Overwhelmed, but let’s be honest: I did it to myself


What a small word to describe such a large feeling.

Can that one word truly describe the weight I feel right now? Can that word fully portray my stress, my failed attempts to prioritize, my feeling of being so far buried that maybe it’s not even worth attempting to dig out? Can that word express the fear that one more thing, just one more insignificant little thing, will break me?


Yet, it’s the only word I have to describe and classify these feelings.

A day when there isn't enough caffeine in the world! (Source: "day 300, clutching my morning coffee" by massdistraction, on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

A day when there isn’t enough caffeine in the world! (Source: “day 300, clutching my morning coffee” by massdistraction, on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

The good news? Whatever my most overwhelmed moment was up until this point, I clearly made it through. So have you! You may have felt broken, trampled, and/or lost…but you made it. You survived. And, hopefully it made you stronger, more resilient, more ready to take on those feelings that are way to ominous to be embodied by one tiny word.

For those of you who struggle with feeling overwhelmed, who find themselves giving up when those feelings begin to build, let me share with you how I manage it.

Many people ask me how I do it. How I raise a very young family, work part-time, and work towards my doctorate degree. I usually tell them, I just do. But, that’s not the real answer.

I choose to fight the feeling of being overwhelmed in these ways:

  • I do my best to bar negative feelings from clouding my successes, erasing my hope… Granted, this is not an easy process, but I look at it as choosing to survive rather than worry over my ability to meet every demand.
  • I take my semester one day, one assignment at a time. I start each day with my girls as a new day. When I feel my patience slipping–which it seems to be doing by 8:30 am these days–I hold whichever one is starting to drive me crazy (if they allow me to) for a full minute, reminding myself that not every moment with her is a mini hell.
  • I remind myself–force myself, rather–to believe that there is an end in sight. That I am alive, that things can be so much worse, and that those things that are weighing down on me are actually things I am so very grateful for, that I would be lost without, that I could lose if I do not continue to fight and survive.
  • I take ownership. I am an individual who thrives when overwhelmed, who purposefully adds and adds and adds to my plate until it is at that point. I admit that am overwhelmed because I want so much out of life, and life wants so much out of me. It’s a give and take.

My plan, humble as it may be, is to not only allow life to take what it needs from me, but to give it my all. I have the hope that pushing into it allows me to receive more resilience and strength when it is time for the pendulum to swing back in my direction. And it always swings back.

When were you at your most overwhelmed? How do you manage? Do you see it as an obstacle to overcome or a learning and growing process? Talk about it in the comments.

Read more about raising three kids under three while pursuing a PhD at my blog.