‘I can’t handle it any more’

What to do when you feel overwhelmed

A wave of dread came over me, I could feel my heart starting to beat faster, my stomach twisting.  I felt like I was drowning and could not breathe, a huge weight rested on my chest. Overpowered and unable to think clearly or logically. Overwhelmed by the thought of the day ahead of me.

Have you ever felt like that?  Totally overwhelmed, lost and in over your head?   Sometimes it can be a huge task ahead of you that fills you with terror and fear or maybe it is just the normal day to day activities that just become too much to handle.

When we feel overwhelmed, it is because we are looking into the future and guessing what those future experiences will be like and we believe that it will be more than what we can handle. It is an emotional response from not being able to see a way through the current situation or not being unable to see a solution to a problem.

Overwhelm can feel like drowning in stress, being crushed or buried by the weight of your responsibilities and the people who are relying on you or your never ending ‘to do’ list. Swamped like this, your spirit and joy for life is extinguished.

The feelings of ‘overwhelmed’ shows themselves in many ways, it is different for each of us. Overwhelm might result in anxiety, anger, irritability, worry, doubt, helplessness, crying, lashing out or panic attacks.

With so much pressure, expectations, and busyness on us in this modern world, it is not surprising that many of us experience feeling of overwhelm and are affected by our responses to it.

The answer to overwhelm is not to do more or to run away and hide.  But as Christians, we have a unique perspective to feelings of overwhelm, that is not to fight it but to surrender. It does not matter if you cannot handle any more, God can handle it all for you. 

‘From the end of the earth I will cry to you whenever my heart is overwhelmed. Place me on the rock that’s too high for me’.  Psalm 61:2.

When we surrender our feelings of overwhelm and surrender our desire to be in control to God and trust God to provide and protect us, He can lift us above our circumstances to give us a more accurate perspective.  When we have a God led perspective and peace, we are then in a position to face our problems, make good decisions and cope with what is going on.

From this higher viewpoint, we can distinguish between tasks of necessity and self inflicted overwhelm from perfectionism, unrealistic expectations and over packed schedules. God is interested in your day to day and wants to help guide you to life a life of joy and purpose.

Practical tools to help with overwhelm

  • Ask for and accept help from other people

You do not need to do everything on your own. Often people want to help they just do not know how or what to do.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but understanding your needs is a part of emotional strength and health.

  • Be kind to yourself and challenge overwhelm thoughts

Thoughts like ‘I will never be able to do that’, ‘it is too hard’, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I am useless’ are all unhelpful and unkind to yourself.  Be your own best friend and support yourself through positive words and encourage your best efforts.

  • Set boundaries on your time and workload

Saying NO is ok.  You don’t need to say yes to everything that is asked of you.  Set boundaries on your time and your energy to do the things that are important and also some fun things.

  • Action a few quick and easy items first

When you have a long list of things to do and you feel overwhelmed, choose one or two of the easiest and less time-consuming items to do them first and do it immediately.  By taking action and making a start you create momentum which will spur you on and motivate you to take action on the rest of your list.

‘The heart of God loves a persevering worshipper who, though overwhelmed by many troubles, is overwhelmed even more by the beauty of God’

Matt Redman

Are you the problem or the solution?

Take responsibility and find growth

Do you procrastinate and then get stressed when the pressure comes on? Or do you get angry with your kids because you are tired, but you are tired because you were up late watching Netflix? Or do you keep repeating the same mistake over and over, even though you know it is the wrong thing to do and has negative consequences?

How often do we struggle and face obstacles that were simply caused by our own behaviours or inaction or rebellious attitude?  It is easier to blame the world or everyone else, but to grow we need to take personal responsibilities for the difficulties we cause in our own lives.

Before I stopped drinking, I was a professional at creating drama and problems.  I did have a difficult childhood and struggles growing up but most of the pain and brokenness I experienced was not from other people’s actions but from my own.  I hurt people and caused problems through my drinking, through my out of control emotions and my self-destructive behaviour.  And I did blame everyone else. I blamed my parents, my siblings, genetics, my friends, the ‘system’, it was everyone else’s fault but mine. 

