I love the homestead life but I will be honest with you, there are definitely times every year that I face managing stress and overwhelm on the homestead! It usually seems that this happens during the spring and summer when there are SO many projects that need done around the homestead. Add in the various roles I’m juggling each day of homeschooling mama, working parent and managing the homestead and it can be really hard to find balance and conquer feelings of being stressed out and overwhelmed on the homestead.
We often write about fun how-to homestead projects we are doing on the homestead. I also try to be realistic and show the not-so-fun aspects of homesteading. There have been some major challenges we faced over the years like the financial challenges of homesteading, scary emergency medical issues resulting in my hospitalization for several days and gardening in a drought. Sometimes the challenges can really get us down and in a rut but I’ve always tried to use to the power of positive thinking to muddle through.
A few weeks ago, I shared our list of Spring chores on the homestead. Honestly, I felt a little overwhelmed after reading through my list because there was so much that needed to be done and all in a short time frame.
I started tackling the list one task at a time and felt like I was making progress and didn’t feel so overwhelmed. Then we went out of town on a family trip for a long weekend and the following weekend was my son’s birthday. Unfortunately a few days after that I had to deal with a flare up of some chronic health issues which always slows me down.
These things added up to make me feel REALLY stressed out and overwhelmed with our Spring homestead to-do list. I was feeling really frustrated, stressed out and the overwhelm was starting to take over.
Tips for coping with feeling stressed and overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed on the homestead is not a new experience, it’s something that creeps up every year, usually in the spring and summer or harvest time when EVERYTHING seems to ripen at once. Modern day homesteading should be fun. Feeling overwhelmed by the long to-do lists is stressful and anything but fun.
I’ve come up with a few tips over the years on how to manage and conquer stress and overwhelm. Here’s how I manage it all and work through feeling overwhelmed and stressed out:
1. Pause and breathe to de-stress
When I’m starting to feel really overwhelmed, I first need to get myself to relax and de-stress before jumping into managing the root cause of my feelings of overwhelm. The easiest, quickest way to de-stress is to stop what I’m doing and take a deep breath. Actually, taking more than one deep breath is key!
I learned about the concept of “Box breathing” a few years ago and I absolutely love it! It also goes by the name of 4×4 breathing and square breathing. The basic concept is this: Take a deep breath while counting to four, hold the breath for four counts, slowly breathe out for four counts then pause for four counts. Repeat as many times as needed.
It is amazing at how well this breathing technique works to quickly calm down the body’s nervous system. It’s also really discreet so you can quietly do your Box Breathing wherever you are, even in a group of people, and it is simple and effective.
Sometimes if I have a few minutes, I also do a few basic yoga poses to help me calm, relax, and center myself while doing my deep breathing exercises. This works wonders to help me clear my head and get into a better mindset to really tackle the root causes of feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
2. Prioritize a To-Do List
I am a list maker. Making lists helps me to visualize what I need to get done and often if I don’t put it on my “to-do” list, I forget about the task needing done.
I also really love to check things off my “to-do” list. It’s so gratifying! I used to use scrap paper to make my lists but then last year discovered the “notes” app on my phone. I’m not a super techy person and don’t spend a lot of time glued to my phone like some people but I do love the convenience of making lists on my phone.
To check an item off my “to-do” list on my phone, I put an emoji next to it. One of my favorite emojis to use to mark a task done on my to-do list is the arm muscle emoji which seems to emphasize the feeling of “Yeah, I got that done!”
I have two “to-do” lists on my phone. One is a list of things that need to get done at some point. The other list is a priority list I make for each day.
The daily to-do list is really helpful for me to prioritize the tasks that absolutely need to be done that day. For example, recently my to-do list had “set up chick brooder” and “plant bare root fruit trees” at the top of the list.
These two things absolutely had to be done that day and needed to be prioritized before everything else. We had chicks hatching in the incubator the next day and I needed to have the brooder prepared. The bare root fruit trees needed to be planted right away so their roots wouldn’t dry out and kill the trees.
3. Delegate tasks
Sometimes when I look at my long to-do list for the day, it feels totally overwhelming. How can I possibly fit all these things in today?! Now that my kids are beyond the toddler/preschool age, they can actually be helpful with chores and tasks around the homestead.
I’ve learned that I don’t have to do all.the.things. I can delegate tasks to other family members to help carry the load. My kids are old enough that they can now independently fill chicken feeders, fill animal waterers, muck the barnyard, clean out the chicken coop, and clean up after our dog, Kogee the Chicken Wrangler.
4. Personal Rewards
All work and no play makes for a boring day! I like to incorporate small, easy personal rewards into my day to help me celebrate my accomplishments. These can be easy things like “finish this big task then sit and take a break for 15 minutes to just relax and bird watch or read a book.”
