Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Do you have too many problems staring you in the face? Too much to do and not enough time and energy to tackle what needs to be done? If so, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. But there are ways out.
In recent years there has been an increase of people being overwhelmed with all that is going on in their lives both at work and at home: Problems seem more complicated than they used to be: problems seem bigger and tougher than they used to be; life simply seems much more complex than it used to be.
In general, people seem to have a sense that the world is tilted out of control. People get overwhelmed with all of the tasks staring them in the face. To them, the work appears to be too large, too insurmountable.
Why do we feel overwhelmed? Do these feelings describe you?:
- feeling that the magnitude of the task at hand is too big for you to handle
- being put into the position of doing something that you have not done before
- being put in or caught up in circumstances where you don’t know what to do
- having fear of failure.
All of these involve one central anxiety: fear. Being overwhelmed is fear—being afraid of the unknown or concerned about one’s abilities. But we should not let fear and anxiety freeze us. We should apply the following guidelines to get a grip on feelings of being overwhelmed and not let them gain control over us.
Watch your health
One of the most important factors in gaining the upper hand on feelings of being overwhelmed is to watch our health. Usually that anxious sensation comes over us when we are tired and worn out. We need to be aware that our physical health and exhaustion has a major impact on how we feel about things.
Most of the instances of being overwhelmed has a lot to do with the fact that someone was very tired or exhausted. Our modern way of living puts a lot of demands on our time, and it’s easy to neglect our health if we aren’t careful. Be sure to make time for proper rest, relaxation, exercise and sleep, and eat a nourishing, balanced diet. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll be able to cope with life’s challenges.
Plan to make the overwhelming manageable
We normally tend to look at a project as a whole rather than a batch of smaller parts. Yet by doing so we can begin to feel overwhelmed at the magnitude of the task. There is a simple solution: Work out a way to break the task into smaller doable parts. Take it one little piece at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are projects.
When faced with a major task, don’t worry and get anxious about it. Realise and plan that it will take time. Lay out the tasks to be done each day. Set smaller goals and actually work towards those goals. If there is still too much, break it into even smaller pieces and extend the schedule. This approach will make many large jobs much more manageable.
Look for alternatives
If you find that you have too many responsibilities, remove what is not important. Ask yourself the question: Does this really need to be done? You may find that you are spending considerable time and energy—and too much worry—on things that aren’t really necessary. Concentrate instead on the things that are necessary, and make them your priorities.
You may need more help from family members, coworkers, managers or supervisors. Thoughtfully examine your situation, consider potential solutions and present your case to them.
Seek God’s help
When life seems overwhelming, we have God’s promises that he will work with us. Talk things over with him in prayer. Such communication with God is helpful in several important ways. Prayer helps us focus on what is most important. It enables us to have a clearer mind. Prayer can also ‘reset’ the mind and allow us to find alternative ways of dealing with our challenges.
Most importantly, God often inspires the solutions that come to mind when you pray. Just be sure that when you pray, and he inspires answers, you don’t take credit to yourself. Give credit where credit is due—to God.
Sometimes we need to learn a lesson about taking on too much. Hopefully we’ll learn that lesson quickly. Otherwise we’ll have to deal with the consequences, putting some of this other advice to use. Regardless, remember that fear is at the root of much of our anxiety and we shouldn’t let it stand in our way.
Listen to the Scriptures’ advice
Remember what Paul tells us in Romans 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” With God behind us, we should be able to throw away fear and anxiety. We should be able to focus on what is possible to do—and then do it. Also in Proverbs:12:25 we read, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” This verse acknowledges something we all know, but could do better at putting into practice.
We all need encouragement, particularly when facing a especially daunting task such as a new project or new responsibility involving new skills and challenges. Make it a part of your job to give encouragement and provide a feeling of confidence among those with whom you work. Take the same approach within your family.
Jesus Christ pointed out that, in the end, worry and anxiety really accomplish little:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26 – NKJV)