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3 steps to 'turn down the heat' on overwhelm
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In that moment you realize you are this stove top. Your roles are like the burners. Most people can handle six hot burners at a time. But all of yours are roaring at high heat. These three steps will help you turn down overwhelm and avoid burnout. - photo by Nicole Carpenter
For a moment, imagine you are standing in a beautiful gourmet kitchen. Right in front of you is an extra large gas range. With 10 burners, this stove top rivals all youve seen before.

And then you realize you are this stove top. Seriously.

Your roles are like the burners on your stove top of life. Most people can handle six to eight roaring burners at a time. And some of the roles we have are back burners that stay off or on "simmer" most of the time. But if we keep more than seven-ish roles always rolling on "high heat," we will without a doubt burn out. Pun intended.

Lets avoid overwhelm and burnout. Here are three steps to take to turn down the heat and take control of your roles and your life.

1. Determine your "stove top" by listing your roles.

Your roles are each of the different responsibilities in your life. They are like the different hats you wear, or jobs you have. But they are more than just chauffeur for your kids or scribe for your boss. Our roles are broader than the tasks we do and these roles offer more significance, too.

Your roles are who you are. You might be a parent, spouse, neighbor, friend, home-manager, employee or city volunteer. Or all of the above.

One of the basic principles I teach others is to define and protect their roles. This is a key to finding balance. At MOMentity, its actually our third most important principle.

Grab a pen and piece of paper. What are your roles? Write them down. Each of these roles is represented as a burner on your figurative stove top.

2. Choose your front burners.

Im no fancy cook, but I do know those front burners are used much more than the back. You know this, too. In fact, its become an idiom in our culture. If someone tells you to put that task on the back burner, you know it is now a low priority item and may even be postponed for good.

Which roles are your front burners and which roles are your back burners? Or, in other words, which roles are most important to you? You may be surprised to find out the roles that are really most important to you have actually been placed on the back burner.

3. Control the heat.

Just as you can turn real burners up higher or down lower, the same goes for our roles.

Based on the length of the roles list we just made, it's a good thing some of the roles we have can indeed be adjusted.

Many of our roles like sibling, neighbor, daughter, friend are back burners, meaning that they either stay off or on a low simmer until a certain holiday season, time on the calendar or life event.

As an example, our role of neighbor might run on very low heat most of the time, if it even makes it onto our stove top at all. But then our neighbor gets sick and we may choose to turn our burner up. We might take in a meal, volunteer to run carpool, or shovel a driveway without being asked.

On the same note, many of our roles like parent, spouse or employee are on high heat all the time, often even around the clock.

If all of our burners run on high heat all the time, we are guaranteed to feel overwhelmed, exhausted and hopeless. We are never sure how we are going to get everything done and be everything to everyone.

How many of your roles on running on high heat all the time?

Choose which of your roles are most important to you and protect them. Pay careful attention to which roles are running high, and which ones are low. Learn to say no to the things that are not important and do your best to manage your time well. This helps us to give our best self to the best things and the best people in our life. And will help us turn down our overwhelm.