One of the scariest and the most liberating truths I faced in recovery was the realisation that I was responsible for it all.  I was responsible for the things I had done that hurt myself and others, I was responsible for the consequences of my behaviours and I was responsible for how I had responded to the actions of others. 

We are responsible for our actions and for own our lives, but we still mess up and do the wrong thing and, we also fail to do the right thing.  The challenge is to stand by the choices we make, without blaming others or making excuses but accepting accountability. 

To be able to change or to stop doing something that is hurtful or wrong can only come with admitting responsibility. Through acknowledgement and bringing your actions into the light, you can be empowered and strengthened by God to make changes and grow in your character.

Taking responsibility is not about judgement or guilt or shame or fault finding but facing truth and allowing growth.  God has given us the gift of forgiveness, but to be forgiven you must first acknowledge your wrong doing. By avoiding responsibility, you miss out on grace and the freedom that comes from God’s forgiveness and mercy.

   

‘Some people create their own stormsthen get upset when it rains’.

Unknown

LABEL WITH CARE

Drop the labels and know who you really are.

We love to organise things into categories and put labels on them.  It is our human nature, so we can more readily process information, make fast judgements, and communicate with each other.  The problem with putting labels on people is not the process of labelling itself, it is the connotation or the implication of the label which is the problem.  Labels are a mine field and can be destructive or empowering when applied correctly and honoured honestly.

Today I want to examine 3 types of labels we use commonly.  Firstly, negative labels we use on ourselves and we use to hurt or diminish others. Secondly positive labels, which might be true and might feel good, but do not bring us closer to our true identity or closer to God and finally, the labels God gives us, that give us a deeper understanding of our purpose and reveals more about the nature of God.

Negative labels

There are many labels we pick up through life, many of them given to us when we are children that stick into adulthood.  Bossy, chatterbox, messy, clumsy, chubby, immature, moody, ugly, nerd, loser, stupid, loner, teachers pet or freak, the list could go on and on.  Then as we age, we add our own interpretations and self-critical labels – selfish, divorced, lazy, useless, not good enough, fat, aggressive, angry, failure, needy, unlovable.  Then society puts its own labels and judgements on us based on our race, gender, financial status, career, education, attractiveness, body shape and religion.  

You can see it is a complicated mess. Negative labels do not help you know yourself more or bring you any closer to happiness, they keep you from your destiny and overtime there is the danger that the negative labels become so ingrained that we think they are true.  It is time to shake off those labels.

Positive labels

Common self help will tell you, to fix the problem of labelling you exchange your negative labels to positive labels.  You can use labels like happy, beautiful, excited, powerful, awesome, healthy, wealthy, successful, intelligent, confident, independent. 

These labels on the surface seem better than the negative labels and they will make you feel good.  They might be true about you and empowering, but as Christians I think it is important that we do not use these labels alone to find our identity or our confidence.  We need to be careful as there is a danger that positive labels are self-serving and not stable.  There will be times when you are not happy or healthy or confident and if your security and self-esteem is tied up with that label your very identity can be shaken.  I used to find my confidence and personal worth in the label of ‘productive’ but there came a time when I had a medical issue that meant I could not work for several months. It hit me hard as I felt worthless, useless and of no value as I could not be ‘productive’.  Although productive seemed like a positive label it shattered me when my life changed, and I could not be productive. Who was I if I was not productive?

Positive labels can be used to encourage and inspire and drive us, but we should not rely on them for our identity or value or confidence.

The labels of God

God created you, He knows you more intimately than you know yourself.  He knows your future, your purpose, your strengths, and weaknesses.  There is no one better suited to tell you what your labels are.  This is what God labels you as..

Forgiven       (Colossians 2:13-14)

Conqueror (Romans 8:37)

Capable (Philippians 4:13)

Valuable (1 Corinthians 6:20)

LOVED (Colossians 3:12)

Chosen (Ephesians 1:4)

Strong (Philippians 4:13)

A Masterpiece  (Ephesians 2:10)

A Child of God (John 1:12)

The labels God put on us, give us security, identity, esteem, freedom and purpose.  They are consistent, never changing, not dependant on our performance and come from love.   These are the labels we can embrace and cling to, these labels are not self-made or created by society but come from the Father and His love for us.

