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When Life is Overwhelming, Do This

When my kids are in a zone of continual complaints, or they feel stressed and overwhelmed about the amount of work on their plates (hello, new world of high school), I tell them this: pause, take a few breaths, and say out loud five things you’re thankful for. It’s a mom thing to say, and it’s usually responded first with eyerolls, but they eventually comply.

And it almost always works. I mean, it doesn’t dissolve the to-do list or melt away all the stress, but it helps reset our brains and hearts — it gives instant perspective. Our life is more-or-less fantastic, and things really are generally okay. It may not feel like it in the moment, but it will pass, and life will go on.

(Of course, I’m talking about the natural stressors and overwhelm of typical life, I’m not referring to something more severe or intense, like depression and anxiety. I’m all about the therapy and/or meds there.)

So. When I’m tempted to complain or collapse on the couch in a fury of why is life so stressful right now?, I usually forget my own words to my kids. I don’t see the goodness in my life. I see the regret, the seemingly never-ending expectations, and the deadlines. I forget to pause and name my gratitude list.

Funny how that happens.

Life is intense right now. Not bad, not beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, and I’m not in despair. But I am admittedly in overwhelm. There’s just a lot of a lot.

So, here we go…

What I’m grateful for right now

• New mercies every. single. morning, reminded by yet another sunrise. Amazing that this keeps on happening, day after day, and has for millennia.

• Quiet mornings before the kids wake, coupled with a few minutes of silence + coffee. It’s my favorite.

• Technology that so easily connects our relationships — as I write this, I’m also currently texting with a dear friend in Thailand. I so easily forget how amazing this is.

• Our family is mostly healthy, and that is a huge, merciful thing. It’s far too easy to take health for granted.

• I’m grateful for modern medicine. Docs found my beloved extended family member’s health condition in time for surgery this past week (vague, I know, but for privacy reasons).

• I love my work. Yes, it’s a lot, and yes, right now there are changes happening, but when I zoom out, I still can’t believe I get to do what I do. What in the world.

• Our family has traveled to all sorts of places, bonding as we go. I truly do believe the cliched saying, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. I’m mad grateful for those experiences.

• It’s not perfect, but I can move my body and it can do hard things. Every morning it’s a miracle that our hearts keep beating, our lungs keep breathing in and out, and our muscles do what they need to do. Our brains keep firing. Incredible.

• We have a roof over our head, enough food in the pantry, clothes to cover us, cars to get us where we need to be, and comfortable beds for sleeping. This means we’re among the wealthiest in the world and did absolutely nothing to deserve it. What a gift. 

…I feel better. I knew I would, but it’s still a delight when it happens. My typical response to this exercise is to get back to the work before me, hug my kids (a little tighter than they’d like), and do a little something that’s outside myself today — donate to a charity, leave a few more dollars in our coffee shop’s tip jar, or stop and talk with a neighbor with whom I usually wave and walk on. 

So, once I hit publish, these are things I’ll do. Life is okay. 

Add to this list, friends — what are you grateful for?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Christine

    Love this! In our family, we recently started a tradition of each saying 1 thing we’re thankful for before bed. This simple thing has totally transformed my perspective, and I find myself looking for good things/blessings during the day.

    Thank you for the reminder! 🙂

  2. Tara McMinn

    Needed this reminder. Was starting to get down with how much of “alot” that I’m balancing in this season. ❤️

    • Aimee Wiley

      Thankful that I said yes to playing a game my 12yo son created for our family time tonight. It had some glitches, but everyone got into its collaborative design and laughed together (even the 16yo!).

  3. amk

    I give thanks for:
    – a camping chair on the deck in the fresh air
    – snuggles with a friend’s baby
    – energy to do the needed things plus some extras
    – new possibilities in a season of transition
    – hugs from my kids

  4. Lindsey

    I am truly grateful for my family of 5 – my husband and 3 sons. I was away last week without them and really realized what a tight family unit we are. I’m also trying really hard to remember daily to be grateful for my body – no matter my pants size. I am grateful for my health and food on the table. And today. I’m grateful for this moment to sit and think about these little (and big) things that amount to a good life. Thank you for the prompt, Tsh.

  5. Samantha

    This is such a great reminder! How often as moms dod we give our kids tools and advice to refocus their attitudes and intentions and yet never apply it for ourselves. Man, how much easier would things be if I just took my own advice. But luckily God is good and He is patient with me when I struggle my way through things. I am so thankful for my faith and for my kids.

  6. Pauline

    I am grateful that my boss let me work from home 1 day a week. I feel lucky because I have found on Linkedin a friend I’d lost for 20 years and I’ve have the courage to contact her. I am grateful for fall, the slanted light and the crisp leaves.

  7. Jennifer

    Prayer support from friends for my chronically ill husband
    a place to stay in town during medical tx for the above
    hot strong black tea
    a job that I can do to support my family
    kids to hug & dogs to walk

  8. Lauren

    – Books (what a wealth of blessings they hold)
    – Quiet mornings before my husband rises
    – My cozy home He provided for us
    – My pups
    – Warmth
    – Our stocked fridge
    – My husband, our parents and our siblings
    – Our church that we prayed for diligently
    – My library and favorite thrift store, both full of friends and treasures
    – Candles
    – Wine
    – Yoga (specifically my precious teacher Shannon)

    Yep, that exercise sure does make me feel better! Deep breath. Gratitude. Work’s to-do list will always be there tomorrow!

  9. Becky

    This week I’m especially grateful for outstanding medical care for my daughter, following the discovery that she has a rare syndrome; FMLA that allows me to be away from work to be with her; the prayer support of family and friends; the convenience of being able to send texts that update many people at once; the gift of 1:1 time with my adult daughter as we stay in her hospital room together.

  10. Katy Walton

    I am grateful for…
    – time to journal this morning while sitting on my wide windowsill
    – the start of Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday evenings 🇬🇧
    – having a choice for breakfast
    – being able to live on my own with a roof over my head
    – having a job that allows me to hone skills that will benefit my long term writing goals

  11. Jamee

    I love this practice! I’ve been listing my gifts since 2012, when I read 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I don’t do it daily but almost! I’m up to 10,120 things to be thankful for. Really is a perspective changer!

  12. Evi

    Thank you! this was a very inspiring post for me. Thank you for sharing. Greetings from Greece.

  13. Irene

    Thanks for the prompt, Tsh.
    I’m grateful for;
    -Life, 14th Sept was my birthday…joined the 4th floor!! I’m grateful for everything the Lord has brought me through..and it’s been a lot. that I’m still standing, broken but whole with head up high, am grateful!
    -Family and friends; I have the very best of friends…
    -Church and the privilege to sing and serve
    -Books – I loveeee to read!
    -Love – I know I am loved

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