Ask the Audience: Overwhelmed, Burnt Out, or Rundown

Heather says:

I don’t often talk about my husband’s schedule. The internet at large has no need to know when he’s not going to be around, at least without some effort on their part. My theory is, if you’re going to be a stalker creepazoid, I’ll make you at least do a little homework, but I don’t operate under the illusion that I can’t be found because that would just be naive.

My husband works long hours.  When he’s on, he comes home, he sleeps, he refills his lunch bag and goes back to work, rinse and repeat. There is no calling him to hurry home because I’ve had a bad day, it’s just not that kind of job. To put it bluntly the past week was miserable. It started with that trip to urgent care and really never got much better. (No one else got hurt, except maybe their feelings). I guess this is my way of telling you that, I’m right there with those of you who are overwhelmed, burnt out, and rundown. I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier, but that’s been the only time someone hasn’t been needing something and sometimes the temptation to enjoy silence is just a bit too strong. I know that it sabotages the next day, but. . .

So today the weather is nice. We’re going to knock out the oldest’s school work as fast as humanly possible (or maybe even shelve some of it for tomorrow?).  And then? I’m kicking them outside into the yard. I’ll arm them with squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles. But me? I’m going to stay inside and pull the house back together, because that’s what I need. You see that yellow sticky note right up ↑ there? I’m going to get back into the habit of following them, because when I don’t? This happens and it becomes a self-feeding demon.

I want to to know what do you do, when you’re overwhelmed, burnt out, and rundown. Hiring a sitter isn’t really an option, the one I would normally use is recovering from oral surgery and I don’t have a back up. So what I’m really hoping for are ideas for when there is no escape, no matter how badly you want to just run away and join the circus.

Tonight is movie night. We’ll have dinner -there’s a chicken going into the slow cooker as soon as I hit publish. Harry Potter should be arriving in our mailbox this afternoon and I’m going to make a big batch of kettle corn. (Maybe I’ll take pictures of that, but don’t count on it). I’m hoping a quiet evening will help.

What about you? What do you do when there’s no one to take the helm and you’re overwhelmed?

Don’t forget to enter this week’s giveaway, 3 copies of Organized Simplicity.



37 Comments

  1. Emily on May 10, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I get through the day and then enjoy the silence after bedtime. I know less sleep could make the next day harder, but what I've learned about myself is that the mental break at the end of the day is more important to my sanity than actual sleep.

    I hate when I count the hours of the day, but there are days like that. Oh.. and I eat chocolate, because that always helps. Or I go for a run. Sometimes she doesn't like the running stroller, but mommy needs to feel like a person. Or a really long shower. and I make a to-do list so that I start feeling like everything that needs to be done is actually manageable.

    Hope your week got better and that this one is running smoothly.

  2. Laura on May 9, 2011 at 10:03 am

    How old are your kids? Perhaps there is a Mother's Day Out at a local church? At one of our duty stations my husband deployed and I desperately needed some alone time. I found a local church that had space for my then 2 year old and he spent 3 hours every Tues & Thurs playing in a safe environment while I was at the gym or grocery shopping.

    Fast forward 6 years, and I have 3 kids, live in rural Poland and don't speak the language. Who knew we had Army in Poland? Not me. My husband works long hours and travels, I have an 8 yr old in school across town, and a 2 & 3 yr old at home with me. It makes me tired just typing it all out! While this is an opportunity to experience yet another culture, I'm a long way away from family & friends with less than a handful of people here I can chit-chat with.

    When I'm overwhelmed, I go back to basics. I get a load of laundry going, ignore the stack of already dried clothes and shut the laundry room door. If my sink is clear of dishes, the duvets have been straightened on the beds, shoes put away in the foyer and pillows are back on the couch (my kids throw them around like grenades.. sigh) then I feel like I have an ounce of control back in my life. Making sure I'm dressed & have make-up on helps me be more composed. Pretending my mother-in-law is watching my every move helps me appear more collected on tough days. Breakfast for dinner is always a fast, easy fix, and it tends to startle the kids out of whatever fit they had been throwing.

    On the worst days when the snow won't stop and I can't send them out , I let them all play in a tub full of water with whatever non-battery toy they want. Or put on a "They Might Be Giants" playlist on youtube. Anything to just get us all through the day without Mom loosing her cool. Once the evening duties are done, and the kids are all in bed, I take a warm bath and have a glass of wine.

