Overcome the Burden of Overwhelm


How do you overcome the burden of feeling overwhelmed? Joe Martin shares three strategies for handling stress.

Have too much time on your hands? Always bored? Don’t have enough to do every day? Yeah, right!

Just one day, wouldn’t you like to respond to someone when they ask you, “How are you doing?” by saying, “Man, I feel like I have time to burn; I don’t know what to do with myself.” Unfortunately, in the “real world,” the problem isn’t having enough to do, but having too much to do with very little time to accomplish it.

As I write this article, I need to get packed for my trip to Arkansas at 5 p.m., mail out my Mom’s birthday card before I leave, register for a seminar at my church before my flight, prepare for a conference call at 1 p.m., and get dressed. Did I mention it’s a little before 10 a.m.? I’ve been up since 8:30 a.m. and I’ve already had my prayer time, worked on a draft of a business idea, and I’ve responded to three business calls (without time to eat breakfast).

Obviously, overwhelm is creeping in on me right now. And maybe it’s not a good time to write this article, but on the other hand, maybe it’s a perfect time. Because I’m under the gun to get a lot of things done, fast. So the question is how do you overcome the burden of overwhelm?

Well, allow me to offer you three quick tips:

1. Share it (wisely)

Usually we become overwhelmed with overwhelm because we suffer in silence. As men, we want people to believe we’re on top of everything in our lives; it’s a sign of strength, control, and power. But the truth of the matter, most people are overwhelmed – with their job, school, their finances, their relationship, their family, and whatever else you can think of.

The remedy is NOT to suffer in silence. Now, I’m not saying to go whining like a toddler who just lost his pacifier. But confide in someone who will keep you encouraged, hopeful, and even offer you some suggestions or advice on how to lighten the load even if it’s just an offer of prayer.

Yes, life isn’t easy, but it was never meant to be endured alone. So share your burden (regardless of what it is) with someone you trust, who’s positive, and who can help.

A good example is me sharing my current overwhelm problem with you through writing this article. Even though you can’t give me support or encourage me, you can still offer a prayer for me. At the minimum, me sharing this helps me to release a little of the internal pressure that is mounting. All I know is that It beats suffering in silence.

2. Own it (responsibly)

This is the tough part of dealing with “overwhelm.” You must be willing to admit what you’ve done to contribute to the problem. I know it’s much easier to blame work, our wife, girlfriend, children, family, friends, responsibilities, and others for putting too much of a demand on us. But the truth of the matter is, we have a responsibility to bare as well.
For example, here are just a few questions we need to ask ourselves concerning our current situation:

  • Am I saying “yes” to things I should have said “no” to?
  • Do I focus more on doing things that just “feel good to me” or doing things that are “good for me”?
  • Am I trying to please too many people?
  • Have I been true to myself about pursuing my priorities and keeping my commitments?
  • Have I ignored the “important” just to accomplish the “urgent”?
  • Is there any trace of laziness in my character and my schedule?
  • Should I have delegated some of my responsibilities to someone I trust?
  • Do I spend more time worrying about problems or strategizing solutions?
  • Do I plan my day or do I just respond to it?

I think you get the point. One reason I can’t complain about by current “overwhelm” situation is that some of my responsibilities could have been prevented (not answering earlier calls, packing the night before, delegating, registering sooner, or writing this article next week). How can I curse the monster, when I created him? Examine yourself, and see if you’ve been part of the problem or part of the solution.

3. Praise it (joyously)

Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, said in his latest book “Success Principles” that there’s a simple formula that determines the kind of results we get in life. He said (EVENT) + (RESPONSE) = (OUTCOME). Basically, he’s saying that it’s not about what happens to us (the event), but rather how we respond to what happens to us that dictates our outcome.

I know this may sound crazy, but I think the best way to “respond” to overwhelm (even if you’ve caused it), is to rejoice! That’s right, thank God for the burden of responsibility you bare. I know this doesn’t make sense, but allow me to explain.  No matter how hard I work, there will always be tons of things to do on my “TO DO” list; and I’m sure you feel the same way. Well, since I can’t change that (unless I just stop doing anything for anyone – including myself), then I might as well focus on the one thing I CAN change, and that’s my attitude about the situation.

Case in point, it’s now 12:30 p.m. and I have a conference call at 1:00 p.m. (I actually took a small break to get dressed and respond to one phone call), and I still haven’t mailed out my Mom’s birthday card and packed for my trip, and registered for the conference. However, I’m not “freaking out” or having an anxiety attack over it. Instead, I’ve decided to adopt a positive attitude about it. I still have four and half hours before my flight, and I’m thankful that I enjoy what I do for a living. Also, I made a pact with God that I wouldn’t start worrying about anything until AFTER it happens. That was an “attitude choice.”

So in essence, I won’t allow overwhelm to get the best of me UNTIL my plane takes off without me; UNTIL I can’t find any clean underwear to pack for my trip; UNTIL they run out of tickets for the seminar; and UNTIL my 1:00 p.m. conference goes past 1:30 p.m. Otherwise, I will rejoice, praise God for my health (today), all my other personal blessings, and focus on doing the best I can with what I have. Basically, what I’m saying is if “overwhelm” is a choice, so is “peace.”

I hope these three strategies will help lighten the load of overwhelm in your life (just a little).

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.Ephesians 5:15-17

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