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 is...how 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?