    Good luck to you and be well. Hopefully your days have settled a bit. My toddlers are currently taking a very rare nap. They are so well behaved when they sleep. :o)

    Best,
    Laura
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  3. Mel on May 9, 2011 at 8:30 am

    First of all, thank you for writing this; it's nice to know that one is not alone in feeling rundown and burnt out. Lately, I've been feeling this way quite a bit and have let certain things go, like vacuuming or clutter. Not that my house is trashed, but I don't pretend to try to keep up at all.:) When I think about all the military wives/moms out there or my best friend who just lost her husband to cancer, I feel like I shouldn't complain at all, honest to goodness. If they are making it, so can I.:)

    Sometimes I've turned to chocolate when I'm stressed out….sometimes I turn to cleaning (boy, cleaning can really get done in a hurry when i'm stressed)….as for the kids? if it's nice out, I might send them outside to play. If not, they might watch a movie (though my 3 year old can hardly sit still for a second). At times, I've sent them to their room to play, door shut. Their room is pretty much a safe zone, and my 9 year old is good at watching out for the 3 year old. Honestly, some days I've wanted to lock myself in the bathroom, but then they just come knock on the door.:) So, usually, I just try to muddle through somehow. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mom, but sometimes it can be a very lonely, hectic kind of job that tends to run a person down. I often get jealous of those who can call their mom or someone up to just come watch the kids for awhile.:)
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  4. floweryhedgehog on May 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Can I just say how much it means to me to know that even people who have it so much more together than I do still get overwhelmed? I really needed that today–just to know that it's not a personal failing that I would magically no longer have if I were just better at all this.

    OK, my strategy for those days: put on a kettle for tea. While I'm waiting for it to boil, stack the dishes. As long as the mess is proliferating like Tribbles on a fertility treatment, I can't help but be discouraged, so I just try to corral it so that it's not AS bad. I can clean up in between sips of tea or, if I'm really stressed and/or the baby is crabby, bring my tea and the baby outside and chill. Later, I come back and clean a little more; I've discovered that if I save all my messes for when I'm feeling good, it only makes things worse, but if I try to plough through even when I [i]really[/] don't have the energy, it also makes things worse. Just chipping away at the little jobs and taking breaks in between is the best I can do those days.

  5. Karen on May 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I know, it is rough when the kids are little! I would do the minimum of getting the house cleaned up and meals and just relax. My main things would be the kitchen and the laundry. Making my bed. Taking a shower and brushing my teeth. Take the kids outside and let them play hard, then bring them in and everyone gets a rest hour, including MOM!
    I know it's often said, but this time will pass, and things will get easier. Having hubby at home does help, but for me, it usually meant more things were added to my to do list, when I couldn't even finish what I NEEDED to get done such as housework, homeschool, and meals!
    Saying a prayer for you!

  6. littlebitofboondocklife on May 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

    When I am way overwhelmed I make a list of five. Five things that I can actually accomplish in the next hour. Here is an example:

    wash dishes
    take chicken out of freezer
    put netflix in the mailbox
    let the dog out
    refill her water dish

    Silly, I know. Things so small you shouldn't have to think about doing and certainly not worthy of "things to do list". But somehow just writing those small, easy tasks down, when I am really thinking about bills, gifts, dinner, schedules, putting gas in the car etc. makes me feel accomplished. I love looking at that little list and crossing the tasks off. Usually it only takes me about 25 mins to do these things but it is a big boost to my confidence. I begin to feel that I can get the big stuff done.

    On normal days I make lists but they tend to run two sides of a paper and include EVERYTHING on the agenda for the day. That too helps keep me on track.

    Brush teeth
    Eat breakfast
    put clothes in washing machine
    shower
    get dressed

    Sometimes I need just that much direction to help realize just how much I do in a day. And also, it reminds me to take care of myself just as much as I take care of the other household inhabitants.
    Lord knows we always end up putting ourselves last 🙂

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  7. Kathy on May 7, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Do go to bed when the kids do. If you get your rest out and wake early the next morning, you can have your quiet then – it's a great way to start the day. My husband is military and has often been gone for months at a time. I have to make my own relief because babysitters cost too much. Staying on top of the housework helps me stay sane. Planning easy meals no one complains about is also key for me. I need to get up, shower, and dress. At times, I've gone out to exercise before the kids get up. My oldest at that time was 10 and could dial 911 if needed. Exercise really helps my stress level. Make a game of having them clean what they can and reward with a snack they probably would have gotten anyway. Timing is everything. Praying for you.

