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Martyr’s Mental Mayhem: Overcoming Overwhelm


Martyr’s Mental Mayhem is something I experienced firsthand. As someone with martyr tendencies, I had a bad habit of accumulating more and more responsibilities. Each time someone failed to step up for me and do as I asked, I made a mental note that I couldn’t rely on them. I would stop bothering to ask and just add it to my list. Eventually, I reached the point where I no longer actively juggled balls. Instead, I buried myself alive in a ball pit.

Recognizing the Overwhelm

At that point, I felt too overwhelmed to sort through the balls and figure out what was important and what was excess. I wanted to throw it all away and start fresh. Who can relate? It’s like that saying goes, “Throwing the baby out with the bath water.” The water was so murky, I couldn’t even begin to mentally process what lurked in its depths. I felt ready to give up and just toss the whole thing out—or I would shut down and avoid it all as long as I could. My personal strategy when that happened was usually to go to sleep. My body would tell me I was tired, and I would want to sleep constantly.

Identifying Overwhelm Strategies

Knowing your personal strategies that activate when you feel overwhelmed is a game changer. Often it’s something you do to avoid looking at or acknowledging all of the balls in your pit. This can be excessive sleeping, alcohol, binge-watching TV, binge-reading books, emotional baking/cooking, binge eating, and so on. Sometimes I see anger show up instead. This looks like yelling, lashing out, or angry housekeeping (slamming doors and dishes or aggressively scrubbing) as an example. The third most common is withdrawal and self-isolation. It sometimes pairs with avoidance, but the biggest tell is when you are “hiding” from your family members.

Breaking the Cycle of Overwhelm

Martyr Mayhem - Juggling the Unseen

When you catch yourself in those overwhelm strategies, you can break the cycle and replace it with something healthy and helpful. For example, I learned a strategy in a business coaching course that has helped me break that cycle of overwhelm and shut down. It has helped me so much that I often teach a lot of my coaching clients who also struggle with martyrdom tendencies how to do it. I’m sharing it below.

Next time you feel like you’re buried alive in a ball pit, try this strategy instead:

Strategy to Overcome Overwhelm

  1. Brain dump all of the items onto paper that are running through your mind. Everything from tasks, reminders, mental notes, mental planning, etc.
  2. Once you finish start going through the list with the question of “What can be deleted that’s just here taking up space?”
  3. Then go through and highlight or label anything that can be delayed and put off until later. If you have the ability to process more information, you can add tags for how long you can delay it (one week, a month, a few days, etc.)
  4. Go through what’s left and ask yourself “What can I delegate to others?” Sometimes you can partially delegate tasks. For example, you might have someone check and collect the mail and sort it for you, and then you go through it to respond to anything that needs your attention. Even small simple task delegation can go a long ways to preserving your cognitive capacity for the day. After you finish, make note of who it’s delegated to and create a list for them to reference.
  5. The rest of the items remaining fall into the “Do” category. If you were honest with yourself, it should be a small chunk left. From here, choose three that you will focus on today that will move you forward.
  6. If you manage to get just ONE of those three done, CONGRATULATIONS! You had a successful day! Let’s be honest, life happens and we go on a lot of detours, so finishing that ONE thing is a huge win!
  7. Now treat yourself to some R&R.

Preventing Future Overwhelm

Going forward, look for ways to keep yourself from taking on too much at once. Start noticing what is realistic and reasonable, that still gives you time to decompress and recharge so you aren’t constantly going into an overwhelmed burn-out state. Bring your family members into the conversation and get them involved in the planning and task management to help ease some of the strain on you. Lastly, develop systems and group strategies that will support sharing the mental workload that comes with managing a household.

I’m here to support you. If you are ready to start discovering who you are outside of martyrhood and reclaim your life, use the link below to schedule a call with me today. Working together, we can identify your problematic strategies and patterns and replace them with new systems that support you and allow you to BE supported too. Motherhood doesn’t have to be a sacrifice; it can become a fulfilling adventure instead. It’s time to choose yourself this once and do something for yourself after putting everyone else first for so long.

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