my actual calendar from a few months ago
I’m sure most of you can relate with our writer Elizabeth. Read on and see.
So it’s really ironic that I’m writing this today, a full day after I told my editor I’d have it done. If I was to ask how many of you feel overwhelmed, I’d be willing to bet pretty much everyone would be nodding her head at the computer, muttering something about “You have no idea.” I was inspired to write this after receiving Hayley DiMarco’s latest book A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life and the problem is, things are so crazy that I haven’t even finished it!
Life is, so often, completely overwhelming. I’ll give you a few examples from my own life, so you can see I know what I’m talking about.
My mother-in-law broke her hip this summer so we spent over a month in a tiny town in the California desert helping her, so I wasn’t prepared for the new year of English classes. My husband and I run a small non-profit doing refugee care, and I’m the director of the ESL classes. That means I’m in charge of talking to our church about room assignments, ordering books, registering students, etc, and I wasn’t ready. Some of the books still haven’t come, 2 weeks on! Our classes keep growing and we’re too big for the church now and need our own space. Plus we are taking a class at the local university to improve our Arabic. Plus we’re having our first ever benefit dinner to raise funds for that new space. Plus I’ve done something to my neck and am in a lot of pain.
Plus, plus, plus!
My current list of stressors is so long that I’m not even sure if this paragraph is coherent. Did I mention my friend who’s dying, and how I need to arrange for her Iraqi friends to visit, picking them up and driving them home, while making sure she’s not being deluged? Did I mention that I’m hosting huge elaborate dinners at my home twice next week?
Now we’re all feeling tired and overwhelmed just thinking about it, and you’re probably making mental lists of your own stresses. As mothers, this is a familiar place to be. We’re the ones who are responsible–for remembering extra soccer practices and doctor’s appointments and how Abel’s best friend is coming over Friday and won’t eat melted cheese, so no pizza or nachos. We’re the ones who are in charge of not just our family’s physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well. Maybe you live in Texas and are drying out after a hurricane. Maybe your family just lost a pet, and your sensitive little son can’t understand why God didn’t answer prayers for healing. Maybe you’re in the middle of one of life’s enormous events; a death, a divorce, loss of a job.
How do we stagger on under this weight? I haven’t figured it all out, in case the above examples didn’t tell you that, but I can share some ways that help me:
When I had 3 toddlers, things were intense. At the time, the hours seemed to drag. In hindsight, it all flew by. Life is composed of seasons, and each brings its own joys and sorrows, with stresses and responsibilities in varying levels.
Who knows how long your current season will last? It won’t be forever. Enjoy what bits you can, endure what you need to, and remember, you’ll be through it someday and on to something else.
- Make wise choices.
You can’t make everyone happy, and it’s not your job to do so.
Whether it’s limiting your kids to one extracurricular event per season or explaining that you can’t lead the Tuesday night high school youth group, remember that it’s okay to say no.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This isn’t original to me. But I do think taking the time to consider what really matters is key. The Bible says 2 things will endure into eternity; the Word of God and the souls of people. Cut out what you can, so that you have the time to do the things that matter.
And if you’re overwhelmed with things that matter? See #2; you can’t make everyone happy.
- Carve out time for reflection and meditation.
I don’t know what season you’re in, but I have mostly managed to do this because it’s so important for my mental health. When the kids were little, I managed to get them all napping at the same time. It was difficult to do and it certainly didn’t happen overnight, but it paid off. I would ignore dishes and messes for that time, and take an hour to read my Bible and pray, or read a good book and relax.
Now, I tell refugee women that on Thursday mornings I can’t take them to a doctor’s appointment, or go to their kids’ school with them, or whatever good important thing they are asking me, because that is my weekly time for reflection and meditation. You might be in a place where you truly cannot carve out time, but this won’t last. It may be really hard to do, but as soon as you can, make sure you get a few hours every week. And try to use that time for something that will truly bring you joy, not just staring at the walls in exhaustion.
- You need fun times too!
Find a babysitter and go somewhere relaxing. Go for a walk. Steal an hour with a close friend for coffee. Our best friends live about 30 miles away and with traffic, that can be a major time commitment. So we meet in the middle, downtown, for late-night happy hours 2 or 3 times a month.
Whatever you enjoy doing, try to make sure you have time to do it at least semi-regularly.
What are some ways you deal with feeling overwhelmed?