I have never been one to feel stress emotionally in my life. I have always been able to handle the big things with a cool ease that others have envied. However, instead of the heavy emotion, I am usually blessed with the weirdest body ailments such as a hive-like rash, shingles, a 5-year long headache, or a strange hole in the slimy lining of my stomach. Stress affects everyone, just in different ways.
Though I am typically saved from a high level of stress with the big things, what does get me emotionally worked up is all of the little things in life. It doesn’t happen often, but when all of those little things pile up and it is too much to handle, I feel out of control and am completely overwhelmed. It is in these times, that I am short of breath and my body will begin to shut down.
What is Stress?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “it is a constraining force or influence especially one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium”, meaning anything that places physical or mental tension that affects your state of peace.
I’ve heard it said before that stress is what saved us in those early centuries, causing that fight or flight mentality when in danger. Fortunately, nowadays those pressures that cause stress usually aren’t life-threatening (now they’re just annoying); however, they still cause the same reaction.
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What are the Effects of Stress?
I’m not sure that there is anybody on this planet that can avoid some sort of side effect of stress. I’m no doctor or therapist, so I have no official answer, but I can say that stress affects everyone differently. It doesn’t matter if you are an emotional stress case and experience the nervous and anxious feelings; or whether you’re a physical stress case and feel it in your body like I do.
Everybody experiences stress at some point in their lives; however, if you are feeling stressed all of the time, it may be worth seeing a doctor or counselor for long-term relief.
When I am stressing out, there is only one thing that I know to do – pray. There is a reason that so many people are spouting meditation today. When we slow ourselves down enough to talk with God about our problems and stresses, it is a calming thing. Prayer is meant to calm you while you lay your problems at His feet.
One of the problems with meditation without God, is that you are just getting that temporary calming feeling without the help from One who is stronger and mightier than you.
When my son was in kindergarten at the local public school, his super-helpful teacher taught him to “pop his thought bubbles” to help calm down. I was unaware of this until one night he called out to me crying. Through his tears he said, “Mommy, I don’t understand! I keep trying to pop my thought bubbles and they just keep coming back!!” Oh my……when you don’t give those “bubbles” to your God and Savior, they have not been properly dealt with. When you empty your mind with the purpose of calming down, and you haven’t invited the Holy Spirit in to clean house, you’ve only made room for more pressures and anxieties to move in.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
How Do You Pray When You Feel Overwhelmed?
God is able to handle your stress management. He is capable to carrying all that you have to hand over. You just need to lay it down and allow Him to do with it as He pleases. Your prayer can be as simple as, “God, please help me. I can’t do it on my own.” He’s got you, all you need to do is let it go.
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
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Things to Remember when You’re Feeling Overwhelmed with Life
Can I be honest? I am in a season of feeling overwhelmed right now. My husband is mostly bedridden after the second of three surgeries he’s to have this year, I am the chair of a board whose members are dwindling way too fast, I decided to start a blogging business this past spring (that has been oh so much fun, but oh so much work!), and I’m trying to stay on top of homeschooling my two kiddos!! My house is a constant mess, I haven’t made a decent meal in months, I am running myself ragged driving between all of the kids’ extra-curriculars, and my morning quiet time with the Lord has been severely squeezed short.
But you know what? God is so good. He has not left me alone and He has met me where I am at. When I am in over my head, I try to remember what God says about feeling overwhelmed:
God is Way More Capable than You Are
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
God Has Given You the Tools
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7
God Has Given You a Roadmap
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
God Has the Power to Conquer Even Death
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
God Can Carry You
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
God Has Beaten All
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God Wants You to Reach Out and Hand it Over
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:5b-6
What to Do When You are Overcommitted
Nine times out of ten, when I am feeling overwhelmed, it is because I have overcommitted myself.
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Why Do I Overcommit?
I have this problem with feeling guilty about downtime. Maybe it’s my corporate background, or maybe it comes from being a full-time working mom, but if I have too much free time, I feel as though I’m not doing enough. So, I fill it. I keep adding things one by one, that don’t seem like a big deal at the time, but when you add them all up, it’s too much.
It probably comes from a deep-seeded desire to please and impress others around me. I don’t want to appear lazy or incapable. This is a problem that gets me into trouble more often than not, and then I find myself having to figure out how to undo it.
How Do You Tell Someone You’re Overcommitted?
Honestly, it’s honesty. It really is the best policy. A few months ago, I agreed to step into the chair position on our pregnancy center’s board. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, just an added responsibility of facilitating the meetings.
But now, we’ve lost a few of the board members whose time commitment had run its course, and so now there’s a need to facilitate the application and interview process, and we’re fast approaching the end of the year, which means strategic planning and budget meetings that need to be orchestrated. And all while I’ve got a bed-bound husband at home………this is NOT what I had originally pictured.
So, I’ve had to be honest. I admitted to overcommitting and explained my plan to step down and nominate one of the new upcoming board members who I think would do a fantastic job. But before I could be honest with the other board members, I had to be honest with myself. It is important to know your own limitations. It is important to humbly recognize when you’ve made a mistake.
Feeling overwhelmed and stressed is a normal part of being human. But there are healthy ways, with God’s help, to manage it. Pray about it, hand it over, and let Him take it from there.