There have been times in my life when everything feels chaotic and overwhelming, and the only answer I can think of is to run away. (In the Fight or Flight Model, I’m a Flight – all the way.) My sense of duty and propriety keep me from it, and I continue to muddle through, finding the other side of the mess eventually.
Because this has been “one of those years”, I’ve found myself often considering those feelings of being overwhelmed and mulling over how they came about. One thing I have arrived upon is that you can’t always trust the thought that your plate is too full.
When things were at their worst earlier this year, I listed out everything I had to do (or felt I had to do). The list wasn’t huge, and it certainly could fit into a 24 hour day. Even with a new house and new baby, I knew what I was feeling could not possibly be due to what was on my plate. Nothing that was on my plate was outside my domain. Nothing that was on my plate was outside what the Lord had handed me. I knew there was more to this, and I had to stop blaming the plate.
Is it hormones?
I really hate it when people make excuses for what you are feeling with the word “hormones,” but I must admit, sometimes it truly IS hormones. I don’t consider myself a hormonal person. Most people describe me as even-keel. However, I have noticed the times I feel the most overwhelmed are after having a baby and before my monthly cycle. Hmmmm….
If the plate feels too full because of hormones, there are a couple of things you can do.
1. Wait it out and take it easy while you do. Sometimes all you need is a little time. For instance, after having a baby, it is crazy to expect life to normalize the day you get home from the hospital. What you should really do is bring your life down to the bare minimum, and give it time. The key here is to be able to RECOGNIZE what is going on, and not freak out over what you are feeling.
2. Fix what needs fixing. If time is not fixing things, then you need to explore options. I’m not going to tell you what you need to do, but I can tell you that you will know when you find the answer. I do not believe God intends for us to do nothing if something hormonal can be helped. He created us and expects us to care for His temple to the best of our ability. You can read about what I did to help balance my hormones HERE.
Is it a lack of rest?
This is literal and figurative. Literally speaking, we can become easily overwhelmed when we are not getting enough sleep at night or when we push too hard for too long. You simply cannot handle all life throws at you when you are tired. Get more sleep at night or take a nap if you can. Force yourself to do this one thing, and you will find your outlook on life greatly improved.
And don’t forget to take a Sabbath rest. Work hard, rest well. God put this cycle in place for a reason. Don’t ignore it.
Need help finding rest? Read THIS POST.
Figuratively speaking, are you running through your day in a frenzy? Are you breathing at all? Do you spend most of the day in a frantic pace, afraid everything will fall apart if you stop moving?
“Be still and know that I am God…”
Psalm 46 closes with those words, but it opens with something even more telling…
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
If you are overwhelmed by your day, remember on whose strength you must rely. Slow you pace, so your can see Him work. Things may feel overwhelming, but God is still Lord of all.
Is there something on the horizon?
Sometimes those overwhelmed and anxious feelings come from upcoming events that are in your subconscious, but haven’t managed to make their way to the surface as yet. Perhaps you have a difficult family member coming for a visit, or a difficult holiday is coming up. Maybe you are nervous about an upcoming event or afraid you won’t be prepared. You may not consciously KNOW why you are feeling overwhelmed, but your mind is an amazing place, and often sends out distress signals long before you are fully aware of what is causing the distress.
I have learned to be in the habit of thinking through what I am feeling (especially if it is a sudden onslaught of emotions), and considering what might be on the horizon that is making me feel as if I have too much on my plate. This is simply a matter of learning to be aware of how your emotions are linked to your circumstances. Learning to deal with both your circumstances and your emotions are a whole different can of worms!
Is it expectations?
Often, this one is inextricably linked to the previous question. Is there someone in your life who has placed certain expectations on you, and you are dreadfully afraid you won’t live up to them? Are they coming for a visit or have you been spending too much time with them?
Or perhaps, YOU are the one who has placed unattainable expectations on yourself. (Read my post on how unrealistic homeschool moms can be.) I want so badly for my home to be perfectly decorated and cleaned and orderly at all times, but that is completely unrealistic. I know my home can be company ready in 15 minutes (or so), but still, I have a standard that tends to stress me out. And when I am stressed, I tend to be a rather UNfun mom. As our friend Dan says,
“I was having a bad day…until I lowered my expectations.”