  8. Catherine on May 7, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I definitely understand that feeling. My husband died a year and a half ago. Some days it's rough. At this point, I pretty much take every chance I get to treat myself..The dishes need to be done? Yes, probably. Is it a priority, no probably not. A good cup of tea and 15 minutes to read and then I get up and work on dishes for 5 minutes. You would be amazed how fast a dishwasher can be loaded. The kids go to bed and it's my time. I get on the internet, take a bath. Drop the kids off at school and have a few minutes before I have to be at work, I allow myself one Starbucks every week. It's not a lot, but the little things add up. the ultimate is movie and dinner with the girls. It doesn't happen very often, but often enough to keep me going.

  9. Anna on May 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I feed the kids something simple, send them to bed early, and eat a favorite meal of my own, alone and in the quiet.

  10. Laura on May 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I definitely have felt that way. My husband doesn't work long hours, but I know what it feels like to be worn out. I try to get the kids out of the house or put in a favorite movie….try to keep it low key. Hope you had a relaxing evening.

  11. cheryl on May 6, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I too clean when I need to de-stress, or get back on track. I too had a husband who worked long hours, now retired and under foot. I send him and the dog to the shop, and clean. The cats are afraid of the vacuum cleaner, so just rustling around in the closet sends them to the basement. Once the house is back on track, so am I. Here is to wishing you a productive day, and a good nights sleep. Love you blog, I have been lurking for some time. cheers!

  12. Angi on May 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I'm also burnt out. I'm tired of being the only one home all day and thus expected to be in charge of everything. I'm not really the only one home all day as hubby works from home but it just feels that way at the moment. I'm going to lock myself in the master bedroom and sort and put laundry away. It needs to be done and I can do it sitting on our king size bed watching TV and switching to the laptop to get some work done, as well. I think just being in the bedroom helps me unwind. Maybe it's the sound barrier. Or maybe it's just a nice warm bed makes everything better. LOL
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  13. Leigh on May 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Heather,
    Do you have a great "Cheer Up" playlist you can blast? Maybe with songs like "Barbara Ann" or "Uptown Girl" that you can grab a kid and dance to, or just by yourself? When I'm having a day like you described, it cheers everyone up if I can remember to play my happy playlist and dance for a minute. Then I clean up the kitchen, since I seem to be okay if the kitchen is passable. I also usually treat myself to a Coke, over ice, or a homemade frappacino. My kids (4 and 2) also love jumping on couch cushions on the floor (while I watch and laugh), but yours may be past that.

    Good luck! I have been where you are SO many times!
    And also, thanks for the great site. I have never commented, but I love seeing new posts from you in my reader! And I also appreciate knowing that I'm not the only one with crummy days.
    Leigh

    • Bobbie Laughman on May 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      Yes, dance!

      When my kids were little I'd sometimes turn on the oldies station loud when I was cleaning. If a fast song came on, we'd all dance to it. They loved "You Make Me Wanna Shout" and would ask me to call the station and request it.

  14. Bobbie Laughman on May 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    When there's stuff everywhere and life is just too loud and overwhelming pick one small area and make it a center of calm and order. Kitchen countertop, desk, dining table, living room or bedroom — something you can do relatively quickly.

    What this gives you: a place you can sit in or look at and just breathe and relax for a short time. A sense of "Hey, look, I actually ACCOMPLISHED something!"

    My daughter, who has often been a better mom to me than I've been to her, figured this out for herself and taught it to me. If everything is total chaos, I cannot really relax. But, if I can establish an area that is ORDERED, I can relax a bit, then move on.

    I'd completely forgotten this until about five minutes ago, and need to make myself implement it again.

  15. Cara on May 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    We take a walk, go to the botanical gardens or otherwise get out of the house somewhere that gives me some exercise and fresh air, as well as being interesting to her. Once I feel better I come home and do a couple of the drive-me-nuts chores, so that I can stand the house, and then back out for a change of scene. That might be the grocery store, dinner out (somewhere low stress) or another walk depending on just how rough I'm feeling. Really bad days call for a water source.

