What I Do When I'm Overwhelmed

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Every January, I have this fantasy that I’m going to ease into the new year with grace, poise, and plenty of time to hang around and read with a cup of coffee in hand. And every January, I’m wrong. What is it about starting a new year that makes our schedules full?

Between my part-time job, freelance work, reading life, family life, and social commitments, I’m overwhelmed. And I’m about to throw podcasting into the mix again, so I could sure borrow Hermione’s time-turner right about now.

When I can’t really slow down in the midst of a full schedule, here are some things I like to do to at least pause, refresh, and check my heart:

Breathe + Meditate

I’ve probably talked about the Headspace app before, but it’s pretty much changed my life. But you don’t even need an app to meditate. Just take deep breaths—inhale and exhale—to a count of ten. If you get distracted, start over. It’s that simple. If you have a hard time keeping your mind from racing where it wants to go, focus on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. If you wrestle with anxiety and stress, you may be familiar with this exercise already, but I find it helps to calm my rattled mind in the moment and really be present.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

Stopping and remembering that God is present—always present—and that he goes before me is the best thing I can do in the moment of being completely overwhelmed. I remember he is my rock, my anchor, no matter the waves.

“A person’s steps are established by the Lord, and he takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord supports him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23–24)

Walk + Listen to an Audiobook

One of my favorite things to do when I’m stressed is go for a walk around my neighborhood (with Zoey, of course!) and listen to an audiobook or podcast. I can clear my head for a few minutes away from a screen, get some sunshine (it’s been in the 50s and 60s lately, which is just madness), and stretch my legs. I always feel better after walking, and I never regret it—even if it’s just a quick stroll around the block.

Prioritize by the 1-3-5 Rule

If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, sometimes creating a to-do list can alleviate some stress. When you have a lot to do, it’s not as scary if you just break it down: five small tasks, three medium tasks, and one large task.

But don’t jump to the to-do list too fast. It really is helpful to stop, breathe, pray, and consider what your heart needs to be refreshed before you work on any projects or tasks.

Talk it Out

When I’m really overwhelmed, I tend to bottle it all up and sweep it under the rug—a bad habit I’m working on. Most of the time I don’t realize how stressed I am until I take the time to gauge how I’m feeling, and I’m an “external processor,” when means my poor husband and dear friends have to deal with me “talking it out.” I may not always want to talk or address what’s stressing me out, but once I do, I always feel better.

These are just things that have worked for me, but I want to know what you do when you’re stressed or overwhelmed!