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