Monday, August 16, 2010

Be whelmed.

So, I get overwhelmed.  

I don't know if I get overwhelmed more easily than others, but it does seem to happen to me fairly regularly.    I get overwhelmed when there are lots of things to do, and in my mind they all seem really important and urgent.  I can't figure out where to begin, and start to believe there is no way I will ever conquer it all in the time I have.  Stress goes up, productivity goes down and I can get immobilized.  For some reason I can't see my way out.  I feel hope starting to slip through my fingers.

Today my friend Beth said when that happens, to have your "little freak-out moment" and then you just get on with it all.  My mom always says at those moments, "just do the next thing."  When I'm really overwhelmed, I might even need someone to tell me what the next thing is.  I usually feel pretty pathetic when I get to that point--which just fuels the overwhelmed-ness.

A coworker at church who knows me well, when given the chance to give me constructive criticism on my leadership this week, said, "Be whelmed."  Everyone looked at him a bit funny, but I knew right away what he meant.  And I thought it was pretty telling.  I get overwhelmed too easily, and it can be apparent to others.  It affects those around me.

What the stink is going on?  I am a competent person.  I can solve problems.  I can see the big picture.  I am usually pretty confident.  Why do I find myself overwhelmed over and over again?

I think I'm starting to figure it out.  I am a perfectionist (I hate even admitting that).  I put high standards on myself, and once I put them there I have a hard time letting myself out of them even when circumstances change.  I think, "I should be able to...."  I also think (subconsciously) that there is an ideal way to do things, a certain order that makes the most sense, that is best for me and others involved.  I have a hard time giving up on that ideal, even when it becomes obvious I need to.  Again, I hear in my head "I should be able to..."

Sometimes it is pride rearing it's ugly head (sometimes??), telling me what I should accomplish.  The house should be this clean.  I should get this much done today.  I should be able to handle this or that.  A friend says I "should all over myself".  

I know I'm making myself sound like a basket-case.  I don't think I am.  I think I deal with fairly typical feelings of overwhelmed-ness--common to moms (especially). We have a lot of "realities" pulling at us.  Someone please tell me they understand...

But, even though I think it is fairly common--I don't think overwhelmed is a land I (or any of us) should live in.  We are not free in that land.

So the question before me do I "be whelmed" (not sure that's even a word, but let's go with it).  Here's what I'm learning:

1)  Feeling overwhelmed is very often self-inflicted.  High standards, impossible expectations.  Shoulding all over myself.  I'm SO guilty of that.  Being overwhelmed is rarely due to external things, I need to realize that it's internal for me most of the time.

2)  Gaining the right perspective requires trusting more.  Trusting God with outcomes.  Trusting that He has me in certain roles and will give me everything I need to accomplish His purposes in that role.  Acknowledging that His purposes and my standards may not be the same thing.

3)  I need to recognize pride and confess it.  I will not do things close to perfectly.  I am not superhuman.

4)  It's crucial to listen to God at the overwhelmed moments.  What is He saying to me?  I don't think I will hear Him telling me to get moving or I'll never get it all done!  I don't think He will scold me the way I do myself.  I don't think I'll hear Him listing all of my "shoulds".  I think I will hear Him telling me to be faithful.  To be grateful.  To trust Him.  That He sees me, and He loves me.  I think as I listen to God in those moments, I will be able to release all the self-inflicted feelings and be able to just do the next thing.

Talk to me.  Do you get overwhelmed?  What do you do?  Am I on the right track?


The Days said...

Holy cow, I completely relate--and I'm not even working outside the home at this point in my life!! I also get wrapped up in my "wants" along with the "shoulds". Like I want to be able to do everything that interests me, plus get plenty of time with the people in my life, and time with God...and clean the house occasionally.
I loved your post and am encouraged by it. It's always a good reminder to me to recognize the unreasonable "shoulds" in my mind and readjust a bit. Thanks, Dawn! --Becca

Chris said...

I actually am praying for you to have periods of "underwhelmness" each day!! Time when you brain and body can breathe deeply and think nothing about the to-dos, and do so without guilt. Love you!

Dayle said...

I have a big sister who has suffered from depression off and on, most of her life. She is easily overwhelmed with life and choices and activities. Her doc told her it is often due to feeling pressure from her environment, or those in her environment. Thankfully, she is now married to a man who "allows" her to just completely put it in neutral, if you will, during times when she's feeling overwhelmed. That seems to be key for her.

If I let myself, I have a tendency to be overwhelmed at times. What I do, when that feeling comes, is ask God for strength, and then I force myself to step back and take a deep breath. Whatever needs to be done, I start with one thing and push the others out of my mind. As for perfection, I gave that up a long time ago, and it really helps to not feel the need to do things perfectly.

Dawn said...

You are SO not alone, Dawn!

Deep breath in...exhale. Then, follow your own advice - it's good advice.

Be blessed... and whelmed.

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

You're not alone! I struggle with those feelings too too. Daily.

A couple of years ago, I cut WAY back on my involvement in lots of things. In lots of good things. That helped with the immediate feeling of being overwhelmed by activity but then I had to focus on what my must-do's really were.

For me (and this is all just practical stuff) I had to figure out what I needed to do every day to feel sane or to at least feel like I had a handle on things. My 4 biggies are:
1. Exercise
2. Time w/God
3. Laundry
4. Meals

If those four things are happening consistently, then I can handle the rest. I don't work full time so it's easier for me to fit those things into my day but I definitely had to have a system for meals, laundry, exercise, quiet time, etc.

I'm not a perfectionist but I definitely have to remind myself that sometimes I need SPACE and GRACE. Because sometimes it's really more about "being" than about "doing". My worth isn't measured by how much I accomplish in a day. (I'm so tempted to measure myself by that stick though. It's a HUGE struggle.)

I hear your heart here. And I love that phrase be whelmed! I also believe that God will give you the wisdom to know what you need to do and when/how you need to do it! Hang in there!!!

Karen said...

Dawn, an insightful and honest post. I think we all have those times and your points are good. Blessings**

Anonymous said...

You're not alone, Dawn, and I love your transparency. Something I would add to your lessons learned is the difference between the gentle leading of our Counselor and the condemnation of the enemy. Sometimes they sound similar, because our accuser is also a conterfeiter, but there is a world of difference in the heart of the message. Our Best Friend is a gentleman, and He leads & disciplines in love and wisdom. His is not the voice of condemnation, which is what the "should's" and "have to's" are. I'm so glad that God doesn't measure us by our accomplishments, our housekeeping; nor does he define us by our weaknesses. I love Him so...

Jamie @ Six Bricks High said...

I can so relate! Reading this post refreshed my heart...sometimes just knowing that I am not alone helps me tons.

Stephenie said...

I can so relate. I'm going to take your advice and try to put into practice for myself. Thanks for sharing.

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