She was about thirty years old, and with one baby on her hip and two toddlers in her buggy, this impressive young woman navigated Walmart like a champ. I admired her as she single-handedly swept granola bars and cereal into the vacant space between her buggy-riding older children while, at the same time, plucking from the baby perched on her hip any contraband he had scooped off the shelves.
In my appreciation for child-rearing’s struggle and joy, I said to her, “You have your hands full. And you’re doing a wonderful job!”
Her face lit up, and with tears coming to the surface, she said, “Thank you. I feel overwhelmed most of the time and never really feel like I’m doing enough.” She quickly wrestled a half-chewed box of KD from the passenger on her hip, and with a knowing smile, we said our goodbyes.
It’s how it is, isn’t it? We’re pulled and torn. And we often find ourselves squarely under the weight of the many things vying for our attention.
Defined, overwhelm means to drown or be buried beneath a huge mass. Another definition simply says that to feel overwhelmed means there is too much to deal with. (dictionary.com)
I recently asked some of my clients about their experiences with overwhelm. And, given everything we carry, all the pressures we’re under, and the ripple effect of societal challenges and global upset, I wasn’t surprised to find that eight out of ten women I work with admit to frequent feelings of overwhelm.
In these important conversations, women shared that feeling overwhelmed has led to increased anxiety and depression, sleep-related issues, self-esteem struggles, irritability, and loneliness.
Maybe you can relate. And maybe you, too, find yourself with too much to deal with. Maybe you’re wrestling with feeling torn and pulled. Having too few hours in the day. Too many demands. And maybe, like my new friend in Walmart, you are juggling all kinds of things and never really feel like you’re doing enough.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, can I share some supportive suggestions from the therapeutic
- Try to identify the main source of stress – or pinpoint the primary source of overwhelm. What one or two things contribute to the majority of your stress? You may not be able to eliminate these things, but identifying them may help with organizing your next steps in addressing the overwhelm.
- Decide on boundaries on your energy and time. Somewhere along the way, we have learned that saying yes is good and saying no is bad. But every yes is also a no. In the overwhelm, we can usually find places for some healthy boundaries as a way to relieve some of the stress. Every boundary that protects our time and energy helps us focus on the things God has for us.
- Challenge perfectionism. Brene Brown reminds us that perfectionism is a direct route to burnout, anxiety, and disingenuous living. She says, “Perfectionism hampers success. It’s the path to anxiety, depression, addiction and life paralysis.” If you’re a person who has self-identified as a perfectionist, I want you to know my hand is in the air, too. It’s been an area I’ve needed to work on. Brene also tells us that “good enough is good enough.” This might make you twitch a bit – it has me. But the truth is, when we scroll through the list of things vying for our attention and energy, it makes sense to triage the list. We can’t give one hundred percent to every item. And that’s okay.
- Most importantly, grab hold of an eternal perspective and remember you’re not alone. The Bible tells us we have a Friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). A Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3), a Protector, a Deliverer (Psalm 34:18) and a Burden Bearer (Psalm 68:19). In our seasons of overwhelm, God is close. He’s ready to carry our struggles. While He may not jump in and take the kids to school, turn in that project at work, or host the dinner party, He does indeed offer an ear and a compassionate heart as we navigate our responsibilities.
So today, if you’re part of the eighty percent of us who struggle with seasons of overwhelm, can I encourage you? You don’t need to carry it all on our own. Your burdens are seen and known by God. He is standing by, ready to carry the emotional weight of the overwhelm.
And He loves it when His children bring their worries and burdens to Him. And I’m over here cheering for you, praying for you, and travelling with you to His feet. May you fully know His freedom in this season.