When I was a boy in Southern California, we would go to Huntington Beach. It was awesome. Except when a humongous wave would suck you up and body slam you to the sand. A 75-pound kid can put up little resistance to the power of the Pacific.
That’s Overwhelm. When you feel overmatched, out-of-control, drowning in a sea of challenges.
I’m an upbeat guy. I nurture my emotional health. But when I least expect it, pow! Life knocks me off my feet and face-plants me into the ocean floor.
You’ve been there. Perhaps you are there now. I’ve been there a lot since launching my coaching practice. The following is my own path to emerging from Overwhelm. I hope this handful of humble suggestions helps you (or someone you love) find your footing
Don’t Beat Yourself Up.
Everyone gets overwhelmed at times. We’re all vulnerable to illness, accidents, and unexpected expenses. You are human and as such, you are vulnerable.
The comment, “That’s a first world problem” may be true, but it isn’t always helpful. When you get out of work late and find yourself stuck in traffic with a dead cell phone — and your kid is waiting alone outside in the dark — it’s real. Don’t dismiss the stressors that lead to Overwhelm.
Don’t Sabotage Your Situation.
We all have ways of coping, but some work better than others. When you’re feeling buried by life, watch out for eating, drinking, or spending too much. Watch out for coping strategies that make bad situations worse.
Say a Quick Prayer.
The beauty of prayer is that it’s always available. No preparation is required.
“Help!” is a good start and very doable. In fact, you can do a breath prayer right now: just take 15 seconds to inhale and say, “Please, help me”, then exhale and say, “Thank You.” Prayer is always a good next step.
Take a Nap.
Overwhelm is exhausting. Set your phone’s alarm for 15-30 minutes and take a cat nap. Or perhaps you need a good night’s sleep. If you’re exhausted, rest may be the first step toward replacing paralysis with peace.
Do Some Dishes.
When you can’t decide what to do next, do something small, doable, and positive. Wash some dishes. Do a load of laundry. Make your bed. Small acts of tangible productivity can give you the traction you need to get unstuck.
Send a Thank You Text.
…Or an old fashioned note or phone call. It only takes two minutes to say a sincere, “Thank You”. Don’t over-think this, just do it. Turning your attention to someone else for even a moment can lift their spirits and yours. Pick up your phone and try it now.
Do an Anxiety Dump.
Make a list of the bills, duties, deadlines, assignments, appointments, and anxieties that are overwhelming you. The magnitude of the list may feel startling at first, but seeing it all in one place can boundary it too. This can help you see that you’re not imagining things, that you’ve got good reasons for feeling like you do. It can also help you begin to devise a plan.
In the event of an emergency, you should put your own oxygen mask on first. We can get drained and depleted trying to take care of everyone else and overlooking our own self-care. You may need to beg-off of some responsibilities (at least temporarily) for your own survival. Space and time to get things done may be the oxygen you need.
Ask for Help
I know, you’re better at giving help than asking for it. But it’s time to let someone else return the favor. Scripture says, “Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” And so do your loved ones. Don’t be proud. Reach out and let someone else get the blessing of being there.
WHICH OF THESE TIPS RESONATE WITH YOU?
Try one right now and tell me how it works. And please share any secrets you’ve stumbled upon. Your experience may be the life preserver someone reading this needs.
“So as you leave this place, remember that everyone you meet carries a heavy load, and if you scratch just below the surface, you will find tremendous pain. So be good to yourself and kind to your neighbor. Take the hand of the One who calms the storm and the hand of a friend, and go and in the love of Jesus, celebrate.”