Dear Kate and Annabeth,
As women, it’s not a matter of if you will feel overwhelmed, but when. Men have the luxury of putting their stress aside in neat little compartments, but not us! Thoughts are constantly swirling inside our heads like a tornado, and while this can be a blessing for multitasking purposes, it can also cause us to feel a little crazy during stressful seasons. As a working mom, I know the feelings of overwhelm all too well… But as I grow in my relationship with the Lord, I have also gained some strategies that help me to shorten the time I stay in that place. So, without further ado, straight from the depths of midterm week grading, here are my tried-and-true best tips for what to do when you feel overwhelmed, in no specific order:
- Pause and breathe. Remind yourself of who you are, who God is, and who you are in Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10
- Acknowledge how you feel, and then state the truth of the situation. Often, our feelings lie to us, but Truth is unchanging. (This is where Scripture memory comes in really handy – Pick a few anchor verses to cling to in stressful times. Write them on index cards, until you memorize them.)
- Pray. Give your cares to God, and remind yourself He is in control. “Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
- Make a list. Do the first thing. And then the next, and the next. If the list seems too long, identify the top 3 most important “must do” items. Count it a success if you finish those things!
- Set a timer, work until it goes off, and then take a short break. I like the Pomodoro method – work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break, with a longer break every few “poms.”
- Be thankful. List your praises on paper or out loud. Rejoicing is a theme in Scripture. It’s very difficult for gratitude and anxiety to inhabit the same heart.
- Ask for help. Call a trusted friend… or better yet, your mom! 🙂
- Put it into perspective. It could always be worse – always. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five years?” I can’t remember where I heard it, but a great piece of advice when you feel very stressed is to remind yourself that it isn’t brain surgery (unless, of course, you are a brain surgeon – then, perhaps it is pretty important!). Other people’s demands may not get met on their desired timetable, but at the end of the day, many things we think are direly important are truly not, in the grand scheme of life.
- Put on your running shoes (or your dancing shoes) and some good music, and move! Outside in nature, if possible. Exercise is the best natural therapy – and it’s free! Hands down, running is my number one way to clear my mind and erase the stresses of the day.
- Take a timeout to care for yourself. Make a cup of tea. Call a friend to chat. Go window shopping. Play with a kid or pet. Watch a funny video. Paint your nails. Paint with watercolors. Doodle. Read a few pages in a good book. Laugh!
While it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time, if feelings of overwhelm are happening often, take a step back and ask yourself why. Maybe you need to take a good hard look at some of your life habits that need to be changed. I have been there, for sure, and while it’s not always easy to be honest with yourself, getting stress under control sooner rather than later is necessary for your health, and for the good of those around you. Trust me!
Finally, remember the power of your attitude. Positive thinking is a choice, and a joyful, peaceful attitude in any circumstance is a fruit of the Spirit. Stay close to Jesus, keep your head up, and you can make it through any valley! Remember that you come from a long line of strong women, and I believe in you!
To Overcoming and Thriving,