Overwhelm = verb. To bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something.
Over-whelm is natural, scary, and uncomfortable. Over-whelm is terrifying, distressing and can feel debilitating.
As homeschooling parents, we know what we have to do.
But in times of stress, we can’t seem to quiet the panicky thoughts that are bulldozing through our heads.
Before we go any further, it is important for you to know that every single woman who is homeschooling will be experiencing or will have experienced over-whelm.
It comes with the job. It’s the law.
The good news is that there are lots of ways that we can help overcome overwhelm.
Simplify whatever you can. Preparing sandwiches for dinner is fine. Fancy meals aren’t required. Dust won’t kill you. All the outside ‘commitments’ aren’t needed. Less is more. Keep it simple.
Delegate. Whatever you can. Recognising that you can’t do it all is a huge step. Delegate, ask for help.
I adopted an amazing technique a few years ago when I found myself working full time and homeschooling a teenager. Write out a list of what you need to get done. Then break that list up into smaller tasks.
Focus on just one task at a time. Do not look at the big picture.
For example, when you get overwhelmed with housework ask ‘which room do I feel overwhelmed with the most? Or, which room do I spend the most time in?’
Ok. Do you need to clean the oven and wash the floor? No. You need to see a clean counter bench and see organisation when you open the pantry,
That’s not such a mammoth task.
Schedule the dishes into your children’s chore duties and find the time to spend an hour or so organising only the kitchen pantry.
Suddenly, being in the kitchen won’t create an overwhelming feeling within you anymore.
Eliminate all unnecessary stuff. Not only items (clothes, ornaments, kitchen utensils, old curriculum) but duties too.
The more ‘things’ you have around your home the more you have to clean, wash, sort and look after them. If you don’t love it then off to the charity shop it goes.
Eliminate unnecessary classes and outings.
If your daughter hates going to Karate and you hate driving her there, but you feel (or have been told) that it is *required for self-defence, call it a day.
She can always come back to karate in a year or so. This applies to any other activity that you have to ‘drag’ the kids to. It’s not worth it – really, it’s not. Take a break for a few months.
If your current curriculum isn’t working then drop the bits that you don’t enjoy and give your children a term of only reading lots of non-fiction books and quality literature.
6: Plan. For you
7: Mind dump
I have always been a massive fan of mind dumping, and have spoken many times of how I couldn’t get through the day without writing down three pages of my thoughts (always written in pencil scrawl and never re-readable).
This exercise involves spending thirty minutes each morning (it must be before you start your day) and writing down every single thing that is on your mind.
Your worries, your dreams. your fears, your plan for the day.
After you have written three sides of A4 paper (it has to be handwritten, you can’t type) you can either shelve the words and read them when you’re ninety or else tear them up and throw them away. It’s your choice.
Personally, I have boxes and boxes of A4 notebooks filled with my words, though why I keep them is a mystery.
Not even I can decipher the scribbly joined-up writing that tells the world what was in my head on any given day.
Check out this post that I wrote about seven self-love exercises that will change your life. It will give you more details of how this wonder tip works.
Keep a note of the things that trigger you to feel overwhelmed.
If it is mealtimes that cause you to feel overwhelmed and panicky, (a big one for me) then take the time to create a simple two-week menu.
You don’t need anything fancy here, just Google ’30 meals that you can make in thirty minutes’ and go with those.
Write down everything you need for each meal. Order your groceries online or make a list and make a trip to the supermarket.
Although this exercise requires time, it will reduce your mealtime overwhelm without a doubt.
9: Small indulgences
Is everything getting too much? Put the kids to bed early or leave them with a movie for two hours. If you have teenagers like me neither of the above applies – just leave them where they are happy – in their room!
Take a bath. Light some candles.
Put a few drops of lavender essential oil into the water. Have a glass of your favourite tipple or a cup of chamomile tea. Whatever will help relax you.
Close the door and put a sign outside the door saying do not disturb. The world will still be turning when you emerge, but your mind will have had a chance to breathe out.
10: Get outside
Walk. Alone if possible.
The power of taking a walk in the fresh air is hard to beat. Whether it be around the block of your local town or through a field that runs alongside your village, it doesn’t matter where you are.
The key here is to get outside and walk. Do not take your phone—just yourself.
11: Down they go
Lower your standards on everything. Cease from expecting too much from yourself and those around you.
Whenever you feel the blood rushing to your neck, bringing with it that familiar feeling of overwhelm, ask yourself this: If I had ten minutes to live, would what I am worrying about be important?
I do this a lot, and it helps. Try it.
And so it goes on.
No one ever has it all sorted. Not ever.
You choose what the most important thing for you TODAY is and you run with it.
Make your choice, and do that one thing well. That’s balance.
13: Switch off
Try not to use your phone a few hours before bed, nor do any work-related activities before bed.
I am talking to all of you women out there over 40.
While menopause is widely documented, sadly, perimenopause tends to go under the radar, and so many women are left in the dark – secretly believing that they are going insane (and that homeschooling is the cause).
If you are a woman in your 40’s and are suffering from sleep problems, teary outbursts, weight gain, lack of energy, and generally feeling overwhelmed then talk to your GP about treatments for perimenopause.
You will find that you have many options – amongst others, the prevalent use of bioidentical hormones.
Ask any woman who has experienced hormone inbalance, and she will tell you the same. It is nigh on impossible to get out of bed and get through the day, let alone homeschool, work and keep a household running.
You’re not going crazy. You are not experiencing some sort of weird personality disorder, you most likely have an imbalance of hormones.
Find the right treatment and watch how your old self returns.
Do not suffer alone with a hormone imbalance.
It is important to remember that homeschooling has its seasons.
Some of those seasons are darker than others. Some are brighter.
If this season feels particularly tricky, then resign yourself to change. Adapt to the needs of what this particular season is asking of you.
If this means a month of nothing other than reading and takeaway meals then so be it.
If this means a season of unschooling then so be it.
If this means a season of saying no to answering the phone to that needy friend then so be it.
Your busy, productive, flowing seasons will come. They will.
Rather than fighting the storm of overwhelm, put up your umbrella and walk in the puddles.
You will be fine, my darling. You have gotten through much worse days than this.
And you are so much stronger than you think.