  16. HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    You know, if the drive through isn't every day and isn't putting you into debt, there's no reason to beat yourself up over it. Are there better choices? Of course.
    That said, I don't want to be the mom on Shutter Island and if that's what keeps me from snapping? I'm certainly not going to cast a stone in your direction, either.

  17. Eden on May 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I do a mix of things when I'm burnt out – depending on energy level and time of day. Sending the kids to play in their room, or outside, while I get something accomplished works. But if my house is a disaster, my mind blitzes because of the mass amount of to dos. So I have a chart that tells me what has to happen, in what order. And when I'm overwhelmed, I look at the chart and focus on the next thing on the list. And if it's something that will allow it, I'll pull up Netflix on the laptop and watch a video at the same time – this works for folding or sorting laundry or even washing dishes (as long as the laptop is far enough away from the sink).

    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      I listen to podcasts for the same reason. I can get a lot done and it's nicely distracting from the negative loop in my head.

  18. Jen on May 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I wish I had a good answer. I'm in much the same boat, with the added "joy" of selling a house with my husband 900 miles away. Nine weeks of it so far. :p I just try to forgive myself, do what I can (usually I'd let the house go, but it has to be perfect for any possible showings), and just hang on. Oh, and wine helps. 😉
    Good luck. To both of us. :/

    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      Hang in there. I hope your situation comes to a positive close soon. We're batting around the idea of putting our house on the market for a local move. ::hold me::

      • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm

        Kidding about the hold me part, it was rhetorical. 🙂

  19. Keter Magick on May 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    ((((HUG Heather)))) I have had those weeks. When everything feels like dancing on a fire ant mound, I concentrate on the must-dos and the hygiene basics and pretty much let the rest go. If your kids are old enough to help with things like vacuuming and simple laundry, put them to work before you send them to play. It is not child abuse to ask a walking, talking child to do one simple chore a day, and expect them to do it. In elementary school, my son was in charge of feeding the animals and making sure they had water. In middle school, he was expected to clean his own bathroom, pick up his own room, and ensure that his dirty clothes were brought out to be washed and the clean clothes were put away. In high school, I trained him on the rest of the house because for a couple of years, I was busy dying (I fired the doctors and fixed myself instead) and frankly required the help. Except for a year in middle school when the hormones hit, he was pretty good about it. When he went off to the Air Force as an adult, he knew how to keep a house.

    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Oh they all have chores, I'm just holding my breath for the day when there is less energy I put into that chore than they do. (Either getting them motivated to do it or cleaning up after they've done it).

      We'll get there, I know it's temporary and most of the frustration will pass.

      I also know that to some I probably sound very ungrateful. I am glad my husband has a job and that we aren't struggling to put food on the table. It's just sometimes the stress sucks.

      • Keter Magick on May 7, 2011 at 10:46 am

        Anybody who thinks you are ungrateful probably needs to look at their own attitude and see if they are grateful for anything, or just wanting to feel superior to someone else. :o(

        I know what you mean about the energy required to get kids to do the chores and to finish them… I guess I was just a meanie, because I tied my son's allowance to whether and how well he did his chores, and every time I had to intervene in any way, he lost five cents. We kept an index card on the refrigerator so he could see. And yes he stomped and screamed sometimes. When he went through his bad spot in middle school, there were weeks he ended up owing me money, which I took out on him by requiring large chores, like cleaning the car. But the rules were the rules and they were evenly enforced every time, so the objections pretty much fell of deaf ears, and he knew it. If he did more than he was supposed to, he could earn extra money. When he had something he wanted to buy, like a comic book or trading cards, I would sometimes even find him washing the dishes. I don't know if this approach would have worked as well with multiple children as it did with one.

        And yes, the stress sucks. Nothing I can afford to do really helps (massages and vacations might, but aren't in the budget), so I just ignore it. I know what I need to do and just do it. Stress, like trolls, feeds on attention, it seems. ;o)

  20. Melissa Mae on May 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    A lot of the above comments say to take a load off, but, Heather, if you are like me (and it sounds like you are in the post above) then the downtime would actually continue the cycle at this point. There is a point in my overwhelmed frustration that I recognize as the "gotta make myself work" phase. This is usually when the house has gone to pot and the kids and hubby are on my very last nerve. If I find enough gumption to pull myself out of my rut, get the kids settled doing something that will keep their attention, and get one or two major house chores done, my whole outlook changes and it all seems "doable" again. When it gets this far gone, it isn't easy finding the gumption, but totally worth it!