“The enemy will try to label you with everything you’ve done wrong. But God labels you forgiven, redeemed & restored”. 

Joel Osteen

Abandon shame, live free.

Shame and guilt are words that we use to mean the same thing. But they are vastly different, and they are emotions which have quite different outcomes.  One is helpful and leads to an improved life and the other is destructive, breaks relationships and causes pain.

When I first became a Christian, I understood the concept of forgiveness, that through Jesus I was totally forgiven. But even though I knew I was forgiven I was very much still lost in the shame of my past.

In my past, as an alcoholic and as a broken girl, I had done many terrible things and hurt many people. Although there was guilt associated with those behaviours, I had morphed my guilt into shame and self-hatred.

Guilt is a normal and helpful feeling when we have done something wrong.  Guilt is the prod from our conscience telling us to correct our error and take action to repair a situation.  Guilt is related to a specific behaviour or situation, i.e. ‘I did something wrong’

Shame however is a negative judgement about yourself because of that behaviour, i.e. ‘I AM wrong because I did that’.  Shame made me feel powerless and worthless.  As a result, I withdrew from people, never let my walls down, was mistrusting of people’s motives and felt in danger of being exposed as a faulty. I felt inadequate and ‘wrong’.

Living with shame is living as a captive, unable to be free or to live life as God intended for us.  God does not want us living in shame. Jesus came to set the captive free and allow us to live unashamed and bold. Guilt can give us control and responsibility over our behaviour, but shame is passive and helpless. 

Jesus met with many people on the margins of society. He never was ashamed of them nor did he shamed them, but through love and truth, he showed them their guilt and empowered them to change.  In Romans 10:11 we are promised that anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

Shame makes us want to hide in darkness, but Jesus is the light and there is no shame in the light. To conquer my shame, I stopped hiding and stepped into the light.  I challenged the inner voice in my mind and separated the feelings of guilt and the shame-based self-criticism. 

I learnt to forgive myself and let go of my past.  Shame holds on to every mistake or wrongdoing as proof of worthlessness, but the grace of God is forgiveness and mercy, there is no need to hold on anymore. Learn to forgive yourself.  Do not reject the gift of forgiveness, if God can forgive you, YOU can forgive you. 

Make a stand against shame, it has no place in a Christians life. It will only hold you down and prevent you moving forward. Jesus has broken shame and its hold over you, so let it go.

“SHAME says because I am flawed, I am unacceptable BUT GRACE says though I am flawed, I am CHERISHED!”

Anonymous

What do you see in the mirror?

On my dressing table I have a small standalone mirror. It has lights around the edges and one side is a normal mirror and the other side is a magnifying mirror.  The normal side is good, the lights make it easier to put on my makeup but if by mistake I flip it over and catch a glimpse at my magnified image, it is shocking. Every bump, spot or wrinkle is enlarged and amplified. When I first discovered the magnified side of the mirror, I started obsessing about all my ‘flaws’ on my face and wondering how to fix them.  Until I realised that no one ever looks at my face that closely or with a magnifying glass and those ‘flaws’ were nothing more than normal skin and normal aging.  The magnification gave me an altered reality. It is true in life as well, what we focus on and magnify in our minds can become more significant to us whether it is real or not. 

When you look in the mirror or think about your character and who you are as a person, do you focus only on your faults and what needs to be ‘fixed’ or can you see your beauty and all the amazing qualities you have.

A mirror can only reflect what is standing in front of it. We interpret the image and make conclusions and judgements about what we see.  A mirror does not say you are ugly or worthless, you tell yourself that.  Neither does the mirror tell you that you are acceptable and confident; your personality will reflect that inner belief.

Holding up a magnifying glass can make you see flaws that are not even there or make you obsess and have an unhealthy fixation on yourself.  Spending too much time and energy focused on yourself and judging yourself harshly is unproductive and destroys self-esteem. It leads you away from freedom and from being who God created you to be and away from your purpose.  Rather learn to see yourself as God sees you, a work in progress but loved and accepted.

