Safe to say there’s not a one among us who cannot relate to feeling overwhelmed. Me, I used to feel ashamed of my overwhelmedness. I’d look around and see that my plate was no fuller than anyone else’s, so why did my responsibilities stress me out? I must be weak, I concluded, or ineffectual or just not all that well-organized. Maybe not very smart, either, since I couldn’t handle it all.
Well, sisters, in our fast-paced, information-laden society, the state of overwhelmed is, unfortunately, often a given. That’s the bad-sad news, but the glad news is this: there’s hope for managing it better than perhaps any of us thought possible.
A number of months ago, I had the opportunity to read and review Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity by Christian authors Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory. More than most books, it has truly transformed the way I do a few things in this life by providing godly tips and biblically based insights on handling stress well. It’s had a terrific positive impact on my emotional and mental well-being.
Some things a sister shouldn’t keep to herself. So here I am sharing some of the ways this book has influenced me for good, in the hopes that — should you find yourself in a similar situation — it might do the same for you.
Personal Manifesto. This idea is all about pre-deciding an attitude or value so that you don’t have to decide your course while you are stressed. In the book, Kathi gives a compelling example of how having a pre-decided course of action could have saved her days, if not weeks, of stress and sleepless nights. I took notes on this one. More, I created a Personal Manifesto of my own. I borrowed a few ideas from both Kathi and Cheri, then added several more of my own. Since creating this a few months ago, I have already had several occasions to remember my core beliefs — and act on them accordingly.
Project Map. As I read about this simple project management technique, the light bulb over my head began to glow. I recognized the tool I’d been seeking for over a year to keep under control a tricky, emotionally laden family project that involved several people with different personalities and motivators (or lack of). The key here is micro-steps arranged in three neat categories. Within a week, I had created a Project Map — several, actually — uploaded them to Google docs, and shared them with my group. We are now in process of tackling this project micro-step by micro-step — with considerably less conflict and stress than before.
A Well-Defined Work Week. Here I was surprised, as I was several times in reading Overwhelmed, by how much I actually needed help in this area. Anyone who knows me recognizes me as a structured, organized person. What I hadn’t realized is that I was still operating under outdated expectations. The demands on my time have shifted as I’ve taken on a wider array of responsibilities, but I was still relying on old tactics to get them done. When I’d run out of room in my day or week, leaving under-accomplished what I used to be able to get done in that same timespan, I was left feeling stressed and stupid. Solution? A reevaluation of tasks and a wiser look at the time I had to complete them. Thus emerged my Well-Defined Work Week, which for the last few months has done a splendid job of keeping me on task. It’s another form of pre-deciding, actually.#Overwhelmed? Some tips on conquering stress from pros who know @KathiLipp @CheriGregory #powertothesisterhood Click To Tweet
Grow Up, Katherine List. I thought it was just me: certain tasks I simply hated to do. I’m not a procrastinator, but I approached these things with dread: paying bills, scheduling doctor appointments, keeping up with my kids’ school stuff. Turns out, I’m not alone. Everyone, it seems, has things she simply doesn’t want to do. I used to waste time trying to get behind the why of it. Until I read Kathi’s take: some things don’t need to be figured out, they just need to be done. I needed to accept the fact that I don’t like to do certain tasks and then do them because that’s what responsible adults do. I can’t tell you how this has freed me. More practically, Kathi suggests pairing each undesirable task with a desirable one. Habit pairing, she calls it. So the last time I paid bills, I treated myself afterwards to watching Pharrell Williams sing Happy because it makes me…well, happy.
Criticism and feedback. Here too I was handed several useful strategies for determining whose feedback to accept, whose not to worry about. Oh, and the Safety Sorter, a chart to help determine which people in your life warrant intimate access and which don’t. Invaluable.
Bonus tip. Finally and most unexpectedly, I realized I could get kitty litter delivered right to my door. Who knew? Well, maybe you did, but I didn’t, and Kathi’s passing mention prompted me to do a quick Google search and voila! Kitty litter and pet food delivered directly to my door saving me the hassle of hauling these heavy items into and out of my car every month. (I use chewy.com. You’re welcome!)
So let me ask you: What would it take to make your life feel less overwhelming? I encourage you to take that first step toward breaking free from overwhelmed. Put a plan in motion today so that you may enjoy a less-stressed life tomorrow.
Katherine Scott Jones grew up in cities on every U.S. coast and overseas as her family moved with her father’s Navy career. Seattle became home when she married her husband twenty-seven years ago. After graduating from Whitworth University with a degree in communications, she established herself as a freelance writer before turning her hand to fiction. She blogs about the broken and the beautiful at www.katherinescottjones.com. Katherine and her husband have two teenage children. Her first novel, Her Memory of Music, releases September 2017.