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How to Achieve Slowness When You’re Overwhelmed

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When you’re overwhelmed it can feel hard to check even a single item of your seemingly never-ending to-do list. You’re so busy flitting from one thing to the next that you can barely complete a sentence, let alone an entire task. But what if the secret to mitigating overwhelm is not to do more but to do less? To focus on just one thing at a time. 

Single-tasking is the new multitasking. 

Directing one’s undivided attention to unloading the dishwasher is a luxury not every mother can afford. (Hello, tiny humans, who require mama’s attention every three to seven seconds!) But there may be times when it is possible to wrap your baby and get the dishes put away without pausing to switch the laundry, check the mail, and/or get sucked into the suddenly very active group thread. 

When you stick to one task, you allow yourself to be fully present for it. And if you practice being mindful as you carry out even the simplest chores—feeling the warmth of the dishes in your palms, listening for the ping of each utensil as it drops into its designated compartment—you’ll accomplish it with more calm, less chaos and, as a happy bonus, increased efficiency.

One and done.

Ever find yourself completely listless on the rare occasion baby is sleeping somewhere other than on you? You might spend so much time debating whether to shower, tidy, work out or watch a show that you end up doing none of the above before baby starts stirring again. And a waking babe coupled with a wasted window of time is a surefire way to feed the overwhelm. 

Next time baby goes down, simply pick one thing right away and commit without overthinking it. Sure, your workout might get cut short if baby wakes early, but you also might end up with time to sweat it out and shower afterward. (Those long naps are a gift, aren’t they?) Whether you do everything or one thing, you’ll know you made the most of your time, and that always feels like a win.

Timeout for tech.

There is a time and place for your phone. It can be a source of connection during an otherwise isolating time. It can be a source of sanity as you research sleep tips and spit-up tricks. And it’s obviously the source of complete joy every time it captures your impossibly perfect babe and stores the image on your camera roll to gush over for years to come. 

But it can also be a source of depletion as you scroll mindlessly, fully engaged neither in what you’re looking at nor the life that’s happening around you. There may be times when you need to schedule an appointment or return a text. But if you’re grabbing your phone out of habit instead of intention, it’s time to take a break. So, when you go to the bathroom? Leave your phone in the other room, and give your brain a moment to just be. Nursing your baby? Spend the time soaking them in, noticing their weight in your arms and their breath on your breast. Playing with the big kids? Switch to “Do Not Disturb” mode and give them your undivided attention while you can. (And don’t be tempted to spend the time putting away laundry as they play, either! Ignore the chores for a moment, and make your primary responsibility enjoying your children.)

When you’re tired, baby is fussy, the house is a mess, and dinner refuses to make itself, it’s easy to become frazzled and frustrated. But taking a moment to inhale, assess and prioritize, and consciously tend to one task at a time can set the pace and get those feelings of overwhelm feel under control.