hit it off and she’s been a great resource for me ever since. I’m definitely someone who needs to take action when I’m stressed and overwhelmed, so we’ve spent a lot of time coming up with strategies to help me manage all of my different hats and find some balance in my life.

Over the past few weeks, I feel like my life has taken a really good turn. I’m still working a ton, but I’m starting to feel a lot more in control—and happy—thanks to a number suggestions from my therapist. Her ideas have really made a huge difference, and I no longer feel helpless to my situation, so I wanted to share them with you guys in the hopes that they might help you, too.

At the end of the day, make a prioritized To Do list + schedule for the next day

As I mentioned above, I used to wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread because I had so much to do. It was no way to start the morning, and it definitely set a negative tone for the rest of my day. Even after I was “done” with work, I’d obsess over what I still needed to do, which, not surprisingly, made me a distracted and cranky wife and mom.

Ok, so I’m a crazy list-maker. I also love my Google Calendar and use it for everything. Checking things off my To Do list and having my days planned out makes me feel accomplished and in control, so it’s almost like I combined the best of both worlds. Now, at the end of my workday, I wrap things up by taking 10-15 minutes to create a To Do list for ONLY the next day. I prioritize what needs to be done and then schedule these items into my Google Calendar. I’ll even plan when I walk Murphy and eat lunch, just so I know that I have time to do everything. For instance, if I need to edit a blog post and then promote it on social media, I’ll block off two chunks of time to keep me on schedule and make sure that both tasks get done. Having my day all laid out with everything I need to accomplish for the day makes it much more manageable, so I don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of it all. Seeing how everything fits into my day gives me a more objective perspective and helps cut down on the stuff that I’m actually worrying about.

Disconnect, but schedule times to re-connect

Completely disconnecting from CNC and DTFN isn’t a realistic option for me. The Internet never sleeps and my clients need me at all times of the day. I know that I don’t need to be “on” 24/7, but I wanted to find some sort of middle ground to make it all work. My therapist suggested making start and end times for my workday to give me more of a work-life balance. Then, in the evenings and on weekends, make it a point to put away my laptop and phone to disconnect, BUT schedule a couple of times to check-in and catch up with social media/emails/client messages. Truthfully, I’m still working on this and my attachment (especially to my phone) is habit that is hard to break, but I know when I’m not distracted and present with my family/friends, I’m a much happier person, so I do my best to disconnect on a regular basis.

Put work out of sight and out of mind

This idea of “out of sight, out of mind” goes hand-in-hand with disconnecting, and it’s made a huge difference in my anxiety level and temptation to work all the time. I used to have my phone on me ALLTHETIME, and my laptop would often end up on the kitchen counter, so I could finish “one more quick thing.” I recently started putting my phone in our bedroom and my laptop in my office upstairs when I’m home with my family. That way, they’re not constant reminders (and stressors) of what’s going on in my work life.

Gather data

This idea was a major “light bulb moment” for me. Two things that were really stressing me out: 1) SO MANY MEAL PLANS TO MAKE; 2) My income taking a nosedive. My therapist immediately tasked me with gathering data for these two stressors. She told me to time myself when I was making meal plans. How long on average did each one take? She also suggested talking to Mal to figure out what amount of income I would need to earn for our family to continue to live comfortably. When I had this data, my mind was no longer wandering to the worst case scenario, and it made things seem a lot less overwhelming.

Ask for help

No, seriously. I can’t stress this enough. Even when my therapist suggested more childcare, I mostly blew it off. I thought if I just worked harder, I could do it all and still have Qman home with me. It wasn’t until Mal pointed out that if Quinn went to daycare four (or five) days a week, I could work at moderate/more manageable pace or I could continue to work at a frantic/instance pace three days a week, at night, early in the morning, and on weekends. For some reason, this really resonated with me, and it made me realize I’d be a much better wife and mother if I had more dedicated work time. I could really shut off at night and on weekends and be much more present with my family instead of a chicken with its head cut off.

I hope you guys found these suggestions helpful and this blog post didn’t come across as super whiny. I’m really grateful for a wonderful and supportive family and couldn’t have asked for better jobs, readers, and clients. I know I’m lucky, but I just wanted to keep things real on CNC because life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, even if it seems so. I also wanted to give a shout out to the mental health professionals out there and bring light to the services that they offer. Not that I wasn’t aware of them; they just weren’t top-of-mind when I was trying to juggle it all. These strategies made a huge difference in my life when I felt totally overwhelmed, helpless, and, well, like a suck-y person, so I wanted to share my experience in case any of you are in the same boat and struggling.

Question of the Day

What do you DO when you’re feeling overwhelmed? 

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