Overwhelm! It’s a thing, right? Which makes it a noun and an epic one when it’s coming at you like a freight train. We’re only a few days into 2018 and I’ve felt overwhelmed already. I’m not surprised. As a firstborn, Type A, overachiever with a side-order of scatterbrained creativity, I learned how to fight overwhelm before I learned how to drive a car. If you’re experiencing overwhelm know that you’re not alone. My goal in this post is to let you know that you can effectively deal with it in a way that doesn’t require illegal substances or giving up altogether in a Netflix and chocolate haze. Because I tried the Netflix and chocolate part and it doesn’t work.

I'm overwhelmed! Life is overwhelming! I feel overwhelmed!

What is Overwhelm?

If you’ve read this far into my post I doubt I need to define “overwhelm” for you. But just to clarify, here’s Webster’s definition:

Overwhelm (verb): bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

Synonyms = swampsubmergeengulfburydelugefloodinundate

And here’s my definition:

Overwhelm (noun): the feeling that you’ll never get it all done so you might as well quit; the feeling that everyone always needs everything which is more than you could ever give.

Overwhelm is a drama queen.

3 Symptoms of Overwhelm

Google “the symptoms of overwhelm” and you’ll get a long list. But I’ve found these three to be most common when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

  1. I’m resentful
  2. I’m tearful
  3. I’m forgetful

When I’m overwhelmed I’m often resentful toward those who seem to be having fun, enjoying life,  and succeeding at their work.

My resentment manifests with thoughts and feelings dripping with sarcasm.

  • I’m doing all the work!”
  • Somebody has to worry about it!”
  • “It must be nice to have plenty of time!”

Feeling overwhelmed also causes me to be unusually tearful. I’m a cryer normally, but when I’m overwhelmed, I’ll cry about anything with anyone.  Yes, it’s awkward.

While occasionally forgetting an appointment or a friend’s birthday makes us human, a pattern of forgetfulness, or that frequent nagging feeling that “I’m forgetting something”, is often a symptom of being overwhelmed.

3 Causes of Overwhelm

Depending on your circumstances and season of life, the causes may vary; but again, I can almost always trace the general feeling of overwhelm back to these three factors.

  1. Doing too much
  2. Failing to plan
  3. Going it alone

God never gives us too much to do.

We do that to ourselves or allow others to do it to us.

–Dallas Willard

I want to do all the things all the time which seems like a pretty great idea until the overwhelm sets in. I’ve learned my limits, that it’s my job to protect my schedule, and that margin is a necessity for peaceful, purposeful living.

Failure to plan and create habits and systems is a recipe for a crisis. When I fail to plan I tend to focus on the urgent rather than the important. And when it comes to what everyone else wants, it’s almost always urgent. “I need this done today!”

Creating habits and systems, having a weekly/monthly/yearly plan allows us to accomplish what we’ve deemed important. We live purposefully, according to our values and priorities; and, in the event a genuinely urgent matter arises, we are free to choose how we will respond.

Asking for help can be hard. I tend to think “I should be able to handle this”. But pride is ugly and can drive us deeper into sin by reinforcing an unhealthy self-sufficiency in which we abandon surrender to and dependence upon God. Creator God made us for fellowship. We need Him and we need each other.

The Enemy loves to isolate us. We feel alone and lonely in our time overwhelm and withdraw instead of reaching up and crying out for help.

3 Ways to Fight Overwhelm

  1. Quit something
  2. Embrace mediocrity
  3. Ask for help

I have a hard time saying “no” when I’m asked to lead, teach, or help with something. But even harder than saying “no” is saying “yes” only to realize it was one yes too many. Each time we say “yes” to something we’re saying “no” to something else. Friends, we can only do so much. There are only so many hours in a day and learning to use those hours for what matters most is an important part of fighting overwhelm. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I know I’ve probably overcommitted. I find it helpful to sit before the Lord with my commitments and invite Him to show me where and how I’ve overstepped His plans.

I aspire to excellence in every area of my life. If I’m not careful though, perfectionism replaces excellence and I’m overwhelmed.  Excellence inspires. Perfectionism paralyzes. We have to know when to say, “Good enough” and move on.

Lastly, we need to know when and how to ask for help. I confess to a stubborn streak when it comes to this but I’ve discovered a new area of ministry in this season by acknowledging my weaknesses and struggles. I’m encouraged by those who are ahead of me and offer me wisdom and guidance for the journey; and, I’ve found great joy in encouraging and leading those beside and behind me.

Friend, I’d love to help you peacefully and purposefully navigate this season of life. As a certified Biblical Life Coach, I’d be honored to partner with you and help you gain perspective as you plan and set goals. Life Coaching can be expensive but I’m committed to help anyone who’s willing to do the work and receive the accountability one-on-one coaching provides.  Group coaching is also an option if you have friends who’d like to join you! If you’re interested please feel free to contact me to discuss the options that fit your budget. I look forward to hearing from you!

A Pin to save for later:

I'm overwhelmed!

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