Escaping the Land of Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed by your daily juggle of work, family and everything else? Discover a way out with this well-written guide to a happier, better life.

I just finished reading what might be the most important book I’ve ever read. Or one of them, at least.

Now I feel compelled to share with you, my fellow overwhelmed working moms, what made this book so revelatory to me and why you might want to make it the very next book you read.

And I must share it with you right now. Despite the fact that the clock is ticking toward midnight and I have to be at work in the morning. This. Can’t. Wait. (Also, I don’t want to lose the thoughts I have floating in my head right now before they dissipate into nothingness. Which they always seem to do.)

Enough of the buildup. The book is Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. I’ve had the hardcover sitting on my nightstand since it first became available back in the spring. I might have even preordered it on Amazon.

Guess what? That whole “when no one has the time” bit from the title? Certainly applied to me, which is why I waited until my two-week Christmas vacation to make the time to read this book.

If you feel overwhelmed by your harried, endless to-do list-making, stressed-out and mostly joyless life (which for me is check, check, check and check), you might think as you read that Brigid Schulte is really YOU. Living in an alternate Twilight Zone-like dimension, where she took the time to research and write the book, so that the you in THIS dimension could read and benefit from it.

That’s how I felt, anyway.

A familiar starting point

Overwhelmed chronicles Brigid’s own journey to escape “the overwhelm” she was trapped in (overwhelm becoming a noun, rather than verb or adjective). Constantly bouncing between work and family responsibilities, never feeling like she did anything well or deserved to just relax and enjoy, drowning in tasks that would never be done or enough. Sound familiar?

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post, she tackles this book with all the fervor and thoroughness of an ace reporter (or woman on a mission). Hunting down experts, scientific research, real people’s stories as examples—while also weaving her personal experiences and conversations into a compelling narrative.

Brigid assesses her own family and work life with brutal honesty, providing a clear window into her point of view as she goes along. No traditional journalistic third-person distance between writer and subject.

She also brilliantly extracts nuggets of gold from her research, and highlights them for you in practical, “of course!” moments throughout the book. You don’t even have to highlight or take notes, because there’s a list in the appendix of the book’s best takeaways. Handy, right?

Road map to happier days

I’m not going to review the book in a traditional sense, but instead I’ll tell you what it’s prompted me to do now.

  1. Rethink how I approach my work. Instead of constantly switching between tasks, I plan to identify one key project or task for the day, the week, and just do that. In “pulses” of 30 to 90 minutes, with breaks in between to refresh my brain.
  2. Clarify what I want to do at work, and what I don’t, and make the parts of my job I’m most passionate about how I spend the majority of my work time.
  3. Create and stick to clear boundaries between the work and personal realms. Stop checking and responding to messages every 10 minutes around the clock.
  4. Be more present with the people I love. Prioritize quality time with them now and often and frequently, not “when I get done with everything else” or my next vacation. Appreciate them in the moments we share.
  5. Find more ways to love, value and care for myself. Stop worrying about everyone else first, leaving myself only occasional scraps.
  6. Allow myself to play. Participate in true leisure activities that I enjoy. Seek out and relish fun, on my own and with my kids.

These are just the biggies, and I have a feeling I’ll be going back into the book often for sparks of inspiration and next steps.

But it’s just so rare for me to see a bigger picture. To feel like I’m not alone (which I knew, but it’s a relief to get into someone else’s head and feel like it’s yours). And to discover a map out of this land of Overwhelm that I’ve been stuck in for far too long, to a better place where real, authentic and, most importantly, achievable happiness awaits.

Let the journey begin today, my friends! Here I go …

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7 thoughts on “Escaping the Land of Overwhelm

  1. I love reading reviews or what have you on books I too loved! I couldn’t stop talking about this book either, Susan. It prompted a few blog post topics for myself. My big takeaway was the three profiles she mentioned, and how it can conflict (for instance, the ideal mother vs the working mother).

    After reading it though, it made me glad to see that my life isn’t as overwhelming as perhaps others. A big part of that is my husband, but also the type of job I have and not doing too many things. Very enlightening book indeed! So glad to see others enjoying it too.

    1. Yes, I think it’s helpful to examine those internal role models (ideal mother, ideal worker, etc.) and make sure you’re not blindly following them without even meaning to. It’s the only way to break unhealthy patterns and form new, healthier ones. Good for you that you have a supportive hubby and job!

  2. #3 is a biggie. If we can break the so-called “cycle of responsiveness,” we’ll all be calmer.

  3. Yep, Pat. I’ve noticed how freeing it is not to be chained to my iPhone 24-7 or feel the need to respond piecemeal.

  4. Really looking forward to reading the book, and appreciate your sharing it and what stuck with you! Thanks

  5. Pingback: Quality Time Is What Really Matters | Working Moms Against Guilt

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