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Like many of you, both my wife and I have careers, are raising children, and are trying to achieve our life goals. It is enjoyable but at the same time hectic and stressful. How do you achieve all of your life goals without feeling overwhelmed?

For those of us old enough to remember, there is a classic I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working in a candy factory and their job is to simply wrap little chocolate candies in a paper foil as the chocolate candy roll down a conveyor belt. At first it seems easy enough.

It takes just a bit of coordination and timing. However, before you know it, they are unable to keep up and the chocolates are rolling down the conveyor belt unwrapped and they are stuffing the chocolates in their shirts, hat, and even their mouths!  Needless to say, life is a bit like this classic scene. Life is going along nicely, but all of a sudden work and home life gets busy, our coordination and timing is thrown off and pretty soon we become overwhelmed.
What can we do to keep from being easily overwhelmed like Lucy and Ethel were?

  1. Understand What’s involved

    Lucy and Ethel had no idea what they were in for when they decided to take on the job of candy wrappers. So they were not prepared to handle the volume of chocolate coming at them.The same is true in whatever endeavor you wish to undertake.

    Whether it is taking on a new job, remodeling a bathroom, or volunteering in your community make sure you know what it will take to be successful. Once you know this, ask yourselves if you can commit to it personally, emotionally, and financially. For example, starting a bathroom remodel project is exciting but expensive.In addition, can you live with one less bathroom for 3 months?

  2. Communicate with each other

    When they first started the task, it seemed easy and Lucy and Ethel were talking a bit and smiling. But soon enough as the chocolates came at them faster and faster, they stopped talking as panic set in. When things are going well, communication is easier because conflict is minimal.

    However, when the situation becomes more stressful, it can become more difficult to talk about areas of disagreement. When we are stressed beyond our ability to handle it effectively, we tend to move into fight or flight mode. Either we argue or avoid confrontation.

    Neither of which is very constructive. It is important to communicate with each other early and often. Discuss your issues and make sure that you address any concerns openly and respectfully. Make sure you are both in agreement on that bathroom remodel both in style and cost before you even start the project.

    It is also important to check in with each other regularly to make sure you are both on the same page. I find that the best time to have these check-in’s is when you are doing a neutral and mutually enjoyable activity like going for a walk together. Walking is not only healthy for you, it is a great stress reliever.

  3. Know when you need help – ask for help – and be a team.

    When things started going crazy Lucy and Ethel did not ask for help. Why? Because they thought they were going to get fired. When things do not go as planned or when you realize that you are unable to do things on your own, it is okay to ask for help.

    Often times we do not ask for help because we are unsure of what the other person might think, say or do.If you are beginning to feel overwhelmed, the first place you should look for help is from each other. Go back to steps 1 and 2. Has the situation changed? Talk about what the current situation and find out if there is a problem. Is this something you can resolve together or do you need outside help.

  4. Know when to press the emergency stop button. 
I’m not sure if there was an emergency stop button on that conveyor belt but it sure looked like they needed one. Sometimes even if you perform steps 1 through 3, things still are not working out the way you like.

It is at times like this that it is okay to stop and reassess if what it is you have decided to undertake is still worth pursuing from a personal, family, and financial perspective. If the costs outweigh the benefits than it is perfectly okay to stop and change directions. Obviously with a bathroom remodel you can’t stop once you have started.

However if the cost of completing your original vision will be too high, then you should stop and make the necessary cost reducing changes. However, if a very stressful job is contributing to health or family stresses then it is okay to press that ‘emergency stop button’ and find another line of work. Provided of course that you have thought through the situation, communicated with your partner, and asked for the necessary help in making this important decision.