Stop, breathe, proceed

How to deal with feeling constantly overwhelmed

Practical Parenting Parenting Commentator / July 18 2018

Every woman I know is busy. Like, really busy. Looking after kids, a job, your relationship and family matters is exhausting.

Even Gwyneth Paltrow, the patron saint of calm living, says she gets rattled helping her kids with homework. "Honestly, it’s when my worst personality comes out," she says. "I’m pretty much calm and normal and patient and a nice person but at homework time, I’m such an *******."

Feeling overwhelmed, it seems, is the new normal. Kelly Exeter, author of Practical Perfection, found that 52 per cent of the people she interviewed for her book said they felt overwhelmed either a lot or all of the time. Likewise, a survey by MasterCard found quality of life for men was 37 per cent higher than for women.

Kelly believes FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – and FODO – Fear Of Disappointing Others – are key causes of being overwhelmed, along with the need to use up every minute of the day. Yet the drive to do ever more stuff is making people miserable and compromising their mental health.

As Kelly says: "What really upset me were the things people said they’d have time for if they weren’t so overwhelmed – creative activities, spontaneity, having fun with their husband and kids, and just breathing."

Kelly’s simple tips to deal with being overwhelmed...

1 Stop scheduling your days down to the minute – you need to allow some time to breathe.

2 Get comfortable with disappointing others. They get over it faster than you think.

3 Learn six simple words: ‘Let me get back to you.’ This prevents a knee jerk ‘yes’ and lets the other person know a ‘no’ may be coming. It also buys you time to consider.

4 List the major priorities in your life in order. Are you consistently saying ‘no’ to the things at the top of your list, such as your family or time for yourself?

5 You know how you cut your friends slack? Try extending that same level of kindness and compassion to yourself.

Practical Perfection ($17.99) is available at

I grew up in New Zealand, moved to London in my early 20s to work on British newspapers then moved to Australia when I was pregnant with my first child. I write a newspaper column, celebrity interviews and a parenting page. I also do TV and radio commentary, podcasting and host corporate events. I’ve also published a book on parenting, The Smallest Things. However, my greatest role ­­– and the one I’m most proud of – is parenting my daughters, Eliza and Lilibelle, who are 17 and 14.