“Every time you look in the mirror remember that God created you and that everything He creates is beautiful and good!”

Joyce Meyer

Until next week…

Remember in the ‘old’ days when you watched your favourite TV program and then had to wait a whole week for the next episode, it was torture.  But the anticipation and the discussions and dissection of the episode with friends was the highlight of the week and when the following week rolled around, it was as exciting as Christmas morning as the familiar theme song played once again.

The introduction of ‘on demand’ entertainment has changed all this.  I am not opposed to streaming at all, in fact I am a big fan and love the access to such a huge and wide range of options but when I explain to my kids about the ‘old’ days of TV and watching one episode per week they look back at me blankly and  I wonder if they are missing out on a valuable experience.

With such a over indulgent culture when entertainment is endless, we have food delivered to the door and at a click of the mouse we can order just about anything and it will arrive in the few days are we becoming immune to the blessing of waiting.

When we think about waiting and patience it is often in terms of struggle or pain or disappointment.  We do not want to wait for the things we want or need, we want action, we want results. However, we forget about the other side of waiting, the excitement building, anticipation, suspense, expectancy, hope, butterflies in your stomach. Even waiting can be a wonderful experience when looked at with different eyes.

The Bible is filled with people waiting. Abraham waited for a child, Jacob waited for Rachel, Moses waited in the wilderness, David waited to be King, the Disciples waited for the Holy Spirit and even Jesus waited for the right time to start his mission. So why do we get so impatient and think we should not have to wait too?

Waiting is a fact of life; we all experience it.  In your future you will have to wait, you will wait for things to happen, for other people, for traffic and appointments, for God to answer prayers and for time to pass.  But we all get a choice on how we spend that waiting time. Use your waiting time to be joyful, to be excited about what comes next, to be a blessing to others who might be waiting with you, to connect with God for strength and wisdom when it gets tough, appreciate the present moment and be grateful. 

“Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Joyce Meyer

The Pain of Unanswered Prayers

In January this year I was sitting in the caravan at Waihi Beach and I felt that familiar tingle in my elbow. I recognised the feeling as I had had a major issue a few years early with my ‘funny bone’.  Your funny bone is not a bone but the ulna nerve that runs through the elbow and there is nothing funny about it when it goes wrong.  Please God NO!

A few years early I had lost about a year of my life from pain and weakness in my arms because of the compression of the ulna nerves in both my elbows.  I had spent that time in agony with nerve pain which could not be control with medication, visiting doctors, specialists, physio and therapists, trying splints and braces and then finally had surgery on my right elbow and then six weeks later surgery on my left elbow, followed another 6 months of recovery gaining the strength and function back.  During this ordeal, I prayed, I cried, and begged for God to intercede for me. “Please God heal me or at least give me comfort or relief, even just a little bit”. 

I asked everyone I knew to pray for me, also people I did not know were praying for me on behalf of my friends who I had asked for help, but there was no answer to our prayers.  It was a physically challenging year, but the impact on my faith and my trust in God was significant also.  Why had God left me to suffer, had He forgotten about me?  I believed that God had a plan for me, plans for good, for a hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), that verse had been my theme song.  God had rescued me from addiction and total brokenness and now it seemed He had forgotten me. What had I done to deserve this? 

It is almost impossible to see the blessings in the trials at the time and looking back in hindsight, I learnt so much and realised how much I do trust God.  Despite everything I went through and what seemed like a lack of response or lack of answer to prayer, I still believed God loved me and was on my side, I just did not understand the path He had taken me on. I did gain a sort of peace with what I had gone through that year looking back and after coming out the other side. I thought I knew what it was all about, I thought I understood the lessons God wanted me to learn, that he was preparing me for the next part of my purpose in stepping up and writing my books.  What I was not prepared for was doing it all over again.

