The other night I collapsed into bed much later than my normal time. As I tried to shift my mind into neutral I couldn’t help but scan my mental to-do list one last time. You know the old saying “when it rains it pours?” It’s been my turn to prove that can be true.

No matter what you call it – overwhelmed, stressed, or ‘needing more margin’ when our days or weeks begin to become over full we can’t run at that hectic pace very long. We need to make adjustments – even when the sources of our challenges feel completely out of our control.

Recently I had been going through a few days of juggling enough challenges to keep me busy but all of that took an immediate back seat when I found the carpet in our finished basement completely soaked with water. Have you ever noticed that life has a way of throwing us curve balls? Just when we think our plates are as full as we can manage, we get a side order of crisis-du-jour.

From the conversations I’ve had with a few friends, I’m realizing I’m not alone in the daily juggle to keep life balance. Maybe you’re knee deep in a long to-do list or summer has your routine completely challenged with your children’s summer break pushing you to your limits.

What do you do when life is coming at you from every direction – when “overwhelmed” is the best one word to describe your day and margin sounds like an amazing dream?

8 things you can do the next time you feel overwhelmed:

1. Dump it

Do a “brain dump.’ Put the list you’re carrying in your mind on paper, in your phone, or on your computer to free up the energy needed to maintain the list in your head. Doing so frees mental real estate while helping your to see all that you are trying to juggle.

2. Prioritize

Once you have the list, ask two questions for each item. Is it important? Is it urgent? In the event several are both important and urgent, ask which is more pressing and give that item the higher priority. This week I had a choice, get this blog posted earlier or remove the soaked carpet from my basement. As much as I hate delaying a post, I had to go with the urgent need first.

3. Say “no”

In the words of my friend Cindy Bultema, “No is a complete sentence.” If new opportunities attempt to steal your focus and the new item is not a higher priority, respectfully say “no.”

4. Create a parking lot

Have you ever had one thing lead to another and suddenly you’re down a rabbit trail? A “parking lot” is a list of things that come up that need your attention when you’re done with your higher priority items. Rather than exploring the rabbit trail right in the middle of what you’re doing, identify and save it for later.

5. Ask for help

Be honest with yourself when you need help. Ask a family member, friend, or colleague to share the load. You’d be surprised how many people would be willing to step in and assist if they knew you needed help.

6. Add ½ hour to your day

You’d be amazed how much productivity can occur in that quiet ½ hour before the rest of your family gets up or in the ½ hour after the house is quiet at the end of the day. If you have a long list, consider giving yourself a ½ hour on either end of the day.

7. Rest

This may seem counter intuitive. If you are overwhelmed, make sure you get enough sleep and know when you need to exhale. Don’t allow yourself to burn the candle from the both ends. Take time to recharge and rest as needed.

8. Pray

Last but certainly not least, pray. God can give you His peace that passes all understanding. He’ll give you strength for the storm or may calm the waves that threaten you.

As for me, I used many of this list in the past few days. My basement is once again dry and life is returning to it’s normal busy pace. I’ll be back on track sharing encouragement twice a week as well.

What about you, what do you do when you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or need more margin? Did one of these reminders hit home? I’d love to hear from you!