It can be overwhelming when there is a lot happening all at once.
Many people have periods of stress or high demands, and the challenge can be managing them well enough so that you are not too overwhelmed, as well as preventing chronic stress or burnout from occurring. Here are some quick tips for surviving periods of high demand, whether that is an unreasonable workload, life happening all at once, or something else.
1. Recognise the situation as the problem, rather than the problem being your ability to do ‘all the things’. Sure, you could probably do ‘all the things’ if you were a superwoman who ran off two hours of sleep, but as that’s not possible, remind yourself that you can only what do you can within reason. (You want to locate the problem where it belongs- not with you.)
2. Prioritise and organise the chaos.
When there are multiple demands occurring all at once, this is a recipe for overwhelm. Prioritise tasks by deadlines and priorities, and list them out. This is great to do in the evening, ready for the next day, as a major benefit is that you’re less likely to be stressed in bed about all the things you have to do the next day- you’ve already planned them out!
It can be helpful to keep two to-do lists: one for the day ahead and a general to-do list. Again, we come back to needs and priorities (What needs to get done the next day?) versus preferences (What would you like to have done the next day, but doesn’t need to get done immediately?). Separating these out helps you prioritise the demands, but also means your to-do list isn’t a mile long and therefore stressful to look at.
Additionally, it’s great to have a written to-do list, or use a list app in your phone that allows you to check items off but still have them visible. Seeing that you’ve been ticking things off your to-do list helps give a sense of achievement, which is essential when you feel stressed.
3. Drop some of the balls you’re juggling– temporarily.
What is really, really essential to keep everything ticking over?
What is a need vs a preference?
Are there any shortcuts you can take?
Is there any help you can recruit? Or anything you can delegate?
For example, if you’re too tired one night to be doing chores on top of everything else you’ve got going on, then maybe instead of packing kid’s school lunches, you arrange a day of tuckshop (a shortcut), skip the evening chores (delaying a preference until the next night), but ask your partner to wash up the bottles for your baby (a need; and, delegating).
4. Take some time out of your stress here and there. Despite your demands, make time for friends and fun, or exercise and leisure. Even just a small window of time for something you enjoy can help you feel relieved, bring enjoyment, and help you recharge. This can help bring the energy you need to continue meeting your demands too.