So, January this year when I felt the tingle, I was scared. I had had an incredible previous 18 months with writing my books and speaking, so many opportunities and response to my story. I was excited about where God was taking me next, I was on a mission for God to share my testimony of His love and faithfulness, serving Him and devoting my career in His service but then the pain started.  A little at first and then more and more until again it was unbearable. Once again I found myself on the couch unable to work, on pain killers which made me exhausted all the time, with a right arm that felt like it was getting electric shocks every time I moved. To say I was angry at God was an understatement.  I had been serving Him, following my purpose, working hard and faithfully.  I was helping people and encouraging them, but I was pretending as I was devastated and disillusioned in my heart by this turn of events.  This time I knew what lay ahead of me and I could not believe I had to face it all again. Why God? Was I not doing enough for you? Was I being punished for some sin? Was this the end of my purpose?  My confidence and self-esteem dived, and a deep depression set in.  I wanted to give up, why fight this time? I had picked myself up before and it had been a tough road, and I did not know if I could do it again. 

Initially I did not pray again. I had been disappointed last time as I hung all my hopes on God answering my prayers for healing, so my heart resisted opening again to that disappointment. As my health worsened my desperation grew and I did start to pray. Maybe God did not answer my prayers last time because I did not believe enough or maybe this time would be different.  But no, I did not get the healing I thought I deserved because of my prayers and faithful service. 

I did have to walk the same path again, through specialists, physios and ultimately surgery again. A much more significant surgery with a more difficult recovery.  Also, I had Covid to content with too, my surgery had been scheduled for 2 days before we went into lock down as a country. When the surgeon called suggesting my operation might be cancelled, that is when I fell to my knees in absolute humility before the creator of the universe. “God please grant my prayer, I cannot face anymore, let my surgery go ahead despite the world crisis”.  That prayer God answered, I was the last elective surgery slot before the country went into lock down and recovered on the couch with my family there to support and care for me.

The journey was awful, no glossing over how bad it was. I would never do it by choice and I do not want to repeat it. I can try to guess all the reasons God let me go on that journey and why He did not answer my prayers or at least in the ways I expected, but I will never really know.  I can ask why over and over and never get the answer that I want. I will never understand the eternal impact or see the larger picture for my life or the significance that period of ill health will have on my life and on others who went through it with me. What I do know is, I survived. I am stronger and braver than ever, and I trust that God is faithful, and that God does love me. Jeremiah 29:11 is just as true in the good times as it is true in the middle of heartache and the trials of life. God will make good come out of our suffering, there are always gems amongst the dirt.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

Jeremiah 29:11

Do you know how much you are loved?

Recently I went to a funeral of a very dear friend. She was a kind and caring person, who would help anyone, but she struggled with low self-esteem and confidence and she found it difficult to accept that she was loved by her friends and family or by God.

As I sat in her funeral listening to the people who loved her dearly, speak about the incredible sense of loss they felt, I just wished she could have understood how much she was loved. The room was overflowing with people who were all impacted by her life and by her passing. 

Had she been there sitting next to me, seeing what I was seeing and hearing the words of speakers, reading the messages of condolences and the tributes, I think she would have been overwhelmed. So many people loved her, and God loves her even more. I wish she had understood that when she was alive.

But do any of us really know and accept how much we are loved? 

Do we live our lives every day knowing deep down in our hearts that we are loved, accepted, and cherished by our family and friends? 

Do we really understand how much God loves us?

Our lives have the potential to be quite different if we can totally comprehend this love. If you knew you were loved unconditionally and completely, would you be fearful?  Would you feel insecure and unworthy? Would you be broken?  Would you feel alone or abandoned?  No. When we understand how much we are loved, we are confident, brave, courageous, loving, selfless, joyful, and strong.

Human love can be messy and complicated, but God’s love is not.  God is love. God’s love for us is complete, merciful, and perfect.  I love the song, ‘Reckless Love’ by Cory Asbury.  The chorus captures this picture of the love of God so well. 

The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

God’s love is reckless. He gave it all for us. He chases us and fights for us, we do not deserve it and we can never do enough to earn it, but He gives us freedom, healing, and salvation through Jesus.  Jesus – the ultimate gift of love.

Know this, let it sink into your spirit and every cell of your body and mind.  You are loved and you are cherished by God. He wants to know you. He wants to cover you with love. He wants you to understand and feels His love and then live your life bathed in His love, serving and loving others.