Is it sensory issues?
While a lot of factors go into sensory issues in moms (read more about that HERE), when it pertains to “too much on your plate,” it is usually noise that is the thing that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. It’s the toddler screaming, the boys laughing as they run in the house, the 6 year old saying Mommy over and over and over. Your plate may not actually be too full, it may just be too loud. Before you throw the plate out the window, step outside (or wherever it isn’t as noisy), and take a breath.
Is it priorities and stewardship?
Here’s where I hit a nerve…mine to be exact. Sadly, more often than not I feel overwhelmed because I have not been a good steward of the things on my plate. I have chosen to give priority to the wrong things. My blog cannot be my priority. The internet cannot be my priority. Projects and hobbies cannot be my priority. They can be a PART of my life, but they cannot trump my main responsibilities.
If it is stewardship and prioritizing that is your issue, it might help to actually write out IN ORDER your priorities and post it in your kitchen, near your computer, or wherever you need a little reminder. Put the stuff on your plate in the proper order, and you will be surprised how much you actually get done in a day!
What if your plate really is too full?
Truthfully, there are times when you have bitten off more than you can chew. The too-full plate is real, and if this is you, then need to address the truth.
Can you let go of something?
If yes, then just do it! A few years ago for me it was a mass email delete. I was on information overload and had put upon myself a need to read every email that came to my inbox. I could not do it. I needed to start over…even if I missed something. *gasp*
More recently, it was saying “no” to a very worthy project. It was blog related and would have been a great fit for the Raising Arrows audience, but I was maxed out. And when I’m maxed out, all of my readers can feel it. It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to you. So, I said no.
What if you can’t let go of something?
Sometimes you just don’t have the option to let something go. Either you need to fully complete a commitment or the massive amount of things you have on your plate are something you must deal with for a season. For instance, you need to ramp up a home business while your husband goes back to college or you need to take in your sister’s children while she walks through a messy divorce. When this is the case, the answer is to do things that help you handle the stuff on the plate with as much grace and joy as possible.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1. Pray your way through it – Let a prayer always be on your breath. Put on the praise music. Keep your Bible at the ready. And cry out to the Lord! And don’t forget to thank Him when He answers! Be grateful for the trials, the tears, the big and small answers, the mercy, and the love beyond comprehension.
2. Take short breaks – You may not be able to fit in a lengthy rest, but do what you can to catch short breaks here and there. (Read my post on creating a place to relax.)
3. Exercise – When you are in a flight or fight situation, your adrenaline kicks into high gear. You NEED a release for that pent-up adrenaline or you WILL go into adrenal fatigue. Exercising will help you avoid this. And when I say exercising, I do not mean a 2 mile run or an hour on the elliptical. I mean exerting more energy for a longer period of time than your normal every day activity. It might be playing tag in the backyard with the kids or doing several sets of lunges in your living room. Don’t get hung up on the word. It’s not as bad as you think it is.
4. Eat right – Yeah, I know – you are busy and food is about the last thing on your mind. Well, I hate to say it, but when your plate is over-full, you will need to do your very best to not give in to the ease of eating junk. No, you don’t have to soak your grains and buy only organic, but you will need to reduce the sugar and eat as much REAL FOOD as you can. Don’t make it hard, but do make it nourishing.
5. Drink plenty of water – When your plate is full, you tend to run on caffeine and sugar. Don’t. Get a bag of ice, a sack of lemons, a pretty cup – whatever it takes to make the water appealing.
6. Guard your time – Try not to add anything to your plate. When the pastor’s wife calls and asks you to do the music for VBS, say, “I’m sorry – I can’t this year.” Remember, this is a season. You can add things to your plate (as the Lord leads) later.
Also, try not to tackle the major things on your plate that require your concentration in a time slot that will only frustrate you. Making business phone calls while your toddler is in 4 o’clock crazy mode is NOT a good idea. Put a time management plan in place that makes sense and won’t make you feel like you are living one big emergency.
7. Surrender – Give the entire plate over to God. You should be doing this no matter how full the plate is, but when the plate is overflowing, there won’t be any possibility of doing this in your own strength. Let go of the notion that YOU are going to have to do this, and let God take over. His strength will become yours if you remember to let Him handle the plate.
So, is your plate really too full? Or is it something else?