They say God never gives us more than we can handle, but sometimes I don’t believe them, (whoever “they” are.) Have you ever felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped to just deal with life? I think everyone feels out of control sometimes, whether it’s end-of-semester exams and papers, an unexpected medical bill, projects that pile up at work, illness of a loved one…the list goes on. Nine times out of ten, when I call a friend and ask how they've been, the answer is "busy." If you’re like me, you’re notorious for over-committing yourself to too many little projects and becoming overwhelmed! Even when we aren’t in crisis mode, we can be weighed down by the prolonged stress of trying to keep everything in balance. Raise your hand if you feel me on this.
Where is God in these moments?
When I get overwhelmed I find that I need God more than ever, and that it is more difficult to feel his help than ever. How do we regain and maintain the peace Jesus promised us when he said, “peace I leave to you, my peace I give to you”?
It’s been crazy at Casa Sumereau. My car spun out of control down a hill on ice last week and I hit a guard rail at full speed. An hour later I began having premature contractions- a bad sign at only 30 weeks pregnant- so I ended up taking an ambulance to the hospital in a snowstorm to be monitored during a whole sleepless night. The rest of the week snowballed into a relentless to-do list of what I call “adulting”- hours on the phone with my dear friends at the car insurance agency, doctor appointments for my son’s pink eye, solo parenting while my husband got called in to work repeatedly in his few hours of down time, and attempting to balance work and rest to avoid a total breakdown. There was just no way to avoid our to-do list, and I began to lose my inner peace. “I think this is what being a grown-up means,” I’ve said to John multiple times. The real moment of “I can’t do this anymore” came when I found out my car was declared a total loss and we had to add the gargantuan task of researching and shopping for a car to our already endless to-do list. I don’t know much about cars. I wasn’t prepared to have to pick out another car. I have too much else to do. I was ready to give up.
Here are steps that helped me in that moment. If you are overwhelmed, or if you are having trouble finding balance in life, I can’t wait to pass them on to you…
Give yourself physical distance, if you can, in order to gain perspective. John took the baby and strongly encouraged me to take a nap or to go for a walk. I chose to lie down and put in ear plugs so I could feel physically removed from my to-do list. I find exercise is a great way to get into a different head space.
Ask God to come be with you, no matter how far away he feels, and spend a few minutes just breathing and pressing pause on the racing thoughts. Remember, you aren’t doing life alone. God is on your side.
Separate in your mind what you can control and what you can’t. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls what you can control your “circle of influence.” Working within your circle of influence is empowering. Remind yourself that you can do some things to help the situation. You do have power- not ultimate power- but you are not helpless. Make a list if it helps you.
Identify what is out of your control. Ask yourself, “what is really the worst-case scenario that can come from this situation?” Will anyone lose life or limb? Chances are, the answer is no. Chances are, you are only in danger of disappointing someone’s expectations (maybe your own,) or missing a deadline. Those things can be negotiated and worked out. Breaking down your fear into manageable chunks can help take you out of the paralysis of overwhelm.
Ask God to take care of the things out of your control. Remind yourself of a past situation where things out of your control did work out. Most of the time, our fears are just that: fears. They don’t come true. Surrendering ourselves to God is the very best thing we can do- plus, it builds our trust and our relationship with him. He really can’t wait to work things out for your good, even if it’s hard to see right now.
When you feel calmer and have taken as much time as you need to let go of tension, hop to your to-do list. Have hope! Watch this for a quick story of how my husband, at 3 years old, persevered hopefully. It’ll make you smile, guaranteed!
If you were an employee, you would not be required to handle projects meant for your boss. Think of passing on a ‘project’ beyond the scope of your control to God. Those projects don’t belong to us!
Whatever you do, resist the temptation to worry about or try to control things that are in God’s department. Remember, he’s got it handled!
Pro tip: If you aren’t overwhelmed right now, look for ways to help people in your parish and community who are. Some truly wonderful people have been Christ to me this week by bringing over meals, offering to drive me places, watching my baby when I went to the hospital, and bringing over firewood when our furnace broke. Simple ways of lending a hand are so appreciated. As we strive toward new technological advances we need to remember that being a part of a community is more important than any gadget or app 😊
Thank you so much for allowing me to journey with you. I truly hope that these strategies are effective in your life and deepen your trust and relationship with God. If you feel stuck beyond immediate overwhelm and things continue to be difficult, here’s a little something to help you.
May God bless you always!