    BTW, thanks Heather for your site. I'm fairly new around here but am lapping up your household tips and advice!

    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Melissa.

      That's just it, if I put it off there'll just be more. There's a balance here somewhere, I just have to find it again. For a while we were good about having a sitter once a week so I could have two hours to look forward to, but schedules changed and that got dropped. 3 months later? Here we are. It's something I need to not just let go because things seem fine.

  21. CJ McD on May 6, 2011 at 11:26 am

    I throw a load of wash in the machine, thaw some soup, make toast for everyone, and eat a simple dinner. Then we take baths or showers if needed, get in our pj's, take the rest of the night off from chores, relax and go to bed early.

    Get some rest. Take some pressure off yourself.

    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      Sounds like a great idea, especially since the weather deteriorated and killed the outside idea.

  22. Nichole on May 6, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I go to the gym. They have a childcare area where I can drop the kids off for an hour and a half. They have fun, and I can spend the time working off the stress and not talking to anyone.
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    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Yep, the gym and the babysitter used to be what kept me sane as I said to Melissa below, I have to keep doing the healthy things if I don't want to get fed up like this every so often.

  23. @TheBellWitch on May 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Overwhelmed? Buried alive under the house? Garden weeds higher than the produce???ETC There are times that I feel that without a backhoe for the house, I'm doomed.

    1) find something that you like that takes you about 5-7 mins – for me it's a silly computer game
    2) pick 3 chores – break down the big ones if you need to – for me it might be – vacuum the living room, clean the toilet, get all dirty clothes to the hamper, scrub out the animal water dishes, etc, etc – Do 3, then play a game- repeat – I don't get burned out that way, and before I start the game, I figure out my next 3 to do.
    3) replace a chore with a 10'er – so instead of clean the toilet I might grab 10 things in the bathroom and put them where they belong – not just oh this goes in my bedroom and toss it in – put it exactly where it goes
    4) Sometimes I'll mix it up – 1 chore in, 1 chore out, 10 things of paperwork – whether it's file, pay, shred, etc

    I find that doing it this way I keep the momentum up without burning out – every time I come back to some huge chore – like finding my desk – it's easier because I've already gotten 10 things, or 20, 30, etc off of it. When I'm totally overwhelmed and feel like there's just no way – this helps a lot – Good luck!

    • HeatherSolos on May 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Great advice. 🙂 Thank you for sharing it.

  24. Erica on May 6, 2011 at 10:38 am

    We get out of the house — a picnic at the park is my first choice, then the library, then a walk, then a store. But we get out and have a chance of scenery and I direct all of my attention to my little kids and always feel better.

  25. Shannon on May 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Heather, I so hear you! My hubs is an Air Force pilot. No deployments, thank goodness, but lots and lots of 3 to 10 day trips. He was on a trip when my 6-week old was recently admitted to intensive care with RSV and bacterial pneumonia. I don't even pretend to try and do it all when he's away. I do the best that I can, send the kids outside to play a LOT, and have a glass of wine (or 2) at the end of the day. If I feel up to doing housework and such after I put the 3 kids to bed, fine, if not I feel no guilt in crawling into bed to watch tv or catch up on blogs or goof off on Twitter. I value my sanity over productivity any day.

  26. asyhre on May 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I usually take the girls pack them in the stroller and go for a really long walk, we are talking 10+ miles and usually end up at a place called Starbucks for a treat. I can then come home and take up what chores need to be done or talk the girls into a nap. My other option is finding a great book and reading outside while the kids play.

    I so remember the days of a husband with weird hours, yuk. I am now the person that works weird hours, but they are only 3 hours at a time. I do love the post it notes at the top.

  27. Melissa on May 6, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I usually send the kids out to play if it is nice, if not I send them to the play room. Sometimes I will watch a short tv show or just sit on the couch with my eyes closed and enjoy the few minutes of silence. I also like to take a soak in the hot tub at night. Right now, I decided to check my email and I am allowing my youngest to watch an extra Dora on tv.

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