Have you ever had those days or weeks when you don’t know where to start? When it seems like the second you get one thing done, there are 2 or 3 more that pop up? This is definitely something I deal with. I don't have to tell you how busy things can get with kids. Add the requirements of safe food because of food allergies, and we often feel like we’re sinking in the huge puddle of “busyness quicksand”. I know this is a problem for lots of food allergy moms; which is why I decided to take on this topic head on.
I recently went through a time of overwhelm this past spring. As I was going through it, I happened upon a podcast by Amy Porterfield called “How to Get Overwhelm to Eat Your Dust”. If you haven’t heard of Amy, she’s a very successful online business guru. Now I know I’m not talking about business overwhelm here, but as I was listening, many of the ideas Amy came up with can be applied to the life of a food allergy mom. And so what follows is inspired by Amy’s podcast but with a food allergy mom twist.
A couple of things about overwhelm. It’s not constant. It comes and goes based on the seasons, situations and circumstances of life. For me, it hit me hard this spring when my daughter was newly diagnosed with a food intolerance after years of only being allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. We had our “normal” with the peanut and tree nut allergies. We knew what to do and how to cook in many situations. But add that new food intolerance and “BAM”, overwhelm had me sinking in its muddy grasp. I now realize things are getting back to a new normal and the puddle of quicksand is drying up. But even though it’s getting better, I KNOW overwhelm will be back at some point (i.e. start of school, or Christmas season). Which makes it important to figure out how to beat it.
Recognize Mama Overwhelm
It’s important to be able to recognize overwhelm. For me, it means days and evenings when I can’t stop thinking about everything that needs to get done. The “to dos” are constant and they don’t stop when I go to bed because I often wake up thinking about them at night. When this happens, I know I’ve stumbled into the ugly puddle of overwhelm. But recognizing it is only half the battle. Once we recognize it, we can then use strategies to beat it.
Now that we recognize overwhelm, how do we beat it? Here are a couple of strategies I’ve found work for me.
Strategies To Beat Cooking Overwhelm
Once I recognize I might be drowning in overwhelm, it's time to take pen to paper. I write EVERYTHING down that I think needs to get done. I go through the list and PRIORITIZE the most important things. I cross off things that others can do for me. For example, in my family, I do the cooking; but I have a great hubby and kids who will help with other jobs like laundry and supper clean-up. Next, I CLEAN the list which means REMOVE things that are not as important during the season of overwhelm. This spring that meant missing Parent Council meetings at school. At other times it might mean saying no to a commitment or removing other things from my plate. As hard as it is, I try to be as honest and thorough about removing non-priority tasks as I can.
2. Create Systems
Looking at the list of priorities, I’m now able to see a few things that create stress for me. This spring, one of those things was dinner time meals. I didn’t have my “fall-back” meals and restaurants anymore and needed to find new ways to feed my family safely. One thing that was REALLY helpful was meal planning. Now, I’m not perfect when it comes to meal planning. But when I do, it totally decreases my stress and overwhelm. It might seem daunting when you’ve never done it before but start by sitting down and finding 1 week worth of safe meals. Go week by week, and keep each week in a file so it can be reused. It may take a bit of time for the first month, but after the first month or two, you can re-use the lists in a meal-plan rotation. This saves tonnes of time and effort in the long run.
Many, many times in my life overwhelm surrounds food and cooking for my family. Given my recent bout with overwhelm, I realized that food DOES NOT have to be fancy all of the time. In fact, simple, easy, paired down dishes can be REALLY good if you focus on flavour. So I came up with a list of simple meals that use real food and are found mainly in the perimeter of the grocery store. Because they’re so simple, I don’t have to read a ton of ingredients on the label which saves time grocery shopping, and I don’t have to go searching for the ingredients at specialty stores. In fact, I even have most of the ingredients (minus the meat) in the pantry now. I would challenge you to think of a few meals like this for when you come into a season of overwhelm OR click the image below for a copy of the list I came up with.
What about you? Do you have solutions for overwhelm that help you as a food allergy mom? Share with us in the comments what works for you.