Ponder This If You Are Feeling Overwhelmed
Stress on steroids – that’s what feeling overwhelmed is like.
In the Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown describes feeling overwhelmed this way:
“If stress is being in the weeds, feeling overwhelmed is like being blown (a term from her waitress days to express that she was beyond her edge). Overwhelmed means an extreme level of stress, an emotional and/or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function.”
Did you catch that? To the point of feeling unable to function! Leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, and the like thrive on functioning at a very high level. They go, go, go until they can’t!
Ordinarily, I love Mondays – a brand-new week brimming with potential. I intentionally keep Mondays appointment free so that I’m able to work uninterrupted on administrative tasks letting me focus on my clients the rest of the week.
Monday started out well! Time with God, a sweet workout, and a productive morning. And then…it shifted.
My husband brought home my new activated phone, making my old phone useless. Long story short, it took me the rest of the day to transfer the important stuff on the old phone to the new one. And of course, there were some complications. A very unexpected hiccup in my day!
Figuring out a mysterious tech problem in the midst of a packed week felt very overwhelming – beyond what I was capable of handling.
Feeling Overwhelmed Is Like This…
My treadmill and I had enjoyed countless sweaty hours together: mornings when it was still too dark to be out and walking on narrow roads, rainy days, freezing days (yes, I am a wimp!) or when my time was significantly limited. I would play my favorite tunes and happily tackle my cardio on my beloved treadmill.
About 15 years into our relationship, my treadmill began to play some rude tricks on me. I would be walking or running with gusto and suddenly the treadmill would speed up to an impossible pace and then shut off. It was terrifying!
After recovering from the shock and a few restarts, my treadmill would once again cooperate – we had an understanding.
These little sudden bursts began to get more and more frequent, and I confess my feelings for my beloved treadmill waned. Just in case you need a visual…it was a lot like this.
In the midst of my battle with my treadmill, we moved, and apparently my treadmill was unhappy about the change. It did not survive the move. RIP.
That sudden, wild, out of control feeling that my treadmill treated me to is similar to the feeling I have when I get overwhelmed. Everything seems to be happening at once, too fast, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Do you relate?
Choices That Help
When I’m overwhelmed, everything feels out of control and it seems like I can’t do anything to change it.
The truth is that I do have choices – not always easy choices, but I do have choices that enable me to guard against overwhelm long before it sets in! Here are a few examples:
- Intentionally mono-tasking
- Eliminating email and social notifications on my computer and phone
- Blocking out times for specific tasks
- Mindsets based in Truth
- Knowing your limits & saying “No” to additional responsibilities
- Maintaining margin and boundaries
When you don’t make those preventative choices, overwhelm ensues.
If you’re like many of the people I talk to, you are exhausted, frustrated, anxious, and experiencing very little peace or joy in your life. Rather than sudden overwhelmed moments like the one I described above, you constantly feel overwhelmed. Pretty soon it’s difficult to recognize feeling that way isn’t normal because you have been living that way for so long.
This Might Surprise You!
To escape overwhelm, you’ve got to get ridiculously honest with yourself about the motivation behind your choices and how you’re responding to the sudden surprises that come your way.
The more I try to manage life and work on my own the more vulnerable I am to feeling overwhelmed.
In other words, when I think of myself too highly (pride) then before you know it, I’m overwhelmed! Ouch!
Too often I over estimate my capacity and capabilities! Ugh!
When I’m proud, I don’t need God. I think I’m capable enough without His help. However, as if pride goes unchecked, it leads straight to burn out, health issues, anxiety, fractured relationships, and more.
I don’t like to think of myself as proud.
Recently, I read a couple of familiar scriptures and here’s what jumped out to me.
Search me, O God, and know my heart [my motivation]; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) (emphasis and text in brackets are mine)
Even if I don’t want to admit I’m prone to being proud, God knows the truth. Perhaps feeling overwhelmed is just His gentle and loving way of letting me know I’m not relying on Him.
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2 (NLT)
Pride’s path is never positive. It leads to falling on your face like my treadmill adventures!
Humbly admitting I need God’s help – that’s the true positive path! So counterintuitive, right?
If choosing humility is a powerful antidote to feeling overwhelmed, I want that! Here are some simple steps in that direction to help safeguard you from overwhelm:
1. Seek Him First
It makes me sad that so many Christians neglect spending time with God. I imagine Him eagerly anticipating the chance to connect with you only to be stood up again. I know that if others regularly stood me up, I’d write them off. Thankfully God doesn’t do that. He still longs to spend time with you.
Funny thing, God doesn’t need us, but we desperately need Him! It’s in His presence we have the chance to lay our troubles and concerns at His feet. We are reminded again of His incredible love for us; It’s where He speaks to us – shares His wisdom, insights, and direction with us that make life and work easier IF we are willing to take the time to listen. He knows exactly what we need!
When we put God first, we take a giant step towards humility.
Clutter is distracting – physical clutter, mental clutter, and your many commitments!
It takes humility to remove the extras from your life – all that is not in alignment with what He has for you in this season. You might be surprised by the devious ways pride has tricked you into taking on too much and how your full schedule has fooled you into thinking you don’t have time to de-clutter and get organized.
With order, overwhelm diminishes.
3. Work on Balance
I know that many people feel like work/life balance is a silly concept, but what I like about it is that it captures the very real tension that’s there. Balancing is a moment-by-moment adventure.
Maintaining a healthy “balance” takes being intentional. And a few skills like…
- Establishing a sustainable rhythm
- Setting and maintaining boundaries
- Knowing and living from your values
- Saying “No”
- Being able to relax
- Trusting God
It’s humbling to admit you are dependent on Him, but balance occurs when you do your part and you allow God to do the rest!
4. Get Help
Asking for help is humbling and very freeing! The more you do it, the easier it gets!
I encourage you to delegate more often. Not only will they grow and develop in the process, so will you!
Hire help – a virtual assistant, new team members, etc. It might pinch initially, but in the long run it will positively impact you and your team/organization!
Work with a coach – a coach is able to help you make powerful changes in your thinking, create new strategies, spot where you are working against yourself, and give you a safe place to process which goes a long way towards decreasing your feelings of being overwhelmed.
5. Serve Others
At the heart of humility is putting the interests of others ahead of your own. So skip the striving and begin seeking out ways to love and bless others.
Reflecting is a remarkably beneficial practice for leaders, professionals, or entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons. And don’t overlook the opportunity to pondering questions like this:
How do humble…
- Leaders manage their team and go about their work and life?
- Professionals operate in the work place and at home?
- Business owners market their business, manage their day to day, oversee their employees, and conduct their personal life?
- People do work and life?
What you explore your life and work through the lens of humility, what changes?
My week commenced with me feeling seriously overwhelmed. I’m not going to lie – my week felt impossible. Yet over and over again, I’ve experienced an interesting phenomenon. When I relax, admit I’m incapable of navigating life on my own, and seek God’s help He shows up.
A few days later, my schedule suddenly shifted and several things were postponed freeing up my week in the most delightful way! Nothing I made happen, but I’m certain He arranged those changes. Not only that, He knew long before I did that those changes were coming and that I didn’t need to be anxious or overwhelmed by getting my phone in working order.
Feeling overwhelmed? How might pride be contributing to your feelings?
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