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How to deal with overwhelm as a work at home parent

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Being a work at home parent, trying to keep on top of the household chores, do parenting duties and run a business singlehandedly can certainly prove challenging and there are plenty of days when I am struck by overwhelm.  For me this usually results in having so much to do that I can’t clear my head to focus on the task in hand – fuzzy head overwhelmed syndrome!  Having worked full time from home for over one year now I have learnt to recognise when I am becoming overwhelmed and have found a few things that work.

Take a break

While it may seem counterproductive to take a break if work is stacked, it could be all you need.  If you have so much to do that you can’t think straight or focus on the task at hand, then your brain could just need a rest.  Do some housework, prep your evening dinner or go for a walk.  Heck, even turn on the TV and watch an episode of your favourite show.  Let your brain rest and then return to the task feeling refreshed and motivated again.

Have a green tea

Coffee or tea may be your thing and choose those if they work for you, but I love green tea.  A cup of the green stuff is sometimes all I need to have a quick break, refocus and to also perk me up.  Sometimes I feel more overwhelmed when I’m tired or had broken sleep and the stack of work to do and chores around the house seem never-ending.  Everything always seems so much worse when tired, so a dose of caffeine can really help on these days.

Have set working hours

It can be really hard to distinguish between work and household chores when you are working at home all day long.  Plus you may feel as though the other half expects the house to be tiptop as you are there all day.  I often find this is an expectation I put on myself though and hubby does not expect this at all.  If they do then you need to make clear you have a job and are working too – you’re not at home all day to do the chores.  I tackle this by having set working hours as much as possible.  I work 9am-3pm when the children are at school and nursery.  Housework is only to be done outside of these hours.  This way I can focus my mind on work and not the huge pile of laundry that needs doing.  Though if I do get work overwhelm then I can take a break and do some of the housework if I want to, but it’s not an expected part of my working hours.  I usually do housework before the school run and after which leaves the school day as my working day.

Be realistic

You can only do as much as you can do.  Sometimes there is just too much to do in one day so things will have to be left for tomorrow. This is something I really need to teach myself to do and I do struggle with it, particularly with work.  If I have emails in my inbox then I find it hard to switch off as I know I have work to do or people to respond to.  It’s always there in my mind and I’m never at peace until everything is complete and my inbox is empty once more.  The problem is it’s rarely empty anymore so I struggle to switch off.  This is where having set working hours also helps.  I also set myself working hours of 7.30-9.30pm when the children are in bed.  That way, if something feels unfinished by 3pm, I know I can pick it up again later and not be glued to my phone or laptop once I have picked the children up.  If I feel overwhelmed then I can take a big deep breath and tell myself I can respond to it later or tomorrow if need be.  I really must stop pressuring myself to respond to everything instantly.

Final word

Working at home as well as running a busy family household can certainly prove challenging and overwhelming, but I’ve been learning ways to get the best work-family life balance to prevent that dreaded fuzzy brain that can stop me from reaching my full potential each day.  Regular breaks, set working hours, a healthy dose of caffeine and learning to not put too much pressure on myself are all great ways to tackle the overwhelm.