Executive Function Strategies Blog

The Best 15-Minute Strategy for Overwhelmed Parents

Ah, the pandemic... Overnight, many of us parents became a nurse, a Use the STOP strategy to manage stressshort-order cook, a guidance counselor, a teacher, and - most of all - a multitasking pro. From worried, sleepless nights to tired workdays, life as a parent in 2020 has been a challenge with seemingly no end in sight. How can we as parents possibly help our children when we are feeling totally overwhelmed?

Lucky for all of us, there are solutions we can apply to persevere. In this article I'm going to share the approach I use at home and with my students to be more productive, focused, and organized during these stressful times. Most importantly, I’m going to give you the essential steps you'll need to get there.

Our lives and responsibilities have us in constant “go-mode,” so I’m going to ask you to grab a pen and pad and take a fifteen-minute exercise to STOP - or in other words, Sit - Think - Outsource - Prioritize. 

Sit down.

Yes, rIght now. Relax in a comfortable position and pay attention to your breath. Focus on how your breath feels in your nose. Imagine you are breathing into a paper bag and filling it up with air. Focus on your stomach going in and out. Take a few minutes to stretch while sitting but try to stay in this relaxed state.

T: Think.

What is working or not working in your daily schedule? Do you need social, emotional, or organizational help? Quickly jot down whatever comes to mind. For example, my brainstorming (or "Think-list" as I like to call it) looks like this:

SOCIAL: need more time to talk to friends so I don’t feel overwhelmed

EMOTIONAL: overall, I’m ok. If I could just get a good night’s sleep, I would feel so much better

ORGANIZATIONAL: pay all the bills, need my lists to be easily accessible, plan menus, go food shopping, try to stay on task uninterrupted while working

As you look at your list you may see that taking the time to think about your schedule may be just as important as completing the tasks.

O: Outsource

This is the best part - take things off your plate! Like you did in "T", let’s break these down into three parts: social, emotional, and organizational.

SOCIAL: Reach out to friends today. Schedule a weekly outside meet-up with friends or plan an event on Zoom. Some fun app games to play with friends and family are Psych! and Heads Up. Or you could do what many of us have done through quarantine - have a digital wine party. The important thing is just to find a way to be “with” friends.

EMOTIONAL: Before we can conquer the day, we need to establish a carefree bedtime routine. My favorite nighttime app is Insight Timer to help get a good night’s sleep. Feeling overwhelmed? Workout with the app Sworkit, a great way to pump up those endorphins and release stress with easy exercises at home.

ORGANIZATIONAL: I know, I know, where do you begin? But this space is called OUTSOURCE and let’s gather our resources...

First, are you actually spending your time going to a grocery store? Instacart may come to mind, but it’s expensive. One word: curbside.  When I buy household items and groceries like this, I actually save money because I easily buy what is on sale and only what I need. It also helps me to plan out a menu for the week and buy all the ingredients easily.

Next, let’s get your finances in order! A great app is called Prism, which allows all of your bills to be in one place with reminders when to pay them.

Is it harder than ever to stay on task? Have you been trying to do work or chores and then start thinking about something else and you become distracted? My favorite new app is called Braintoss. You can speak, write or take a picture of something on your mind and poof it’s sent to your email!

Do you like all of these ideas, but don’t know how to keep track of them? Try Google Keep. It’s the best note system out there! I list all the books I want to read, groceries to buy, apps to try, even website links I want to use later all in one gloriously organized place.

And the last outsource suggestion is to ask for help. It’s time to ask other family members to take on some of the jobs around the house because, well, sharing is caring (especially for chores!) Timetree can help with organizing who’s doing what.

P: Prioritize. 

Take your handy dandy list and start numbering. Write the numbers 1-5 next to each task on your list, with #1 being the most important.  No one can do it all - so address your task according to the level of importance. You will want to first tackle the 1’s. (If you never make it to the 5’s, I won’t tell anyone.)

The Takeaway

The fifteen minutes are finished. You were able to STOP and regroup, and plan and organize with resources that you never even knew that you had!  And guess what? If you have an overwhelmed tween or teen in your home, now you know how to guide them to their own version of a STOP plan.

Photo above by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash


Diana HoranDiana Horan, MEd, is an Executive Function coach at Beyond BookSmart, certified teacher, and classroom training facilitator with over a dozen years of experience working with students in traditional and nontraditional settings. A graduate of The State University of New York at New Paltz, with a Master of Education in Professional Education Leadership and Policy from Seton Hall University, Diana has worked with students of all ages and levels. Diana holds three certifications: Child Assault Prevention, Bully Prevention and Cyber Empowerment.

WorkSmart Coaching for adultsSee our new adult resource page for tips and strategies to help you manage yourself more effectively. see our resources


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