Now that our baby chicks hatched in the incubator, my kids and I use the personal reward of hanging out with the baby chicks and holding those adorable fluff balls.
I also keep a hidden stash of delicious high quality chocolate (shhh, don’t tell my kids!) and will use a small chocolate treat as a personal reward sometimes!
5. Self Care
Self-care goes along with personal rewards but is a bit more in-depth. When we work, work, work and give, give, give it leaves us feeling depleted and can lead to burn out.
I know this from first hand experience over the years. This never used to be much of an issue before I had kids because I could just head out on a hike or bike ride whenever I felt like it. Once I became a parent, I started putting my family’s needs ahead of mine. This led to some major exhaustion, health issues and burn out that I’ve been slowly recovering from.
I try to incorporate self-care into my day, even if in small bits here and there because it all adds up. I’m so busy with homestead projects, working, homeschooling and taking my kids to activities that it leaves me little time to have big blocks of “me” time. Instead, I try to incorporate daily “moments” of me time to add up to help me feel replenished.
For me this means waking up at least an hour before anyone else in the house to have some peaceful, quiet time to myself. I enjoy a nice warm cup of tea or coffee, do some yoga, watch the sunrise, bird watch, go for a walk around our property or read a book.
Throughout the day, I try to take more “moments” whenever I can. I set up a bench behind our barn that overlooks the mountains to the west. Every time I pass this bench I stop, even if just for a few moments. I take a few deep breaths and bask in the beautiful view and the birdsong around us. It’s peaceful and fills my soul with gratitude.
When it’s warm out, my kids and I try to eat breakfast and lunch outside which is a wonderful, relaxing time. Sometimes we eat on the bench behind our barn, other times under our big box elder tree at the outdoor table and chairs we set up and my kids call “The Box Elder Cafe”.
When the weather is nice, I take a few moments at sunrise to do yoga behind the barn overlooking the beautiful mountains. My kids call this “Barn Yoga” and even started their own regular practice after seeing me do this!
I also put a bench in our garden area that also overlooks the mountains to the west and the creek flowing by. This is another wonderful spot to stop, rest, relax and bask in the beauty around us.
Taking short walks or a bike ride around our property is another wonderful way to fill my soul. Other things I do for self-care are crossword puzzles, reading a good book, working on a craft project, bird/wildlife watching, kayaking in our creek in the summer or just hanging out with our ponies Willow and Muffin.
6. Lower Expectations
I’m a perfectionist. I love to set goals for myself and it feels so great when I accomplish them. But sometimes I set goals for myself that are too unrealistic and I end up getting stressed out and frazzled trying to accomplish everything.
When this happens, I have to step back and re-evaluate priorities. For example, I recently have been working on getting some new printables uploaded into our Etsy shop. I had set a personal expectation that they would be done this week.
But then we bought 3 bare root fruit trees that needed holes dug and to be planted. Our incubator was also set to hatch which meant I needed to prioritize setting up the brooders and heat lamps which took longer than I planned.
I was feeling stressed out about the fact that I wasn’t getting these printables uploaded into our Etsy shop on the schedule that I had set for myself. I stepped back and reassessed, realizing that there is no deadline from anyone else but ME that says these new Etsy listings need to be done this week.
Can they wait until next week? Of course they can! So I adjusted my to-do list and decided to not put a “deadline” on this task so it’s not a stress induced thing. I’ll get to it when I get to it, which at this point may take a little while since I’ve been spending a little more time sucked into the amazing chick hatching activity going on in our incubator this week!
7. Scale back on projects
Homesteading is such a wonderful way of life and it’s hard to not want to do all.the.things. But sometimes we can bite off more than we can chew and this can lead to major feelings of overwhelm. If you’ve prioritized and delegated tasks but still feel overwhelmed with everything, maybe it’s time to scale back.
I’ve dealt with this over the years and have come to the realization that making some changes to scale back is not a failure. It’s all about our perspective on the situation that influences how we feel about it. I recognized over the years that I have a tendency to over do it at times and push my body too much which leads to major exhaustion.
Instead, I now recognize the signs early on that I need to scale back before there’s a negative impact on my health. I only have so much time and energy in the day and I want to be able to enjoy what I’m doing, not constantly feel stressed and exhausted.
By incorporating all these tips on a regular basis, I’ve managed to conquer the feelings of stress and overwhelm on the homestead over the years. Homesteading is a lot of hard work and should be fun and enjoyable. Hopefully these tips will help you manage feeling stressed and overwhelmed so you can return to a place of enjoying daily life on the homestead!