I’ll be the first to admit that I take on more than I can (or should) handle. Feeling Overwhelmed? I know that I’ve experienced the physical and emotional toll that feeling overwhelmed can take. Procrastination. Self doubt. Low motivation. Decreased energy. Frustration. Do you ever feel this way? In today’s culture of perpetual busyness, feeling overwhelmed can turn into a general state of being. We wake up each day with many things on our mental “to do” list, usually with more things on that list than can be mentally or physically possible. We have multiple demands at work, school and at home. We take on more responsibilities in our communities or at our churches. And, lest we forget…we even try to “pack in” all those leisure and “good for you” activities like bowling or Bible study or exercise or choir or time with friends or…(you get the point). The fact is, sometimes it’s all too much!
Now, don’t misunderstand me. We have the best intentions when we take on too much. We want to do well at work or at school. We want to have healthy and happy homes. We want to help others and take part in activities that are important. And, we want to enjoy recreational and enjoyable past-times. It’s just that when we try to do too much we can feel overwhelmed. It’s as if our best intentions backfire on us. We need balance and margin in our lives to breathe. In the midst of all of our busyness we need some space just to “be.” The question that I often ask myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed is “how can I strike that fine balance between being busy and just “being?”
There are many ways to positively approach this feeling of being overwhelmed. As I pondered this problem, it struck me that there are 4 Key Strategies to overcoming feeling overwhelmed. Ironically, when I listed them, they spelled out the acronym of PTSD, which typically refers to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder! Thankfully however, today’s PTSD acronym is more positive and proactive: Partialization, Time Management, Self-Care, and Discernment. So, when feeling overwhelmed, try some PTSD! Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
P = Partialization. This is “good ‘ole” social work terminology that means exactly what it says. When we feel overwhelmed we often believe that the task or project at hand is much more than we can tackle. You may have been assigned a difficult and/or complicated project at work or at school, with a deadline for completion far sooner than you think is possible. You may be thinking about downsizing and moving into a smaller home but can’t even fathom putting your house on the market because of all the rooms in your present home that are filled with clutter and “stuff.” You may have a wish to learn a new language so that you can take that trip of a lifetime to that foreign country and talk with the locals…but learning a new language feels like it’s “all too much.” Partialization can be your friend in situations like this. Instead of focusing on the enormity of that project or assignment, begin by breaking the overall task down into manageable bite size pieces. Focus on each manageable piece and, one by one, they will be accomplished. Each piece connects to the previous piece, and with persistence and focus on the bite size pieces, you will be able to meet your larger goal…with less stress in the process!
T = Time Management. It’s a fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. And it’s a fact that we only have so much energy each day (which varies from person to person). So, use your time wisely. When we feel overwhelmed we may believe that we don’t have enough time to “get it all done.” If you take control of your time, instead of your time taking control of you, you’ll have a greater chance to reach your goals. We often waste time (called procrastination) when we feel overwhelmed. When looking at time management, just like partialization, focus on those smaller amounts of available time. If you have a project that will take you a month to complete, divide that time into the number of days you can devote to that project. From there look at the number of minutes or hours you can devote to each of those days that you are working on the project. Set a realistic time limit to work on your project and then devote only that amount of time to it. Use an egg timer or a stop watch if you need to, to signal when “time’s up” for that particular session. Don’t try to go past that time frame, as you may be setting yourself up for defeat. Make those designated time periods focused and intentional. Reward yourself for a job well done each time that buzzer goes off. Well done, my friend!
S = Self-Care. Often times, when we are feeling overwhelmed we push ourselves to the point of mental and/or physical exhaustion. We just “need” to get things done “now” or else. When we are feeling overwhelmed we either believe the solution is just trying harder…or just giving up, instead of sitting back and reflecting on the situation from a healthy perspective. This is where self-care comes into play. Do you remember the statement about time management and having only a finite amount of energy? Well, those energy reserves that so easily are depleted need to be renewed. And, my friends, you are responsible for renewing that energy. Therefore, self-care is vitally important in overcoming feeling overwhelmed. Self-care can take on many forms, such as: proper rest, good hydration, and exercise. Other self-care skills can include the use of breathing techniques, for example see my video on 4:8 Breathing. For those of you whose faith is important, prayer is helpful in self-care. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NIV).
D = Discernment. Many people who feel overwhelmed can’t say no. When asked to take on a project they say yes. When asked to volunteer their time they say yes. When asked to take on added responsibility they say yes. These are good, kind-hearted people who, for whatever reason, have difficulty saying no. When we say yes to too many things we can feel overwhelmed. The important factor in all of this is discernment. When is it right to say yes? When is it right to say no? Sometimes we say yes because we can’t figure out how to say no without hurting someone’s feelings or perhaps feeling that saying no will make them think badly of us. We have difficulty making these decisions. We have difficulty setting healthy boundaries. But, it’s important to do both…to make decisions and to set healthy boundaries. By doing so, we will decrease stress that can result in feeling overwhelmed. I’d like to recommend more reading on this subject by a talented Christian author named Lysa TerKeurst. She is a New York Times bestselling author and has penned a book that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading (no affiliate link involved) called The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.
Feeling Overwhelmed doesn’t need to be a perpetual state of being. There are tools and strategies to help you decrease your stress, achieve more balance, and find more peace and contentment in your life. When you are feeling overwhelmed, I invite you to try the 4 Key Strategies of PTSD. You’ll be glad you did.