Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything going on in your life, everything that has to be done in a day? You sit there in your unwashed stretchy pants ready to pull out all your hair because making one more decision feels impossible. There's just too much laundry, too much cleaning, too many errands, too many people who need you to figure out what comes next. It's like the cartoon character who's head explodes and all that's left is a little burned match stump.
Take a deep breath. No, really. A deep breath right now, in through your nose and out through your mouth. According to an article in Healthline "Taking deep breaths can help you voluntarily regulate your ANS, which can have many benefits - especially by lowering your heart rate, regulating blodd pressure, and helping you relax, all of which help decrease how much of the stress hormone cortisol is released in your body". Deep breaths help us to refocus our attention so we can slow down and take stock of what's really important.
Ok, now that you've taken a few deep breaths, let's take Anna's advice from Frozen II and "do the next right thing." Don't over analyze it, or get in your head, just listen to your body. Do you need to pee? Then go to the bathroom. Do you smell like a swamp yetti? Then take a shower. Are you thirsty? Then go get a drink. Don't think about what comes next, just go do the very next thing that you need to do to bring yourself a little balance.
Now, grab yourself a pen and paper and make a list. Break it into three columns - must do, should do, can wait. The "must do" column is for things that require your attention right now, that really must be done today. Feeding the dogs, feeding the kids, paying the bill that is due today, putting out the grease fire in your kitchen (you know, all the things that will unquestionably be problematic if they are not finished ASAP).
The "should do" column is for things that you should try to get done, but the house won't burn down if they're not. Finishing the laundry, meal planning, household chores etc. And the can wait column is for everything else. If you struggle with knowing what goes in the can wait column, ask yourself the following question, "What is the worst that will happen if this is not done?" If the answer doesn't involve a crisis or emergency, then it probably can wait.
Before you go to execute this list, I want you to do one more thing, and it's really, super important, ok. In your "must do" column add one task or activity that brings you joy: take a bubble bath, paint your toenails, color in a coloring book. This absolutely can't wait. I don't care how important everything else in your life is or how many people insist that they need you to do something else, this is non-negotiable. Remember that burned little match stump? The only way to truly find balance is to make your mental and emotional health a "must do" item every single day. If you can't carve 20-30 minutes out of your day to take care of you, it might be time to delegate some of your responsibilities, or to talk to friends, family, or even a professional about how to make sure your personal needs are met.
Starting every day with a few deep breaths and breaking down your must do, should do, and can wait will help you start to put things in perspective. You absolutely do not have to do it all. You do not have to be everything for everyone. All you have to do is breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and do the next right thing.
Creating my own sunshine 🌞