What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?
Not what do you think you should do, but what do you actually do?
Last week was Spring Break in our area so we took the week off to rest, relax and play. Over the weekend I spoke at a conference. Last week’s rest and the weekend’s agenda means this week lots of extra work needs tending. Around 5pm Sunday evening a weighty, overwhelmed feeling suddenly smothered any last-ditch at Sunday solace and I became that girl.
You know her. She’s the girl who stands mindlessly with the refrigerator door open, picking her way through stale leftovers in hopes of numbing the certainty of the inevitable. Fortunately, I snapped back into reality before I lapsed into a sugar coma.
But the feeling of being overwhelmed still lingered.
Left to our own devices, women who feel overwhelmed are prone to eat, sleep, shop, or cry. They can spend hours on Facebook or Pinterest. Sometimes they even do something mildly productive—like throw in a load of laundry or return emails. These things give the illusion of productivity—they take time and effort, after all—but in truth, they’re just temporary strategies for avoiding issues or tasks that make us overwhelmed.
An overloaded life makes an overwhelmed woman.
Today I flipped open my Bible and stumbled upon a verse I’d underlined years ago: “When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” (Psalm 142:3)
It’s funny how we sometimes forget to ask God “what should I do? You know the best course of action.”
And lest you think God won’t respond to your inquiry; He already has.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
Nine times out of ten, feeling overwhelmed stems from stewing about tomorrow rather than living in today. This was my problem Sunday night. And it wasn’t the first time. When the kids were younger I used to tell JP “I sometimes feel like I’m living five lives – mine, yours and the kids”. I’m no scientist, but I’ll bet more women struggle with the feeling of being overwhelmed than men. The ability to multitask makes us more prone to feel this way.
But it’s not healthy.
And not just because we might end up mindlessly eating our way into oblivion.
When I live in tomorrow in my mind, I end up overwhelmed because I can’t live tomorrow until, well….tomorrow. I can’t actually do anything about the concerns that occupy my brain space. It’s a no-win scenario.
You’d think this would be obvious, but if it were, Jesus wouldn’t have addressed it. I love how practical Jesus makes life! In essence, worry over tomorrow indicates a lack of faith in God’s provision today. I might be overwhelmed at times, but God is not.
So what do we do when we feel overwhelmed? Here are five easy steps to take when you feel overwhelmed:
- Stop and acknowledge the feeling. Ask “What exactly is making me feel overwhelmed?” (Could be your schedule, a tough conversation or issue you’ve been avoiding, a decision you’ve been putting off, clutter in your home, no margin in your day.) Name the problem.
- Pray, remembering “When I am overwhelmed You, Lord, know the way I should turn.”
- Start. Yep. Just start. Do one practical thing to address the root of the issue.
- If you’re too paralyzed to start, ask a friend or family member to help. Sometimes we all need a little extra help to get us going.
- Read Jesus’ advice in Matthew 6:25-34 for perspective and comfort. You’ll love this!
All of us feel overwhelmed at times. We just do. But we don’t have to stay that way. With God’s help we can overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed.