How Celebrating Small Wins Curbs Persistent Overwhelm

Do you have a habit of celebrating small wins? Or are you in a state of persistent overwhelm? Chances are you didn’t answer yes to both of these questions. 

Sometimes automatic thoughts, behaviors, and habits can be exactly what we need to simplify our lives and keep stress levels down. This is something I teach my clients to do when they are struggling with decision fatigue. 

But the majority of our automatic thoughts can be major roadblocks without us even realizing!

According to the National Science Foundation, 95% of our thoughts are repeats from the day before and 80% are negative!

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If that isn’t a stat that makes you want to reevaluate your thoughts, I don’t know what is!!

Recently I’ve found myself in this recycled loop of overwhelm from family demands. Although these demands really started to pick up in 2017, it wasn’t until 2019 that things were just insane for me!

In January of 2019, I started to care for my elderly mother-in-law in my home – she moved in with us. In March, my husband took a job out of town, which left me on my own – with the exception of weekends. Around April or May, we moved my father-in-law down the street so I could care for him as well. Then by the end of June I became the foster parent to my niece & nephew. 

Overwhelmed and at a point of compassion fatigue, I was just cycling through.

I WAS SOOO BUSY!! 

I had so many excuses as to why I couldn’t go out, why I was overwhelmed, why I had no patience, why I couldn’t grow my business.

Since then, my father-in-law passed, my niece & nephew were reunited with my sister, I moved to Sarasota, FL to be with my husband, and we moved my mother-in-law into assisted living down the street. 

I still manage my mother-in-law’s care and other family needs have come up, but I technically have more time now than I’ve had in years yet I still find myself feeling overwhelmed!!

Why??  

The overwhelming thoughts were set in motion & I’d created a habit of energetically getting caught up in them! 

Without realizing it, the tape has been running in the background of my mind saying that “my family demands are just too much, I’m exhausted, I’m resentful, I don’t have enough time” and this has drained my energy! 

Now that I’m aware of my thought patterns, I’m making a conscious effort to change and here’s how: celebration & perspective shifting.  

These automatic thoughts were moving me away from celebration, gratitude, solutions, & possibilities. So leaning into the things I need has been my way out. 

Grief & overwhelm kept me from celebrating my niece & nephew being reunited with their mom. It kept me from all the gratitude of having the experience of motherhood that I will never get. 

Sure I celebrated & had gratitude INTELLECTUALLY, but I never fully sat with it. It was like, “great, what’s next?” I had doctor’s appointments and a house to pack, I didn’t have time for celebrating these not-so-small wins. 

I was so focused on the next task that I skipped right past the energetic & spiritual experiences of celebration. 

Now when I am doing something for my family, I give myself credit for every phone call, every returned call, every email, every thing! And I celebrate every small win! 

Check out this 2-minute, super relatable video where I share about a small win. 

To send the message to my brain, my mind, my soul that I am celebrating, I get my body involved. I do an arm motion & say “yeeessssss!” or dance around for a moment. I do something physical to make the celebration meaningful and memorable.

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As for perspective shifting, this one is HUGE & it also takes a bit more effort. 

One thing I’ve been doing lately is tracking approximately HOW much time I’ve spent taking care of family needs. 

In my particular scenario, I feel exhausted by tasks because of the amount of energy I’ve put into dreading what I have to do. So, what I’m actually drained from is dread & not from technical tasks. 

To be clear, I’m not rigid with my tracking. 

At the end of the day, I just take a mindful minute and approximate how much time I spent doing things for the fam. If it really wasn’t that much time but I feel drained, I know that I’ve allowed myself to become emotionally & energetically hijacked by resentments

But the tracking has allowed me to shift my perspective to “on a typical day, I really only give x-amount of time to family tasks & the rest of the time I get to spend on other things.”

Tracking doesn’t stop at time spent helping family, I also note if I made progress that day. Even if nothing was “accomplished” I still make daily efforts and those efforts are small wins worth celebrating. 

I give myself compassion for the days I lose my shit or get caught up in the drama of my family. 

I remind myself that I have come so far! That I’ve gained so much awareness and my mindfulness practice is a practice. Somedays I knock it out of the park & other days I pout in the dugout, both are okay. 

Today I am celebrating my efforts, my imperfections, & my small wins.

I’m receptive to new perspectives & my overwhelm is no longer persistent.