In this series, I will share my own struggle with constantly feeling overwhelmed and the steps I took to significantly reduce it. This is a topic I think most moms can identify with, especially moms with young children.
Regardless of the area below in which you struggle, the key is to think about your thinking. Philippians 4:8 says,
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
None of my suggestions are going to completely help if you are still thinking the wrong thing. When you get your thoughts in check, act upon correct thoughts (or simply “do the right thing”), your feelings will follow. Trust me.
The first step is to get organized. The suggestions that follow are all things that I did in my life that greatly contributed to reduce my feelings of anxiety. I started by setting goals. At first, they were simple goals that I worked on every day. It was basically a To-Do list of chores. It was nothing fancy, just a list of items that I needed to be done with a crude box drawn next to it (you can print one here). I personally like check-boxes, but you could simply cross out the item when you completed the task.
My daily To-Do list consisted of items like:
- God & I time
- Picking up the house
- Making dinner
As you can see, these are simple tasks but I was seriously struggling. Two and a half years ago, after the birth of my sixth child, my household was turned upside down. I was homeschooling my oldest child, dealing with typical public school issues with my second child, and had 4 kids under age 5 at home. I was sleep-deprived, constantly busy (but seemed to accomplish nothing), and was simply enduring life. There was no joy and I felt no purpose. Depression and feelings of guilt set in.
In late January, I found out a friend of mine was available to get together on Wednesday afternoons while some of her kids were at their piano lessons not far from my house. I invited her and her other children over to play while they waited. I will admit I regretted it immediately; my house was a disaster most days and I was ashamed and embarrassed to have others see it!
However, the Lord greatly used this friend of mine in my life. She would come over, the kids would play, and we would talk while folding laundry. Yes, she helped fold my laundry. She also washed dishes, swept floors, and brought dinner on many occasions. Soon I began to look forward to our weekly get-togethers, and my depression slowly lifted. I worked hard each Wednesday to finish my tasks so that when my friend arrived, we could simply talk without having to work. Some weeks it was easier for me than others, but I stopped feeling defeated and started feeling accomplished because I had made progress on my goals.
Throughout this process, I tracked my thoughts. My thinking changed from, “I can’t do this!” to “I can do this because God has called me to do this.” The more I focused on thinking correct things (anything categorized in Phil. 4:8), the more I realized my productivity grew. Basically, when I was thinking how unproductive my day was going, the more unproductive I became. Your thoughts are important as your feelings will follow your thoughts. As my pastor’s wife often says, “Right feelings follow right thoughts.”
I made small changes that had huge impacts on my daily to-do list. For example, instead of doing laundry a couple of times each week, I began to do it daily. I hate laundry and was resistant to make this change, but I found that it was more manageable this way. When doing laundry twice per week, I would have 6-7 loads at a time. Once I started doing it daily, I had only 2 loads to wash, dry, fold and put away. My laundry mountain disappeared!
As I saw the progress I was making in my daily goals, I soon started setting weekly and monthly goals for myself. Those goals included long-term projects that I needed to complete, such as sewing a button or going through the kids’ clothes for the season change. They were tasks I knew in the back of my mind needed to be done, but seeing them written down on paper helped me to work on them a little bit at a time and not feel badly about not finishing them in a day. I also added “fun” goals to my list, such as browsing through a magazine or working on a craft project.
Goal setting is important to moms because it gives us a sense of purpose. Yes, we are raising our children and that is our highest calling, but the mundane tasks of laundry and picking up toys can often overshadow that calling. When we weave tasks that must be done with tasks that we enjoy doing, we tend to work harder so we can get to those enjoyable tasks. It also helps us mentally because we can see that once our work is done, there is fun waiting.
I challenge you: if you are not currently setting goals, start with daily ones and move on from there. It will help you to be more productive and give you a place to start each day. You can find joy in the mundane, and it all starts with the right thoughts followed by the right actions.