Maybe you’ve felt this way. Overwhelmed. You know it’s not just the day. It’s not that no one seems to care what you say or do anymore. It’s not that you feel empty and confused. It’s not that your smile is plastic and your gut is permanently twisted like a pretzel. It’s not even the avalanche of activities, people and decisions cramping your time, energy and space. You just feel no longer in control.
The great physicist Stephen Hawking may be overwhelmed after passing away and meeting the God he denied his whole life. He did leave us a good quote when he said “people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”
Feeling disabled in spirit can happen in a family context, a work environment, in the middle of a shopping trip, or while we’re stuck in traffic. It might even happen in a church where you are bombarded with thoughts, emotions, convictions, reactions you don’t know how to handle.
For those of us in the trenches of life it wouldn’t be unlikely to have consultants, counselors or advisors tells us to limit what we put on our to do list to only the things we can manage effectively – Delegate, trust others to take some of the load, let go of the most stressful challenges. They might also tell us to limit purposeless meetings or conversations that suck up our valuable time.
Finding space to process, to call on our personal support system and to determine what we will eliminate or refuse on our agendas will also be something that we will be told to consider. Each of us has a different capacity in carrying our loads and it is important not to compare who we are and what we can do with others around us.
I feel overwhelmed frequently. My recent evaluation says that others notice I am overwhelmed. Taking the advice of others to limit myself sounds like wisdom. It doesn’t work to lecture a person who is overwhelmed, I’ve been through that. It doesn’t work to guilt, shame or scare someone who is overwhelmed, I’ve been through that as well.
The gospel of Mark records Jesus’ response to his disciples after he’d sent them on an overwhelming road trip. They’d gone out two by two with no bread, no bag, no money and no extra tunic – only a walking stick. They preached repentance, drove out demons and healed the sick, trusting God to meet all their needs. In Mark 6:30-31 we read what happened after their return to Jesus. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have time to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
Perhaps this is the best idea. Coming away with Jesus by ourselves to a quiet place and getting some rest. I think being overwhelmed happens when we don’t get enough of this.
What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Or, what do you do to avoid feeling overwhelmed? Being part of a supportive community is definitely something that helps a lot.