Recently I went through a few days of blah…
You know, the days, right?
My to do list was so long I needed multiple pages to capture it all, and yet, I was so unmotivated. I was feeling down and distracted. At first, I resorted to my old pattern of behavior and just tried to push through. But something kept nagging at me. So finally, I stopped what I was doing and pressed pause long enough to connect with what was going on…
I was overwhelmed.
I was overwhelmed about a lot of decisions that need to be made personally and professionally. I was overwhelmed at my to do list. I was overwhelmed with my personal list of things I WANTED to do.
Now, maybe for you, being overwhelmed might be no big deal.
But for me, being overwhelmed is a sign that something is out of whack. It let's me know that I need to slow down, spend some time processing what is going on…and take positive steps to move forward.
If I don't slow down and I continue to be overwhelmed, everything goes down hill…
- I get short with my loved ones
- I make quick decisions rather than taking time to process
- I am distracted and struggle to stay present with my girls
- I make poor food choices
- I make poor time management decisions…
- And the list goes on!
In the fall, I began my own self-care plan. It was actually a homework assignment from my counselor. One that I am grateful for everyday. When I wrote my plan, I had to divide behaviors, thoughts, feelings into red light, green light, and yellow light categories.
Red is what I have renamed the “DITCH LIST.” This is the place you don't want to go. You don't make good choices here. You end up with shame and regret when you go here. It's like the ditch on the side of a road.
But before you end up in the ditch, you hit the grooves on the shoulder of the road that would shake you back to reality if you fell asleep driving. In life, the shoulder of the road shakes you back to reality and lets you know you need to make a few changes.
The goal is to stay on the road and in your own lane. The shoulder list, helps you know when you need to make adjustments to accomplish your goal.
For me feeling overwhelmed is one of the things that lets me know I am headed for the ditch!
So recently when I was feeling overwhelmed, I stopped, took a time out. And looked at what was going on for me.
This may not seem like a big deal for to you, but for me, this is where things change. It is in the pause.
In the pause, I stop making excuses as to why I am feeling the way I am, but instead I get to the root of the issue, and I figure out the next best step.
If being overwhelmed is something that causes you to feel like your life is spinning out of control, let me share you an insider secret.
You are not alone!
Often I feel overwhelmed when I don't know the outcome of a situation, or I don't even know how I should move forward. Or sometimes, it is simply when I have let my do list or my schedule get a little out of control.
So I pause.
I take a look at what I can change, and I ask for one specific request…wisdom to know the next best step.
This can be as simple as which thing on my to do list should I check off first.
Often I put pressure on myself to have it all together all the time. And when I don't, I feel like a failure. I feel overwhelmed wondering how in the world I'll be able to get back in control. But between you and me, I'm never in control.
When I press pause, I usually grab my Bible, my journal, and whatever devotional or book I am reading at the time. My journal always gets opened first. And I just begin to write. I don't edit my words to sound more spiritual or like I am in a better spot than I am…honestly, who I am trying to impress? It's my journal. But it is a struggle for me sometimes to simply be honest. Why? Because I want to have it all together all the time, and I don't.
In the pause, I sit with my journal, my pen and my thoughts, and I just write. And when time allows, I write until I am done…no matter how long or short that is.
Next, I reflect on what I wrote. I try to get to the root of what is really going on for me. And I ask myself what is true. For me, I use Scripture as a guide to measure truth. If you are not a follower of Jesus, you might use something else.
My goal as I reflect is to work through the disconnect between what I believe and what is actually true.
Often this involves meditating on the truth. This can be reading Scripture, praying, or even closing my eyes, taking deep breaths, and repeating the truth to myself over and over again, until my heart and mind begin to believe it.
And then I begin to ask, “What is the one thing I need to do next?”
I don't worry about the 10 things, or the 5 things…I just try to find the one thing.
Sometimes, I find I need to set my to do list aside and take a walk or go for a run. Other times, I realize that I haven't sleep well recently and I need to take a quit nap. Other times, I simply need to eat lunch, or reach out to a friend for support.
And occasionally, I begin attacking my to do list one step at a time.
I don't have one “go to” way of moving through the action steps, but it almost always begins with my journal and a pen.
As I pause, I am more aware of the root issue, rather than the surface issues. This is the harder work to do. Why? Because it is messy.
When I pause and am honest, I realize that I don't have it all together. How do you feel when you realize that truth? Honestly for me, I don't like it. I would rather stay busy and just keep pressing forward. I find comfort in being distracted from the overwhelm.
Unfortunately, staying busy or being distracted doesn't heal. It only masks the pain. Dealing with the pain is what brings healing.
Just like pretending your arm isn't broken and continuing to use it won't heal the bone, staying busy and ignoring what is going on in your heart won't heal that pain either.
A pause is in order.
A moment of silence to connect with the root issue and to invite God into the hurt and allow His grace to heal.
Be kind with yourself as you heal. Healing doesn't happen overnight. It is a process. But it does come more quickly when you are proactive about working through the pain.
I'd love to hear from you…
What strategies have you found to help you gracefully move through the chaos in your life?
What questions do you have about my process?