“Yesterday I felt overwhelmed because I had more to do than I was used to (Lots of homework, after school activities and dinner). Do you have any tips for girls to feel less overwhelmed when they have a lot to do?”
Feeling overwhelmed by long to-do lists is a very common experience, especially as we get older and start taking on more responsibilities and commitments, have more time-consuming homework, etc.—so you are far from alone in this. (It’s certainly something I’ve had to work with a lot, particularly over the past year or two, myself!) Here are some suggestions for how to handle this kind of overwhelmed feeling of having too much to do:
- Breathe! This one may be self-explanatory, and also rather cliché, but seriously, I can't emphasize it enough. When you start feeling too overwhelmed, take a few moments, close your eyes, inhale, exhale. Extend it physically, beyond just breathing—do a couple of stretches, touch your toes, try some power poses, etc. It’s going to be okay.
- Put it in perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things we want to do, and it’s good to try to try to accomplish as much as you can! But sometimes, we can blow things out of perspective. If you don’t do as well on a homework assignment as you’d like, then sure, that’s disappointing. But it’s not the end of the world. Just taking a step back to assess (whether just mentally or through writing/journaling; the latter can be an extremely helpful tool, I find, especially when it comes to looking more rationally at these types of feelings) exactly what is at stake can be very helpful—often, it’s not nearly as much as it may feel.
- Break it down. Instead of looking at your long list and panicking over everything you have to do, focus on your current project, and let the next one wait its turn. There’s not much point in worrying over a homework assignment if you’re in the middle of an after-school activity, and vice versa. Take it one thing at a time—lots of little steps are much easier than running a marathon.
- Prioritize! This is an incredibly helpful life skill to develop, for school and beyond. For this, I’ll refer to you a wonderful blog post on the topic written by my fellow Sister to Sister mentor Katharine: Sister to Sister: Prioritizing. (For a more general advice board on feeling overwhelmed, I recommend checking out another S2S post, also by Katharine, by clicking here.)
- Take breaks. This may seem counterintuitive, but giving yourself periodic chances to recharge from the must-dos can help you be a lot more productive in the long run. If you start feeling fatigued, unproductive, disproportionately stressed, etc., that may be a sign that it’s time to cut yourself a break (whatever that means to you—going for a walk, relaxing on the couch with a book, hanging out with a friend, being creative, or doing anything you love). Come back later, reinvigorated.
- If necessary, consider cutting back on how much you’re doing. Is one of your activities something you can drop if need be, or at least take a break from? There’s no shame in recognizing when we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, and being able to recognize when that happens and make what changes/cuts you need in order to handle everything is a sign of maturity (and will pay off in the long run when it comes to all your other responsibilities).
- Get help! Absolutely feel free to send in more questions to the Sister to Sister team (or PM me directly) any time—we’re here to help as much as we can! But it’s also a very good idea to reach out to someone in real life for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed—e.g., a parent, a teacher, a counselor, or even a good friend. I guarantee, pretty much anyone you talk to will have experienced similar feelings of being overwhelmed, and probably for similar reasons too. They may have their own tips/suggestion for how to manage, and people you know offline can be better placed to help with a lot of things.
I hope some of this helps! Best of luck managing everything—you've got this. :)