1. Let it go.
Whether it’s a critical remark from someone that is gnawing at your insides or an added task that you took upon yourself and now it’s causing you to feel overwhelmed, just let it go. There are few matters that are worth losing sleep over. And there are few things that can’t wait until tomorrow. Or next week. Or even longer. Your health is more important than holding onto what is stressing you out.
If you supervise others, practice the art of delegation and allow others to share the load. Know what you do best and hand off the rest to others who can do those jobs better than you. You are only one person. Cut the drama by cutting your schedule.
2. Sleep on it.
Your mom might have told you years ago to “sleep on it” when you were faced with making a difficult decision. That’s great advice when it comes to not only important decision-making, but to anything that might overwhelm you, such as responding to an accusatory email or angry voice message, or committing to one more task that will leave you overextended.
Studies show that the brain actually processes situations more thoroughly while you sleep. That means you wake up with a fresh – and often less emotional – perspective. Sleeping on it is the breather that will help you gain perspective and cool the heat of your emotions so you don’t overcommit to something spontaneously or out of guilt.
3. Commit to the three E’s.
I call them the Essential E’s: Eat right, exercise regularly, and embrace sleep. Fueling your body with protein and nutritious food, exercising to release those feel-good endorphins (as well as keep your heart healthier), and embracing opportunities to take a power nap or get a good seven-eight hours of sleep each night will keep you feeling fresh, rather than fatigued and overwhelmed.
When you eat right, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep, you can be at the top of your game and cope so much better when the drama of life hits. When we are emotionally spent, it’s usually because we are physically and nutritionally spent as well.
4. Stay out of it.
We often start feeling overwhelmed when we’ve extended ourselves a little too far when it comes to helping others. It’s called enabling – or “rescuing” – and women are great at it. But just because something happens in your sphere of influence doesn’t mean you are the one to run to the rescue and fix it. Just because you are made aware of something doesn’t mean God is assigning it to you. Much drama – and feelings of anxiety – can be avoided when you get in the habit of running your schedule past God first. It looks like this:
2) Seek God’s guidance
3) Stay out of it unless God gives you a clear indication to step into it. We often reverse that. We think I will do this unless God stops me. If you’re already overscheduled, think this way instead: The answer is no unless God says “go.”
5. Trust God to control what you can’t.
My friend, Donna, learned recently that the more she rests and trusts, the more God goes to bat for her. She had just learned of her mother’s sudden death in a car accident and felt the pull to leave her business to travel and be with her family and help make final arrangements. But although her heart was saying You need to go, her head was saying It’s a busy month, you can’t leave… you have to be here to keep things running smoothly. In the midst of the mental battle, she listened closely for God’s voice: Trust Me. Go do what you need to do.
Donna left her business in the hands of capable people and trusted God with the rest. When she returned a month later, she discovered her business experienced its highest grossing month on record! Then when she stepped away from her business a second time – this time for two months after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis – her business experienced its best two months ever, financially. God was affirming to her, again, the principle that He can take care of more while we rest than we can while we stress!
6. Stop trying to please everyone.
I’m sure at one point you knew clearly who the priority people were in your life. But that can get fuzzy when we are trying to please too many people, which is often the case when we begin to feel overwhelmed.
So stop being a people-pleaser and realize who matter the most in your life. Who are the people who will cry the most at your funeral? Put them first. Make everyone else take a number and wait in line. In short, that’s the simplest way to live without regrets. Priority people get the first and best of your time. Everyone else will simply have to learn to wait.
7. Pray it through.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, talk to God about it. Just giving Him your concerns will help usher peace into your life and give you a little more clarity. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand…” (NLT).
You can experience that peace, not a feeling of being overwhelmed, when you pray about what is pressuring you. Praying is equivalent to taking an intermission. It quiets your soul, clears your mind, and teaches you to leave your concerns with God, who is better at taking care of them anyway.
8. Get outdoors.
There is something therapeutic about getting outdoors, breathing the fresh air, and noticing the beauty of creation (even if it’s just some trees that line the sidewalk outside your office building).
Getting out into nature reminds us that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1) and it makes us realize that the petty things of this earth that overwhelm us don’t really matter in the scope of eternity.
9. Reduce the clutter.
Do you realize that just by cleaning off your desk, getting rid of too many clothes in your closet, or clearing the kitchen counter can help you feel less overwhelmed? Everyone needs a clean, clear space to think, work and exist. Where is yours?
When there is less clutter, there are less choices to make and less time spent trying to find things that get lost in the mess. How many times have you lost your keys right as you are trying to leave the house? Keeping all belongings in a designated space will prevent this issue, and save you the frustration of misplacing important items. Simplify your work or living space. It brings peace.
10. Go off the grid.
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Imagine spending a whole day (or maybe even a week!) being inaccessible – no internet, no interruptions, no demands. Just you and the quiet. Most high-level business people need this at least one or two weeks a year in order to maintain their creativity, energy, and overall sanity. But you and I can try it in smaller chunks – like for an hour or two a day – if that’s what it takes to ease your anxiety.
The world won’t stop if you do. You’ll just get the rest you need so you can perform better when you return to your desk, computer, or cellphone. Go off the grid by carving out time periods when you cannot be reached. Shut down your computer. Turn off your cellphone. Rediscover quiet and recollect your thoughts.
We often believe that we must respond to every request, every email, and every text or voice message immediately. That not only leaves us feeling overwhelmed, but it trains others to expect us to be at their beck and call. Practice the art of being inaccessible (so you can quietly reflect) and trust God that when you take the time to rest He won’t punish you for it by making you miss important opportunities.
By Cindi McMenamin
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker who helps women strengthen their walk with God and their relationships. She is the author of 15 books, including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When You’re Running on Empty, and her newest book, Drama Free, upon which this article is based. For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.