What To Do When You Are Seriously Overwhelmed or Approaching Burn-out
STEP 1: Prayerfully decide what are truly the most important things for you to be doing. Keep this list as short as is humanly possible. This is just a bare-bones, must-be-done-to-survive list. Don’t allow pressure from outside influences to decide this list for you.
For me, my Bare-Bones List looks something like this:
Fellowship with the Lord(Bible and Prayer -- I have lived long enough to know I won't get my feet back under me without this)
Family clothed and fed(People need to eat. And making sure they have clothes on should go without saying.)
Me clothed and fed(Ditto.)
A walkable path through the house(Not clean - just able to walk through without dire consequences. This ain’t the time to invite Martha Stewart over for tea).
Sleep (!!! See step 3.)
STEP 2: At first, just focus on doing your super-short list. There will be plenty of time later to add things. Right now, we are pulling a fast one on the Overwhelm Monster and giving ourselves a chance to catch our breath.
STEP 3: Get some rest. When you are tired, it is FAR easier to be overwhelmed. Exhaustion kills your ability to creatively plan. It keeps you from being able to see and evaluate things clearly. Until you are rested, it will seem as though digging out is impossible. Exhaustion extinguishes that light at the end of the tunnel. It is often amazing to me how easily I see what I need to tweak or change after I get enough rest.
STEP 4: Once you learn how to manage your short list efficiently and well, you can begin to plan for some other things. GRADUALLY and PRAYERFULLY consider adding only one thing at a time to your list. If you were feeling overwhelmed, it was because you were overwhelmed. You had too many things on your list. Now that your list is short and manageable, you want to be very careful about what goes back on it. Only add things as you have grace to do so. And if the grace lifts, you should seriously consider stepping away from that item, at least for now.
Yes. Many things will be left undone.
Yes. Many people will not understand.
They don’t have to live in your home or in your body. They won’t have to stand before God at the last day to give an account for how you spent your time, so “No,” it’s none of their business. :)
Einstein is quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You can’t keep the same over-loaded To-Do list and expect it to magically become doable. You are going to have to make some radical changes if you really want things to be different.
I spent years agonizing over my over-packed schedule. I felt like there was nothing on my list that I could drop. It all needed to be done and it all needed to be done by me. But then, one day, my body just quit. Suddenly I COULDN’T do that all-important job list. And you know what? Other people stepped in and started doing it. The world kept on revolving without me. I really wasn’t the one who held up the Earth.
Through no wise choice of my own, my job list came to a screeching halt. Of necessity, it became a bare-bones short list. Even that was largely conducted from my couch. New volunteers stepped in at church. My kids were clothed and fed, thanks mostly to my oldest daughter. I was fed mostly when my family brought me food. Finally, I rested. It shouldn't have had to come to that, but it did.
It took me a long time to recover physically from that experience. I learned my limitations the hard way. I learned to seek balance. I learned to recognize when things were shifting out of balance and to take proactive steps when they did. I learned that other people's expectations of me should not be allowed to dictate my life. These were hard lessons.
If you feeling very overwhelmed, you have the opportunity to take ownership of your To-Do list without letting it go as far as I did. You have the opportunity to strip down your list and prayerfully rebuild it so that you are only doing what God has graced you to do. The list He helps you make is the only one that will really work for you.