Failure is not fatal

Stop letting your fear of a failure hold you back

For many people, the ‘fear of failure’ is the number one reason for not stepping out or creating something new or trying something they have never done before or to pursue a dream.  The fear of failure can stop more people than the fear of the actual activity.  It is not so much the jumping out of the plane that is terrifies us but the fear of the parachute failing. 

What if you have already tried and tried again? It is even scarier to try once more after you have already ‘failed’. 

The problem is not the fear of failure or the failure itself, but our concept of what failure is.  Failure is simply when something we did, does not meet our expectations.  The problem is not in the failure but in our expectations.

Life lesson – things will usually NOT go as planned or turn out as you expect, that is ok.  As soon as you accept this and adjust your expectations the sooner your concept of failure will adapt.  Failure is just information collection.  You tried, it did not work out as expected, what can you learn?

I have learnt that what I expect to happen and what I think success is, is often at odds to what God has planned for me and God’s plan is always so much better than what I could have thought of.

I might feel like it was a failure and I feel disappointed and discouraged, but God had planned for me to learn and grow.  Through my ‘failures’ I have learnt perseverance, patience, grit, obedience, courage, determination, joy and humour. My faith, confidence and trust in God has strengthened and my knowledge of myself and my purpose is stronger.  I gain more from a failure than a success. 

Reduce the fear of failure by reducing your perception of the risk. For most things we do, the risk is not as high as we think. We might risk some discomfort, some inconvenience, or some embarrassment, but what we will gain in personal growth, character development and drawing closer to God is invaluable.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill

Bad Hair Day?

Is your confidence dependent on your appearance?

Yesterday I saw an advert on Facebook it went something like this, are you shy or depressed, do you feel bad about yourself and unhappy with your life, do you want to be happy and have confidence and have an amazing fun life?  Then click here…

The answer to all these problems according to this advert was weight loss. If you use their product to lose weight you will be confident and happy.

I have a big problem with this.  Firstly, the assumption that if you are overweight you must be depressed, unhappy, timid and have a miserable life.  Secondly, that looking good and slim will make you confident. 

We are bombarded with messages that tell us we cannot be confident unless we look a certain way and if we don’t, we should be ashamed and disappointed. To feel confident, you must be (or appear to be) young, slim and beautiful.  Therefore, the reason you are unhappy or shy is your appearance, so change it.  

The answer we are told is to buy this weight loss product, or shapewear or contouring makeup or creams and serums or jeans that suck your tummy in or have plastic surgery. All this is driven by a multimillion-dollar industry, who profit from making you feel insecure and ashamed.

There is nothing wrong with looking after your body, your health and losing weight is you need to. Nor is there anything wrong with dressing nicely or getting your hair done or taking care of your skin. The problem is in where are you getting your confidence from and the damaging lies that you are believing.  Why can’t you be confident, assertive and capable just the way you are now?  Does your confidence come from what you look like or from who you are as a person? 

Recently I watched a plastic surgery program about a woman who had a nose job that did not go as she expected and she thought she had been botched. To me it looked fine and I would not have even noticed it if it had not been pointed out in the TV program.  She was so embarrassed about her ‘ugly’ nose she did not go out, never took her kids to the park and never went out to dinner with her husband. She was convinced everyone was staring at her ‘deformed’ nose.  Her confidence and self esteem was destroyed.  In the show her nose was ‘fixed’ and of course she was happy again, but the episode left me feeling disillusioned. How sad it was that this woman’s whole self-worth was tied up in her appearance and without a ‘perfect’ nose she felt useless, ashamed and not worthy of enjoying her life. Her nose is only a fraction of her physical body and no part of her character and personality, yet carried ALL the weight of her confidence. 

She is not alone or unusual, many of us focus on one small area of our appearance and let it control how we feel about ourselves.  How we feel about ourselves influences our careers, our relationships, our choices, our happiness and our future. Our body parts do not determine our value. My jiggly tummy just makes me a person with jiggly tummy not a bad person unworthy of love or a good life. 

Be critical of the messages you encounter through the media, social media and in advertising. Know your worth and your value is not from your appearance but from God who loves you and deems you worthy.  Focus more on your character and being a better person than on your outside appearance and you will be truly confident and happier. 

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7